If you’ve got a child with eczema, allergies, or another sensitive skin condition, you know how difficult finding hypoallergenic play options can be. My daughter has very simple allergies to red dye and fragrance, and I’ve had to deal with an atlas of urticaria (swelling and redness) covering her little body head to toe after hugging a purple dinosaur all night; an angry red ring on her neck and arms from an orange blanket, escorted by a fever from the inflammation — plus her misery at possibly missing a beach trip because we weren’t sure if it was a viral infection — and other itchy inconveniences from accidentally touching anything with certain colors or scents, including just the little red patches on an adorable stuffed Yorkie’s plaid jacket. Even with her simple sensitivities, we’ve had to learn how to be careful about the toys she can play with, and the blankets and pillows that she can cuddle or lay on.
Enter this great find: Domestic Objects, beautiful brainchild of (rather beautiful herself) Sarah Jagger, a friend of mine. I saw a few of her teepees online and thought, goodness they’re gorgeous. The type of “toy” I wouldn’t mind leaving un-packed-away permanently. Then, I saw this white tent and thought…hey, my 8-year-old could play in that for hours…could even sleep in it…and not get a rash. One quick call to Sarah and I confirmed: the tent is 100% cotton canvas, no dyes, and anything that could be scratchy, like seams or velcro on the tie-backs, are elegantly hidden, safely tucked away from normal contact with sensitive skin. It even comes with pillows and a mat of the same material!
BINGO. A play option I could recommend to other parents of kids with sensitive skins. What I didn’t expect was how much fun this thing would be! I learned that first hand when photographing Sarah for VMV Hypoallergenics (stay tuned for those photos! 😉 ) On the same day, we were doing a shoot for upcoming VMV kids’ products (more spoiler alerts…I need a gag order) and Sarah graciously agreed to loan us one of her Teepee Play Tents. I knew that it would be perfect for the set…
…but I didn’t expect how popular the teepee would be with all the kids! We had more trouble getting them out of it than getting them to pose. This was true even of my 5-year-old son who’s currently in that the-ickier-the-face-the-cooler-the-photo stage. And that photo right at the top? That’s him completely immersed in Horton Hears A Who…it was like, despite the chaos of the production around him, that tent, and that book, were his world.
Like bees to honey, the second that tent arrived, we couldn’t keep the kids out of it. That’s my son playing adventure doctor on safari with his Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm (apparently, now also for injured baby jaguars).
This is my friend’s adorable little girl quietly playing fairy…
…and this is my daughter, the one who now has more play options than ever 🙂
If you’re looking for plush toys and other fun things to go with your Domestic Objects play tent, these are some general best practices:
- Opt for uncolored items: natural canvas or white. If you’d like some color, stick to very pale hues and ideally, mineral or vegetable dyes. The biggest risks would be known top allergens dyes like reds (including purples), indigo, and anything really bright.
- Pure cotton is your best bet. Synthetic fabrics don’t take color well, so manufacturers sometimes add chemicals called “mordants” (related to metals, many of which, like nickel, are top allergens) to help the dyes bind better.
- Avoid elastics, spandex, rubber, or make sure these things are covered up by natural canvas or white cotton cloth.
- You don’t want anything scratchy like rough cloth or velcro that comes into contact with skin.
- Nothing fragranced (like potpourri sachets hidden in a pocket).
- You might want things that can be laundered. Bacterial colonization is common in eczema and can worsen itching in atopic dermatitis or even just dry skin. Cleaning them with a hypoallergenic laundry wash like Fawn & Launder every so often — that also has a skin-safe antimicrobial (coconut-derived monolaurin) — could help prevent additional bacterial exposure without using harsher antimicrobials.
I’ve been so obsessed with Domestic Objects since the shoot that I kind of want a tent for me. This striped canvas one in particular. But with pockets for a cocktail shaker and simple bar set. For moms and kids, hypoallergenic play options abound!
If you’ve got other hypoallergenic home or play items you’ve found, I’m a big believer in #goodnessbegetsgoodness. Share them with me below or on Instagram, and I’ll be happy to keep our finds coming, too! 🙂
Laura is the CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister and husband (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about learning, literature, art, health, science, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness and goodness.