Papier-mâché

Do I have to worry if my child, who has celiac disease, uses papier-mâché? I am worried about the possibility it will get in her mouth.

First of all, you do not have to worry about papier-mâché (which is usually made with wheat flour) causing a gluten reaction if your child gets it on her skin. The gluten protein that is harmful to those who have celiac disease is not absorbed through the skin. It has to be ingested to cause damage to the absorbing lining of the small intestine, according to doctors who are leading experts on celiac disease. It would get into her mouth if she ate some or got some on her hand and then put her hand into her mouth. Personally, I can’t think of anything less appetizing to put in your mouth than the goopy mix of wheat flour paste and strips of paper that make up papier-mâché. It doesn’t even have the doughy texture and bright color that might cause some children to put play dough in their mouths. But I understand your concern. If you are really worried about the possibility of the paste getting in her mouth, you can make gluten- free papiermâché in a variety of ways. One is to substitute gluten- free flour for wheat flour when making the paste. You can also thin out Elmer’s glue, which is gluten free, with water and use it instead of the flour paste. Or you can also use two cups of cornstarch, one cup of water and one cup of Elmer’s glue.  A pre- made product, called Ross Art Paste, will also work. To be honest, I didn’t worry about this when my daughter was young. It just seemed like such a remote possibility. But you may disagree. Fortunately there are a few options.

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