Explore 5 tips to help parents incorporate eczema care into their toddlers’ daily routines so they can start learning how to care for their own skin.
Published On: Oct 30, 2023
Last Updated On: Nov 9, 2023
Giving kids the vocabulary to talk about their eczema is important at every age. However, preschoolers (ages 3-5 years) are still developing language skills and the vocabulary to express themselves. This can make it harder for preschoolers with eczema to explain their disease to adults or other kids their age.
To help support conversations like these, the National Eczema Association partnered with Understand AD and Nickelodeon to create an educational program featuring characters from the “Blue’s Clues & You!” series in an original digital storybook, Blue and Frida Felt Become Ecz-tra Special Friends. In the book, Blue’s new friend Frida has atopic dermatitis, or eczema, which can make her skin itchy and irritated. But with some support from her friends, Frida’s empowered to speak up for herself — and make choices that don’t let eczema get in her way.
Inspired by how Frida talks to others about her eczema, we pulled together some tips and advice to help parents, caregivers and other important figures in childrens’ lives learn age-appropriate ways to teach their preschoolers to talk about their eczema and feel empowered.
When kids understand their eczema, it can help them feel more secure. “Depending on a child’s age, they may want to know that eczema is just part of them, like their eye color or curly hair,” said Jennifer Moyer Darr, a licensed clinical social worker in the division of pediatric behavioral health at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado.
“As they get older, understanding [eczema] triggers and what makes them feel better provides opportunities to implement choices that they know are helpful to them,” said Moyer Darr.
Similar to how Frida Felt is able to speak up and let her friends know when she’s too hot playing outside in the book, encouraging kids to use their voice and empowering them with the language to explain their condition can help them feel more confident and comfortable.
When young kids understand their eczema, it can allow them to feel motivated and it helps them take more ownership for self-care. “It’s a shift from being told to do something you don’t want to do, to implementing self-care in order to feel better physically and emotionally,” said Moyer Darr.
Preschoolers are curious — hello “why?” phase! — and might ask their friend with eczema why they have a rash, why they are itching or why their skin hurts. Kids might also wonder if eczema is contagious. It’s natural for kids to ask their peers questions.
“Preschoolers notice differences about all sorts of things (skin color, hair, weight, what people are eating) and are rarely shy about asking questions,” said Moyer Darr. “These questions are innocent and stem from a place of curiosity. Therefore, it’s important to help your child with eczema feel prepared for the questions and comfortable answering them.”
Between ages 2 and 5 years, most children will understand plurals and basic pronouns (like “I,” “we” and “they”), as well as questions of “who,” “why” and “how many.”1 As young kids are building their vocabularies, research shows that language spoken directly to the child is more supportive of early speech development and processing skills than speech simply overheard by the child.2 Therefore, the more parents talk directly with their children about their eczema in age-appropriate language, the better they’ll be able to understand and communicate with their peers.
“Practicing [conversations about eczema] with your child at home, and with family members, can help them feel more comfortable responding to questions from potential new friends,” said Moyer Darr.
Here are some of her recommended responses preschoolers may feel comfortable with if a classmate or teacher asks them about their eczema:
Other phrases that young kids can practice or try with peers include:
Language like this can help empower children with eczema to advocate for themselves. For example, when Frida Felt and her friends go to the park in the book, she suggests they make friendship bracelets under the shade of a big tree. This allows Frida and her friends to avoid common eczema triggers at the park like heat, grass and pollen without avoiding fun.
“Children often overhear adult conversations so be conscientious of both your words and tone,” said Moyer Darr. “Children can easily misinterpret parental frustration as a parent being angry with them or as them being responsible for a hardship. Reassurance that your child is strong, capable, and not at fault for their eczema can be extremely helpful.”
Beyond their peers, children may also have other adults in their life wondering about their eczema. “Teachers, coaches and even other parents can benefit from learning that eczema can affect kids’ mood, sleep habits, energy level and ability to concentrate,” said Moyer Darr. “Sharing some things to watch for, such as ‘zoning out,’ scratching and withdrawal may help them be more in tune with how your child is doing.”
She advised that it’s helpful to share eczema intervention strategies with other adults in your child’s life. This will help prepare them to help your child if you’re not there. This may include:
Helping kids be proactive in understanding and explaining their eczema can empower them to feel more confident and set them up for success as they continue to grow alongside their peers. Just as Frida showed in Blue and Frida Felt Become Ecz-tra Special Friends, even young children can understand and utilize helpful, age-appropriate language when it comes to explaining their eczema. For more eczema-friendly tips and activities, visit UnderstandAD.com.
1. Feldman HM. How young children learn language and speech. Pediatr Rev. 2019;40(8):398-411. doi:10.1542/pir.2017-0325
2. Weisleder A, Fernald A. Talking to children matters: Early language experience strengthens processing and builds vocabulary. Psychol Sci. 2013;24(11):2143-2152. doi:10.1177/0956797613488145