Children spend a lot of time outdoors and while some sun exposure is actually good for them, too much can cause skin and eye damage.
Keeping kids safe in the sun is important but if you have ever tried to keep a hat on a toddler who doesn’t want to wear one, you will know it’s not as easy as it sounds. We asked some Kidspot parents for their top tips on how to teach your child about sun safety.
Be the role model
The most effective way to teach your kids sun safety is to practice it yourself. The key sun smart tips you should model are:
- stay in the shade
- cover up
- (broad brimmed) hats rule
- sunglasses are cool
- get a sunscreen habit
Make it part of your routine
Keep sunscreen in the bathroom next to the toothbrushes and encourage your child to pop some on after brushing their teeth in the morning. Include applying sunscreen and putting on a hat and sunnies as part of the process of leaving the house – after the toilet stop is an ideal time. This will help form good habits.
Make it easy
Sunscreen needs to be applied throughout the day so make sure sunscreen is accessible. Leave pump bottles of sunscreen in handy spots around the house. Consider buying a roll-on sunscreen as kids love using it or pop a small bottle of sunscreen into their lunchbox so it’s easy for them to reapply it at lunch time. A compact tube that’s easy to open and reclose is best.
Kidspot parents tell us the more they include children in the sun safety purchasing process, the more likely the kids are to actually use the products. Take them when you are buying hats so they can choose a hat is functional but is also comfortable and one they will actually wear. If you need to, give them the option of 2 or 3 so they don’t become paralysed by choice. Let them shop for sunglasses that have a 3 or 4 rating on the New Zealand Standard.
If they are old enough you can explain that there are different types of UV radiation that can affect our skin cells. These are known as UVA and UVB. UVA radiation can cause long term skin damage while UVB radiation is responsible for skin burning. Broad spectrum sunscreen contains UV filters that protect skin from both types of radiation.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is the length of time that skin will be protected from the sun i.e. SPF50 means that you would be protected for 50 times longer than if you wore no sun protection at all.
How much sunscreen should kids use? For an adult, a full body application is 35ml or 5ml (teaspoon) for 7 body parts: face and neck, front and back, each arm and each leg. For kids, you can scale this down to their size but always ensure that they are getting good coverage on all exposed skin. Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outside so make it part of your everday routine and remind kids to re-apply every 2 hours.
Wherever possible, covering up is the best protection and is often easier than applying sunscreen to wriggling bodies. Encourage your child to wear tops that have higher necks or collars and longer sleeves over singlet styles. Choose hats that have a wide brim and have a no rash top no swim policy.
Written by Robyn
Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.
Favourite motto to live by: “It’s just a phase.”