Sun Safety for The Little Ones: How to Talk To Your Kids About Sun Protection
Sun protection starts at an early age. Getting kids into the habit of wearing sunscreen, hats, and long sleeve clothing can help prevent those oh so painful red sunburns that peel and even worse, the long term impacts of sun damage. Kids love playing outside and spending long summer days at the beach is as ingrained in Aussie culture as the Bunnings sausage sizzle. By educating your children about the dangers of sun exposure, they’ll learn to develop smart sun habits to protect their skin. This is especially important for those times when you won’t be around to chase them down and force a hat back onto their head, like at the school playground or when visiting a friend.
The Nasty Truth About Skin Cancer
Two in three Australians will develop some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to cancer, sunburn, and eye damage. These statistics should be enough to cause you concern but your kids may not be able to grasp such numbers yet. One too many sunburns at their young age is something to be cautious about as the kind of sun damage we are talking about usually takes hold long before we start seeing the physical ramifications of it as adults. You can do your part to help educate them in such a way they will understand.
Get Creative with Your Sun Safety Education
Sun safety doesn’t have to be boring. A catchy jingle can remind children how to stay safe in the sun. Head to YouTube for SunSmart Kids videos to share with little Aussies. Learn how to make your own sunscreen station, and ways to explain why sunscreen is essential.
Do your kids love minions? This sun safety campaign featuring the adorable yellow creatures from Despicable Me teaches kids how and when to apply sunscreen and why it’s smart to spend time in the shade.
Steps You Can Take to Teach Your Kids About Sun Safety
Be a role model. Kids love mimicking behaviours. If you want to encourage your kids to get in the habit of wearing sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, get in the habit of using those things too.
Pack a sun bag filled with everything you need before going outside. That way, your children will remember why they need to use it.
Get in the habit of using sunscreen all year long, not just during the summer months. There are a lot of myths about sun protection. Teach your little ones that sun damage is still possible on windy, cloudy or cool days.
Plan your day around off-peak hours and talk to your kids about why it’s best to avoid sun exposure during the sun’s peak times.
Apply SPF30 (or higher), water-resistant sunscreen to any skin unprotected by clothing at least 20 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply it every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
If your kids don’t like wearing sunscreen, invest in sun-protective clothing like a kids long sleeve rashie and polo shirts that cover your child’s neck.
Encourage your children to play in the shade, so they know what to do if they forget to bring a hat outside.
Sun Safety in the Playground
As a parent, you want to be there for your kids every step of the way. At some point, the little ones need to go to school… and you won’t be there to remind them to wear sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside! By encouraging smart sun protection at an early age, you’re laying the foundation for smart habits.
Kids lose things all the time. Pack an extra hat in their bag just in case they lose one.
Don’t rely on the teacher or school to provide sunscreen. Remind your child to pack an SPF30 or higher sunscreen in their bags.
Encourage your child to play in the shade, and explain why you want to limit sun exposure during certain times of the day.
Teach them to gently tap the slide or playground equipment before getting on it, so they don’t get burned if it’s too hot.
Sun Protective Clothing
When it comes to sun-protective clothing, not all fabrics work the same. Shield your little ones from harmful rays with dark, loose-fitting styles that protect the skin. Look for UPF labels, so you know what really works.
Hats - A wide brim or bucket style hat protects your child’s face, ears, and back of the neck. The key is getting your children accustomed to wearing them at an early age.
Rash Guards - Kids love the beach and the pool. Special brands of kids rashies have a built-in UPF to prevent UV rays from penetrating the fabric. The more skin your outfit covers, the better the protection, and rashies help do just that.
Long Sleeve Tops and Pants - An excellent way to check to see if that long sleeve top will protect your child from getting a sunburn is to hold it up to the light to see if you can see through it. If you can easily see through it, then that’s a good indication that it won’t protect your child as well as you thought.
Sunnies - There are countless options for stylish sunnies for your kids out there. The key is finding designs that have 100 percent UVA/UVB protection.
Kid Safe Sunscreen: Know the difference between SPF30 and SPF50+
Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen every day on days when the UV index is forecast to be 3 or above. SPF50+ filters out 98% of UVB radiation, while SPF30 blocks out 96.7% of UVB. Make it a habit to apply sunscreen every day. Slop it on throughout the day if you plan on being outside all day. It’s also a good idea to reapply if your children start to sweat or get wet.
If you found any of these tips helpful, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know how you’re practising sun safety with your children.
BIO: Anita White is the passionate owner of Sandy Feet Australia; the fashionable sun safe kids swimwear brand based on the Sunshine Coast. She loves exploring the outdoors with her husband and two kids and of course, in a sun safe manner!