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Top Distraction Techniques to Prevent Toddler & Baby Scratching

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In How to Prevent Baby & Toddler Scratching With Eczema Clothing I discussed scratch protective eczema clothing for babies and children, which are a lifesaver at night to prevent baby scratching, which we all know can majorly disrupt sleep. But these clothes with attached mittens are also great for “emergency” itch relief for babies and kids during the day. Though it’s not ideal to keep children’s hands covered for too long during waking hours as it could cause development delays. Children learn with their hands and it’s critical we don’t restrict this educational growth. When their hands are not covered, distraction techniques can be a great way to keep your itchy baby from scratching.

Tristan’s skin didn’t really start itching until a few months before he turned three. Although his skin had gotten progressively more red and inflamed, we were lucky he wasn’t a super itchy baby. Then one day the itchiness hit and was the worst at night. We kept his hands covered with ScratchMeNots scratch mitts while he slept and many times we’d be up half the night trying to soothe him enough for sleep to reach his tired little body. Things were better during the day, but some days were better than others.

Here is a list of things that worked for us and I hope will also help you prevent baby scratching as well:

  • TV – This was like magic. I’m not a big fan of TV for children, but it was the only thing that would work when we were using wet wrap therapy. He’d watch it as we dressed him up in the wet and dry layers and finish up the one show he was allowed during the beginning of his two-hour wrapping therapy.
  • Physical activity & games– We’d literally have to pick him up, carry him out the front door and make him walk to the park. After a few minutes of walking he’d be looking forward to the park and no longer thinking about the itchiness. Hide and Seek is one of Tristan’s favorite games. If he was scratching, usually offering to play this game would snap him out of his trance. Blowing and catching bubbles is great too. If your child has a favorite really active game, maybe it could help as a distraction as well. Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, and Tag are great for older kids.
  • Cooking – My little guy loves to cook. I sure hope he keeps his fascination with the kitchen as it will sure win him points with the ladies when he’s older 🙂 Measuring out ingredients, stirring, and taste testing are loads of fun for toddlers and great methods for distraction.
  • Tickling – Gently caressing his skin really helped him. Although, we started doing this at night to help stop the thrashing about and screaming (the itching was pretty severe at times) and quickly Tristan started to expect (demand is probably the more accurate word) the tickling. He started throwing fits when we tried to ease back on the tickling. We tried to teach him to tickle himself and that helped him probably because it gave him some control, but of course it was better when mama or papa tickled. Obviously 🙂
  • Phone apps & kids computer games – Children of all ages love phones (home phones, cell phones, any and all phones). All they seem to want to do is get their little hands on a phone. Add to that the fact that there are some amazing games and apps available, many of which are quite educational, for children of all ages to play and now you have the most easily accessible distraction tool possible.
  • Sign Language – Mei of Eczema Blues has a full post about the benefits of signing in general and how it specifically helped her daughter Marcie. Read the full post here. This is not something we ever tried with either of our children, but I’ve heard rave reviews from parents that have tried it. My Smart Hands is a mom-owned company that has some really great teaching tools – local classes, downloadable videos, flashcards, books, phone apps, etc.
  • Cold Teether – For 5-7 month olds, let them play with a cold teething ring. Babies and most toddlers are fascinated with cold items. With a teether, they may gum on it a bit (also helping with teething) and for older children cold beverage bottles could be a good distraction as well. I’ll add ice to this as well. Both my kids love to play with and eat ice.
  • Paper – Why do children, particularly babies, love to tear paper? Have you seen the Youtube video of the baby that goes into a hysterical laughing fit when her dad tears up paper? Hand your baby a magazine, newspaper, pamphlet, tissue paper and let them go to town. Warning – make sure the paper is suitable for immediate recycling after your baby is done with it because you sure won’t be able to read it once your baby has had his way with it!
  • Food – This one is debatable, like TV. I don’t really believe that food should be used as a reward or a distraction, but occasionally it’s probably fine and if you’re desperate and out of options, I say go for it. It’s better than the alternative, shredded skin. The best foods will be those that will occupy the child for a long time like teething biscuits for babies. Popsicles are also great choices and go along with the cold/ice idea above.
  • Books – The best are those that will involve your child’s hands like flip-up books or touch-n-feel books. Kids love to turn the pages, so that’s an added hand distraction bonus. Children’s books about eczema are great too.
  • Toys – For babies, hammering or pound-a-ball toys are great because they develop great hand and eye coordination and for eczema babies they require constant use of the hands. For older kids, maybe it would help to keep a special toy hidden away and on reserve for use only when a distraction is greatly needed. Legos, train sets, Lincoln logs, and similar toys would all be good choices.

Once you’ve got your scratch protection and distraction techniques set, the next step is to find itch relief for babies with a naturally formulated eczema treatment for babies and children.

What distraction techniques have you used to help prevent your itchy baby from scratching their eczema?

