How to protect your children from the sun

Discovery Place Kids Rockingham

Spending summer by the pool or at the beach with your children is a great time to bond with them and make memories that will last a lifetime. However, before you step into the sun's rays, be sure to take all necessary steps to protect your children from any harm the sun could bring.

Hat trick

We know, we know, we know… who are these people suggesting a hat for a toddler? We can assure yes, we have met many a boss baby that are none-to-keen to be donned with a hat or shading device of any kind. But a hat is a real game changer when it comes to sun protection – and not just any hat will do.

Baseball hats or visors provide little protection for the ears and cheeks and especially the back of the neck. Instead, look for a wide-brim or ‘bucket-style’ hat. Extra bonus points if you get one with a safety neck strap that snaps and stays in place.

Another thing that may not be top of mind is that a wide-brimmed hat also protects kids’ eyes from UV radiation and may limit the chances of ocular cancers in the future.

The best sunscreen

Choosing the right product for kids’ skin can be overwhelming. Rather than worrying about which brand to use, focus on the ingredients you can look for when it comes to sunscreen.

Experts recommend parents look for mineral sunscreens, which contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Just as important as what’s in it, is when you apply it. There are two key things when it comes to the “when” of using sunscreen – 1) make sure to apply it a minimum of 20 minutes prior to hitting the shore or deck. 2) Reapply every two hours – even if the label says every four.

Other top sunscreen tips: Look for ones that are water resistant and labeled “broad spectrum,” meaning it helps ward off both UVA and UVB rays. Plus, remember, just like milk, sunscreen expires. And, while we are making a milk comparison, it’s also best to store your sunscreen at the correct temperature; at minimum keep containers away from excessive heat.

Dress for the occasion

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “sunscreens may be used on infants younger than six months on small areas of skin if adequate clothing and shade are not available.”

Long-sleeve rash guard shirts are recommended and many brands incorporate sun protection into their clothes (and long sleeves often keep kids cooler).

While it’s not an either/or situation, wearing sun smart clothing helps protect kids – especially babies’ sensitive skin. It is recommended that infants younger than 12 months use sunscreen and swimwear specifically created for babies – same goes for toddlers.

Also, get your kids some sunglasses, which help reduce the risk of UV exposure and protect little ones’ delicate eyelids and skin surrounding their eyes. Plus, what’s cuter than a baby in sunglasses?

Make it fun – get matching family sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats in appealing colors or let kids pick out their rash guards with their favorite character.

Just like in Neverland, your shadow is your friend

Studies indicate that sun exposure in the first 10 years of life partially determines a child’s lifetime potential for skin cancer. So, in other words protecting kids from sunburn and long-term overexposure will reduce their risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

It’s tough to juggle nap time and chart the progress of the sun’s orbit, but between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is when UV rays are most powerful, so think about teaching your kids that the longer their shadow (meaning the sun is not directly overhead) the better the time to play outdoors.

You may also want to start checking not only the weather but the UV levels for the day. And, remember even when you’re in the shade UV rays can still reach you.

UV, me and D

At the Museum we know the power of play and that an engaged role model can yield powerful results.

If you apply sunscreen and seek shade, your kids are going to be much more interested in doing so too.

But you don’t want to be a vampire. There needs to be a balance, right? Too much UV exposure and we’re talking sunburns, eye damage and potential for skin cancer. But too little and your pediatrician will start throwing terms at you like ‘low vitamin D levels’.

It’s a really good conversation to have with your pediatrician because the average time of each person’s sun exposure to be beneficial is determined on an individual basis. It depends on your skin type, the time of year, where you are in the world and the UV levels. One other thing you may want to bring up with your pediatrician is medication. Some medications may increase your child’s sensitivity to the sun.

Rockingham Facade At Dusk
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  • Discovery Place Kids