When was the last time you played outside in the sun? Sun exposure boosts your body's vitamin D and melatonin levels. It also improves your mood and emotional health. Kids get the same benefits, which is why I advocate for outside play. We have to make sure the kids in our care stay safe, though. Follow these five tips as you show off your solar smarts.
Play in the Shade
Most days, my girls wake up, eat breakfast, do a few of their daily chores, then run outside to play. That means they're exposed to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when its UV rays are the strongest. We can protect our kids when we encourage them to play in the shade. Seek out trees or set up a canopy or pop-up tent. Remember that UV rays can be strong on cloudy days, too, since clouds filter but do not eradicate damaging UV rays that can cause sunburn and skin cancer.
Wear a Hat
When my girls were babies, I made them wear big floppy hats that shaded their heads, ears, and faces. Even though they're not babies anymore, they still need to wear protective hats. As your kids enjoy playground excursions, hikes, and organized sports, make sure they wear hats along with their play gear. Remember that baseball hats, popular as they are, do not provide much coverage.
I know it's hot, but flimsy tank tops and shorts provide little protection from the sun. I always insist that my girls wear sun-protection clothing when they'll play outside for longer than a few minutes. They need long sleeves and long pants as an extra layer of protection from harmful UV rays and potential sunburn. Because a dry and dark shirt offers more protection than a wet, light shirt, I stick to blue, black, purple, and red clothing when possible. You can also look for clothing that includes an ultraviolet protection factor.
Despite being covered, your kids may still have exposed skin. Apply sunscreen generously to your kids' noses, ears, neck, shoulders, hair part, and feet. It should have an SPF rating of 15 or above. I've found that it's best to apply it about 30 minutes before you head outside and reapply every two to three hours, after they get sweaty, or when they get out of the pool. For babies or anyone with sensitive skin, test a small amount of sunscreen on their wrist to see if it reacts badly before you apply it to the rest of their body.
Medications can help your kids be healthy, but certain ones, including acne treatments and antibiotics, can also increase sun sensitivity. When kids take medications, check with a doctor or pharmacist to be sure that the medications do not increase their sun exposure risk. If so, take extra precautions as you protect a child's sensitive skin.
As a caregiver, you need to send your kids outside to play, but you also have to protect them. You can do that with these five sun safety tips for kids. Also, I challenge you to set a good example as you play outside. Cover up, use sunscreen, and be careful about medications you take as you practice solar smarts and protect your skin.
Find more about the author: Kim Hart