You take the time to carefully pack your child’s school lunch and snacks, have spoken to the teachers about not exposing them to gluten, and educated your child about what foods to avoid. But what are you missing?
Well, what else goes in their mouths? The answer is toys – specifically arts and craft items. For example Play-Doh, in which wheat is the primary ingredient, has always been a popular taste-and-play product (remember the salty taste?). Market savvy companies have jumped on this opportunity and according to a February 2013 Marketwatch report, sales of gluten-free toys skyrocketed in 2012.
Sales of Soy-Yer Dough, a gluten-free version of the oh-so popular kids clay, reached 50,000 containers last year. That was around 30% of increased sales for the five-year-old company, which hatched in 2009 by Sawyer Sparks, a college freshman at the time. (It was rumored in 2009 that Hasbro offered Sparks $500,000 to license his clay, and he refused.) Meanwhile, Great White Bottling, a Denver-based company that makes non-toxic cleaning products, spa supplies, and also a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and shellfish-free “Wonder Dough” reported a 67% sales increase for their Play-Doh alternative in 2012.
The buck doesn’t stop at modeling clay, either. Crayons, glue, stickers, and finger paint are other commonly used arts and crafts item that are potentially glutinous for kids to play with. Elmer's Finger Paints, for example, contains both wheat and oats. That void has since been filled by a family-run company called Eco-Kids who makes a gluten-free finger paint and other eco-friendly kids products. Since Eco-kids began almost six years ago, they’ve seen media coverage from mainstream magazines including InStyle and Whole Living.
While reading food labels remains paramount for parents of children with celiac disease, that safety check should also cross into any product that can potentially get into your little explorer’s mouth. Always check with manufacturers to make sure products and toys are gluten-free (and nut-free, dairy-free, etc. if needed). Meanwhile, keep an eye out for companies that are trending towards success as they fill a niche market for safe arts and craft products.