3 Ways Your Child Can Have Fun in Preschool While Avoiding Common Eczema Triggers

Understand AD

By Steve Nelson in partnership with Understand AD

Published On: Oct 28, 2022

Last Updated On: Nov 1, 2022

From Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!

When you’re a kid, having fun is a big part of your job – especially in a new classroom. But with a new environment comes new challenges, especially for kids with atopic dermatitis (AD), the most common form of eczema. The National Eczema Association partnered with Nickelodeon and Understand AD, to create a new educational program featuring characters from the brand’s beloved Blue’s Clues & You! series, in a new original digital storybook featuring Blue and her new friend Frida Felt, who has eczema. With some support from her friends, she’s empowered to speak up for herself – and make choices that don’t let eczema get in her way.

We connected with our team of ecz-perts to identify three fun ways to make sure your preschool-aged kids never miss a moment of learning and fun because of their eczema, just like Frida Felt.

1. Go organic! Build with wood, craft with cotton and cover your hands with oatmeal

In preschool, it’s easy to overlook how many common activities – gluing gold stars on your hands or powdering your cheeks with zombie green chalk – can trigger a flare. 

Dr. Peter Lio, assistant professor of pediatric dermatology at Northwestern University, explained that “when a child’s skin barrier is weakened, even things that normally don’t irritate the skin may cause significant itch, irritation and pain for kids with eczema.” The good news is that there’s almost always an eczema-friendly option for our kids’ favorite classroom activities (and it can even be better than the original!).

For starters, when it comes to classroom materials, consider going organic and sticking with the basics. Amy Miller is a preschool teacher in Concord, Massachusetts who shared her ecz-pert advice on helping kids with eczema play comfortably in her class. “Sensory play can be tricky for children with sensitive skin,” Miller said. “Instead of using plastic shapes and objects, we set up activities with non-toxic materials like wooden blocks, or anything with cotton that’s usually gentler on the skin.” Miller added that the kids in her class have enjoyed making play-dough with oatmeal, and some recipes even use eczema-friendly products like honey and coconut oil.

2. Sweat less, stretch more: consider yoga or arts and crafts instead of running or contact sports

Moving our bodies is important! Kids love to run, sprint, tumble and leap from (of course) the very highest part of any playground. Here’s the catch: heat and sweat can trigger an AD flare.

Dr. Lio explained that “heat calls more inflammatory cells into our skin, and sweat, like any moisture on the skin, can increase the penetration of irritating allergens and even bacteria.”

As an alternative to high adrenaline, sweaty activities, consider classroom yoga for kids. Eunice Yu is a former educator turned pediatric therapist and yoga instructor in Chicago. She explained that one of her favorite games for kids with eczema is to “provide descriptions of kid-friendly yoga poses – like lion pose or cobra pose – and then challenge the kids to become each animal shape back to back, or in different sequences, like switching from lion pose to shark or cobra, to relieve back and body strain while having fun.” Try piquing your little one’s curiosity with the following question: would you like to become a shark at school today? Who wouldn’t! Yoga can help everyone have fun. Try lion pose and keep going from there.

Headed outside? Finding a nice, shady spot to make friendship bracelets together was a great activity for Blue and Frida Felt! Next time you’re at the park with your child, try making your own as an alternative to other outdoor activities that may trigger a flare-up – and don’t forget to pack a big blanket to sit on!

3. Less stress leads to fewer flares for kids (and grown-ups, too!)

While there’s no long division (not yet, anyway), preschool is still a time of rapid cognitive development that can become stressful for little ones – and stress can greatly impact AD.

“We know that many immune-mediated conditions are intimately connected to stress,” said Dr. Lio. “Any kind of stress can weaken the skin barrier, which can allow allergens, irritants and even pathogenic bacteria into our bodies. Even if stress is not the ‘root cause’ of eczema, it can very often make symptoms worse.”

Reading a story with your family can create a restful moment. During your next story time, try reading Blue and Frida Felt Become Ecz-tra Special Friends  where Frida demonstrates how kids can better understand and speak up about their eczema.

Yu also suggested a playful but guided meditation for kids in the classroom. “It’s important to reinforce acceptance of their skin condition to build confidence,” she said. “To meditate, we’ll say ‘I am great, I am loved, I am blank,’ and then ask them to fill in the last blank with any other adjective they know to describe themselves, such as kind, beautiful or strong.”

Naturally, a classroom full of kids saying the same few words over and over again may lead to widespread silliness and a few giggles. But that’s perhaps part of the charm: repeating the same positive words over and over again, all together, can lower a child’s stress and help them relax.

“Acceptance of their skin condition can build confidence in kids,” Yu added.

Frida Felt and Blue’s adventure is a great example of how, with some support from her friends, Frida is empowered to speak up for herself—and make choices that don’t let eczema get in her way. To learn more eczema-friendly activities for the classroom, check out the latest video from Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You! and more on UnderstandAD.com.

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