Whether it’s riding a bike or
swimming, some things are best learned from a young age. Teaching kids how to
protect themselves from the sun is an important skill that they’ll carry with
them through life. It becomes especially important as children reach school age
and can’t rely on you to reapply their sunscreen, make sure they have their hat
on or play in the shade.
Here are a few ways that you can
teach your kids to be sun safe:
Set up a sunscreen station
If you’ve ever kept a packet of
biscuits on the kitchen counter, you’ll know just how powerful a visual
reminder can be. Having your sunscreen somewhere visible, like on a table near
the front door will provide a reminder to you and your kids to put on sunscreen
before you leave the house every day.
As your children get a little
older, allow them to apply their own sunscreen. Placing a mirror nearby can
help them to make sure that they’re reaching all the spots they need to cover,
including those easy-to-forget or hard-to-reach places like feet, hands, ears,
backs and shoulders. Making sunscreen application a daily habit makes it more
likely that they’ll feel confident reapplying their sunscreen on their own.
Set an example
Normalizing sun safety is an
important part of making it a lifelong habit and as their parent, you are the
best person to demonstrate how to protect yourself from the sun. Practice sun
safety every day by applying (and reapplying) sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and
a hat, seeking the shade on sunny days and wearing clothes that protect you
from the sun.
Make it fun
Just because sun protection is an
important health issue doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Most of us will
remember the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ song performed by Sid the Seagull. Just the ABS song teaches us
the alphabet, teaching kids a song is a great way to help them remember what
they need to do to be sun safe. For a modern rendition of Slip, Slop, Slap,
check out Playschool’s Jay Laga’aia’s ‘You’ve Gotta Be SunSmart’.
It can also help to make sure that
your child likes their sunglasses, hats and sun-safe clothing. Choose products
in their favourite colours or that feature fun characters, or better yet, take
your child with you when you shop for these items and use it as an opportunity
to explain to them why sun safety is important.
A particularly great activity for
artistic kids is to ask them to draw a picture of your family on a sunny day.
Then, ask them to add things that will help protect you all from the suns rays.
As they add each item, talk about why it’s important and which part of their
body it protects.
Check the UV index
Australia has one of the highest
levels of UV exposure in the world, so learning to be aware of the UV index is
important. Sun protection is recommended when the UV index is 3 and above — to
put that in perspective, a hot summers day can see the UV index raise to 15.
The heat or visible sunshine isn’t necessarily the best indicator of UV, as you
can still get burnt on cool or cloudy days. You can check the UV index on the Bureau
of Meteorology (BOM)
website, or by downloading the free SunSmart app. Not only will the app tell you the UV index, but you can also set
alerts to remind you when sun protection times start each day, remind you to
reapply sunscreen, or use the sunscreen calculator to tell you how much
sunscreen you need depending on your outfit.
Try checking the UV index as a
family and discussing how you’re going to practice sun safety that day.
Incorporate the sun into your daily routine
The sunniest time of day can vary
slightly depending on where you live, but generally, 11 am to 3 pm tends to be
when the suns rays are at their brightest, and we’re the most vulnerable to sun
damage. Make sure that you’re kids are aware of this, and make it part of your
daily routine to be inside, or especially sun safe, during these periods.
Get your school on board
We’re lucky that most schools in
Australia practice sun safety. All Australian primary schools are offered
access to the National SunSmart Schools Program, so there’s no reason why there
shouldn’t be a sun safety policy in place. That being said, there’s no harm in
Check with your child’s school whether they
are teaching sun safety in their curriculum, what measures they’re taking to
protect students from UV rays during the day, and whether children have access
to sunscreen, hats, and plenty of shade.
Make sun safety a year-round habit
We know that summer is
an especially important time to protect our skin from the sun, but sun safety
should be practised year-round. As mentioned above, you can get sunburnt on
cool or overcast days, and practising sun safety every day makes it more likely
to be second nature and part of your daily routine.