Part of raising kids to be mindful of their health and safety is teaching them the importance of protecting themselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Nearly a quarter of the damage they receive from the sun in their lifetime will happen before their 18th birthday. Since they are under your care during those childhood years, you can limit their exposure and help them to build healthy sun protection habits that will stick with them a lifetime.
Here are the ins and outs of proper sun protection and helpful tips for giving your kids a healthy dose of sun smarts.
Mastering Sun Protection
- Everyone – regardless of age, race or color of skin – should use sunscreen daily. Even on cloudy days, skin can burn – one bad sunburn in childhood is said to significantly increase chances of a melanoma later in life.
- The exception to applying sunscreen is babies under six months. Keep them out of direct sunlight until they are old enough to safely wear sunscreen.
- Look for sunscreen that shields against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (rather than chemicals that are absorbed into the skin) will physically block the harmful rays by acting as a shield.
- Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside, so that a layer of protection can form. Don’t forget to cover lips, hands, ears, feet, behind the neck, and the top of the head.
- Make a habit of taking a break every two hours while you’re outside so you can reapply sunscreen. You’ll need to reapply more often after swimming.
- Wearing sunglasses is important, even for kids. UVA light can damage the eyes and the skin around them, even on overcast days.
- While we feel protected from the sun when we put on a shirt, we’re not giving ourselves much more than a SPF of 4. You can better protect by buying clothing with extra SPF protection, such as the Coolibar line.
- Keep kids hydrated. They can’t sweat like adults do, so they are more prone to dehydration, especially when they are in the hot sun.
- If your child gets a sunburn (despite your best efforts), avoid over-the-counter pain relievers, which can cause sensitivity to the sun – rub aloe vera gel on the burned areas, instead.
- Give a sunburn time to heal by keeping your child out of the sun for three to four days.
Tips for Teaching Your Kids Sun Safety & Building Healthy Habits
- Talk to kids about the importance of protecting their skin and eyes from the sun and remind them to incorporate sun protection into the every day, not just on sunny days or during the summer.
- Get them in the habit of applying sunscreen as part of their morning routine and make sure they have extra sunscreen on hand to re-apply throughout the day. Stash a stick of sunscreen in their backpack and make sure childcare providers are well versed in the importance of applying it.
- Teach kids to avoid being outside during peak UV hours – 10 am and 2 pm. Schedule visits to the park or pool in the morning or later in the afternoon so that they relate those times of day when the sun isn’t its strongest as the times to play outside.
- Encourage kids to take shade breaks when they are outside for long periods of time.
- Wearing sun-protective clothing, like rash guards, is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. You can find really cute SPF clothing for kids, too. Make sure their swimwear includes a protective option.
- Be a good role model by practicing what you preach. Let kids see you apply sunscreen regularly, wear sunglasses and opt for a hat and long sleeves when you’ll be in the sun for long periods of time.
- Tell your sitter to have sippy cups and water bottles handy and get your kids in the habit of packing a water bottle for school and daytime outings. Kids can quickly learn that sunscreen and water go with them when they leave the house.
Practicing sun smarts doesn’t have to be tedious or complicated. Kids can learn to enjoy the sun while being protected with just a few easy steps added to their daily routine. Don’t forget to share your family’s sun protection routine with your sitter, and make sure she’s well prepared to protect your kids while you’re away. They’ll all enjoy the sunshine a lot more if they don’t have to worry about a burn!