Keep Kids Safe in the Sun With These 6 Tips!

I'm a very fair-skinned person, and I burn very easily.  It's easy for me to remember that I need sun protection, because I start to get hot and my skin will turn pink after just 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight.

My kids, however, don't have such an early warning system, and studies have connected sunburns before age 18 to high risks of skin cancer. In fact, just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can DOUBLE the chance of getting melanoma later in life; getting five or more sunburns at ANY age can double the risk, as well.

Since skin cancer is largely preventable, I've been very passionate about making sure my kids stay protected.  Both my grandma and mom have had skin cancer, so I know that my risks -- and my kids' risks -- are real.

Here are the steps we try to take to give them the best chance at a lifetime of healthy skin:

1. Cover first.  What's the easiest, quickest, mess-free way to protect from the sun?  Cover it up!  Simply having long-sleeves and a hat can keep kids safer during daylight hours (they help against mosquitoes and ticks, too!), and we find that UV-protection via clothing can feel cooler than going sleeveless, since feeling "hot" can come from the warming rays of the sun on the skin.  Buying a rash guard to wear over swim suits is a practical way for both boys and girls to get extra sun protection beyond using sunscreen alone.

2. Use the right skin products.  Sun screens are great for protecting when you have to be in direct or indirect sunlight, but they are only as good as the person who remembers to put it on!  Be diligent about reading labels to see if your sunscreen or sunblock is water or sweat-proof or simply resistant. It's also important to understand that many products are not recommended for babies under 6 months, and some are more suited for use on the face and around eyes.

3. Read directions.  Sunscreen is not all the same, and different types will have different usage requirements.  Follow the directions to know when to re-apply, and be aware that most sun products require you to put them on 30-minutes to an hour before you head outside.

4. Don't be fooled by weather.  Think you don't need to protect your kids during shady days or under cloud-cover?  Many sunburns happen when the weather is cool and we are not thinking about staying in the shade.  The sun can burn through clouds, and even on snowy days; in fact, water from swimming pools and fresh snow can reflect sunlight and burn delicate skin quickly!

5. Avoid "peak" hours.  Not only can it be uncomfortable for kids to play outside during the hours of 11 am to 3 pm (when temperatures can be stifling), but the sun's rays are the most aggressive during this time, as well.  We like to schedule indoor activities during this time, including naps for the little ones.  Gardening and outside chores are done in the morning, and we all get to play outside when the shadows start to fall around 4pm.  With the long summer days, there is plenty of time to recreate during safer hours.

6.  Let kids help.  While it is ultimately mom and dad's responsibility to remember to protect kids, letting them have a hand in the process will set them up for good habits later on.  Let them pick out their new protective hat for the season, put sunscreen on their arms and legs (watch to make sure they cover all the area well), and be a helper for younger siblings who may need help getting dressed or remembering a hat.  If they feel like it is a normal way of life to stay covered up, they won't resist.  Set a good example, and put your protection on, too!

Sunscreen and gear doesn't have to break the bank, and if you think of your skin care purchases as a long-term investment in your child's future, it's easy to make the choice to stock up on the products you need!

We find that most of our favorite kinds of sunscreen have an Equate version that meets our needs -- for a fraction of the price of name brand.  Be sure to grab what you need before swimming, summer sports and camps.  There are even value packs with two products together for even more savings at your local Walmart. Their Every Day Low Prices keep the cost of safety reasonable.

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I've received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  Links to shopping sites may be referral links.