Child Sense: Sun protection

Priscilla J. Dunstan

Keeping our children free from sunburn can be a quite a task, but there are ways to make the process a little easier. If swimming or at the beach, use sun-protective t-shirts, shorts and rash guards. During the day, clothing should at least cover the shoulders – an area that can get the most sun. Hats can be a fun accessory, but remember, they are as necessary as shoes. Use wide brimmed hats as much as possible, to cover the back of the neck and ears as well as the face. Try to stay in the shade during the middle of the day, and remember to reapply as the directions suggest.

Also, be prepared to experiment with sunscreen. Sunscreen comes in many applications; gels, creams, lotions, pump sprays, aerosol and roll on. Pick a sunscreen with a high SPF number, with both UVA and UVB protection, and not containing retinyl palmitate. Experiment with different brands, textures and applications until you find the best one for your family. For the body, kids often prefer a spray sunscreen, as it goes on quickly. Kids can learn to put the sunscreen on themselves, with a touch-up from you.

Tactile children are not ones to stand still, so applying sunscreen can be a difficult process, sometimes ending in tears. The spray sunscreens work best for wrigglers with a light high protection cream for their face. They are particular about the feel of sunscreen on their skin, so try to find one that feels light. Make the most of sun shirts and hats – a baseball cap with a neck flap and chin strap is best, as your active tactile child can run jump and splash in the water without losing it.

For your visual child, try to incorporate sun protection clothing as part of their special wardrobe. Pick shirts and protective dresses in their favorite color, and remember, hats needn’t just be baseball caps, but can be the ultimate accessory to any outfit. With sunscreen, opt for one that doesn’t leave a color or noticeable residue, and incorporate it into their daily routine: brush teeth, brush hair, put on sunscreen, get dressed, etc.

Auditory children are the easiest when it comes to sunscreen; however, they don’t tend to be huge fans of hats. Anything that touches their ears makes them a little uncomfortable, so baseball caps will be a favorite. They will respond to a sun routine, for example, “when we go to the beach, we all wear a sun shirt and a hat, and we put our extra strong sunscreen on before we leave the house.”

Taste and smell children will complain about putting on sunscreen as the smell and feel will be overpowering; be sure to find hypoallergenic products with no fragrance. They will do better with lotions (rather than sprays) as these go on in a slower more gentle way. Show them that you’re putting it on too, and so are their friends and family. Don’t rush the process – it can a very relaxing process for the taste and smell child. For clothes, matching their sun-shirt to their favorite person or character will help to ensure they will want to wear it without fuss.