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About the Author: Jennifer is the mother behind It’s An Itchy Little World blog, as well as owner of The Eczema Company. After going through so many trials and errors to heal her son’s eczema, Jennifer wanted to share her experiences and favorite products with others in need. Discover her journey here. Jennifer is not a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to take the replace of medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Guest #

    Hi mommies and daddies ,
    I just wanted to ask how did you guys manage to send your itchy little kids to daycare or school. Was it difficult? Did you have to find a special daycare where they can distract your little ones? Reason I’m asking this is because I’m soon going to return to work and I’m paranoid that my scratchy always itchy boy will have a difficult time. How did you guys manage to cope with that?(

    Like

    November 29, 2015
    • Hi there – I remember being in your shoes many years ago. I was so worried. But it really wasn’t too difficult. We have some great resources you will find helpful in this blog post.

      Like

      November 30, 2015
  2. carmen #

    my eldest son (now 11) and my baby (15mnths) both suffer from eczema , i have found that rocking my little 1 to sleep help to calm him and myself, i also let him help me put his creams on him and i made it into a game for him as the minute i need to change his daiper his fingers would FLY to his legs to scratch….i would then put the cream on his hands and he would put it in his hair and on his face which i dont mind, my eldest has finally got into the habit of putting cream on his legs especially at least 3 times a day as he is very active (ADHD), changing their diets helped a lot as we had oud eldest at doctors and specialists for 3 years until i finally decided to try a homeopath who has been a God send. When my 2nd eldest was 6 mnths we took her for a checkup by the homeopath but she doesnt have ANY eczema….I can really say sometimes i feel like my child is a guinie pig as there are certain foods that aggravate the eczema but i wont know unless he eats it…so far so good.

    thank u ladies for all the tips I sometimes use it if i run out of options and i dont feel so alone even if u are half way round the world from me, but reading your blogs and posts makes me feel that someone understands me….=)

    Like

    May 13, 2014
    • Hi Carmen – I totally know and agree with what you said – I do feel like I’m constantly experimenting with my son. New creams, new foods, etc. But I think that is life in general, but for most it’s not as frightening trying all these knew things. For us, we’re constantly on guard and when something new is deemed safe, it’s a big win and terribly exciting. Don’t you agree? Jennifer

      Like

      May 14, 2014
    • Guest #

      Hi,
      Can you suggest the homeopath that u have seen? I would really appreciate it .

      Like

      November 29, 2015
      • Hi there – We have seen two and I would not recommend them as we didn’t see results. However, we did have luck with the homeopathic tinctures listed in this post.

        Like

        November 30, 2015
  3. I also found that tv was a great distraction. We ended up owning all the Barney videos. To help my son drift off to sleep or to calm him, I would rub his back. He loved this. Reading stories became a huge distraction that I used often…while eating lunch, on the couch, at bedtime, at bathtime. In fact, I continued to read books at lunch for many years after…the Harry Potter series, all Cornelia Funke’s books, the Charlie Bone series, Chris D’Lacey’s Icefire series to name a few. Instead of treating my boys with food treats when out shopping…we would head to the book store. Owning the books has allowed my boys to reread many of their favouites. I never felt comfortable borrowing books not knowing if a child had eaten something that my contaminate the book. Silly…maybe. At that time, I was not open to taking any chances. Bubbles and baking were not good options for my son…his hands were always in the worst state. The soapy bubbles and the need to wash hands with soap were avoided when possible. Although, I should say he did help with stirring and such that didn’t involve getting his hands messy. My now 15 year old son’s skin has cleared significantly. His eczema worries may be a thing of the past…his love of reading continues! (I would also sing his favourite lullaby while I rubbed his back at bedtime) Susan H. @ The Food Allergy Chronicles

    Like

    December 10, 2011
  4. The one thing that works with my tot all the time is giving him my full attention during the whole time he’s awake. But it makes house chores difficult and gives me hardly any time for myself. So far so good, because I’m a SAHM, but he’ll start preschool towards the end of January. So we will see what’s going to happen. In a way it’ll be a relieve for me and I hope they keep him busy enough not to scratch. Or I find all his triggers until then. 😉

    Like

    December 10, 2011
  5. Thanks for your praises for my blog 🙂 I’m trying my best to keep posting new information every week plus draw a cartoon to lighten every mom’s (and dad’s) mood!
    And yes, I believe more in distraction than saying stop scratching all the time. My hubby complains I’m too lax with my baby and not disciplining her (terrible 2). But I admit, I just distract her and move on!

    Like

    December 10, 2011
  6. Great tips! I always feel guilty about the tv distraction but I have to remind myself it is better than the alternative.

    Like

    December 9, 2011
    • I know how you feel about TV – I am the same way. Have I invited you to my blog hop yet? If not, would you like to join? There is a link on my page under the main menu. Take a look.

      Like

      December 12, 2011

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