Educating your children on how to take care of themselves is a fantastic solution, instead of trying to make each environment free from allergens. More than likely these "allergen free" environments are not truly allergen free. It gives children a false belief that the real world can be allergen free. Keeping this in mind, I think is very important. There are certainly precautions to take, but only exposing children to environments that claim to be "allergen free," is unrealistic in real life. Teaching your child how to be responsible and take care of themselves, starting from an early age, is the best tool you can give them. That is how my parents raised me to be so responsible and to take care of myself. I'm so lucky that they did such a fabulous job, at a time when so few people even knew allergies existed! I definitely understand that at certain young ages, children are extremely reliant on adults to help them, and to keep them safe, but it is also important that as an adult, you are teaching your child along the way. Children are not going to always have their parents by their side, so when they are a little older, and go off to school, or go play at a friend's house, it is important they know what to do. This will only help you as a parent as well, because then you can have some confidence that both your child, and the adult supervising your child, know what to do to stay safe.
The whole concept of "peanut free" or "allergen free" is knew within the past five years or so. Not until then, did this concept ever exist. Of course now there is more of a prevalence of children with food allergies, but I still think that this concept is being used blindly by people thinking it is helpful, when really it is giving the wrong message. Educating both teachers and children at school, is certainly important, but singling kids out to sit at their own "nut free" or "allergen free" table, is unrealistic and sends the wrong message. No matter where you go, there is no where else that will be allergen free. It is important to take some cautious steps, but to raise kids thinking they will have places where they don't have to worry about allergens in a public setting seems contrary to what we should be educating them. The only time I can really understand taking more precautions is when children are at the preschool age. They are too young to truly understand, and it makes sense to take more precautions. Once children are at the elementary age, they understand better (even if teachers need to remind them sometimes) to wash their hands and to be respectful of other people's space and food. The PAL program that FAAN has established, I think is a good step too. I was lucky to find friends who understood. PAL is good for having classmates learn and understand how to take care of their friends.
To read about this program go to: http://www.foodallergy.org/pal.html. I think by educating, and using programs like this, there will be a lot more success for this new generation of children learning to live with food allergies.