By now, we all know that sun damage is bad, but many people don’t realize that it’s especially harmful to children. Why? Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner explains that “the damage that causes skin cancer in adults starts in childhood.” Therefore, the more sunburns you have as a child, the higher your risk will be for developing skin cancer later in life. 

While all of this might sound a bit scary, there is a silver lining. There are several simple steps moms can take to protect their kids from the sun – and help them develop lifelong sun safety habits early on.

Beach Child

Let’s take a closer look at five easy yet effective sun safety tips for kids.

  1. Choose the Right Sunscreen

Not all sunscreens are created equal. With this in mind, there are three critical things to look for when selecting sunscreen – a powerful sun protection factor (SPF), broad-spectrum protection, and water-resistance.

It’s also essential to find a formula that simplifies the application process. For example, creams may be ideal for dry areas, while sticks work well on the face and around the eyes. And while sunscreen sprays are tempting, it’s best to stay away from them, as they make it hard to gauge whether you’ve applied enough.

  1. Plan Ahead for Fun in the Sun

The only foolproof way to avoid sun damage is to stay out of the sun. This, of course, isn’t always possible. However, you can significantly reduce your kids’ chances of getting a sunburn by avoiding the peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Another handy rule of thumb? If your shadow looks short, it’s time to find shade. According to the American Skin Association, the shadow rule (which takes into account the sun’s altitude), helps to indicate when the sun’s UV rays are more likely to cause sunburn. But remember: It’s possible to get a sunburn even when it’s hazy or cloudy out, so protection is important every time you head outside.

  1. Make Them Partners in the Process

No one likes feeling powerless, and this absolutely applies to kids. So, let their voices be heard by allowing them to choose what brand of sunscreen you use as well as how it’s applied. In addition to helping them feel like they have a say in the process, this can encourage them to develop positive sun safety habits, too.

  1. Find the “Play” in It

One thing all moms know for sure? Kids love to play. Therefore, gamifying the sunscreen application process is an effective way to make it feel like less of a chore for everyone involved. Whether it’s a game of Simon Says or sunscreen connect the dots, this simple hack can streamline your kids’ sun safety routines, and even make them something to look forward to.

  1. Keep Them Covered Up

Swimsuits, rash guards, cover ups, and other sun-protective clothing made with UPF 50+ fabric are an invaluable weapon in defending against sun damage. This is because they protect vulnerable skin from the sun for hours at a time, thereby limiting the need for frequent reapplication. The best part? Today’s sun-protective clothing options aren’t just designed to hold up to the sun, sea, and sand, but they also look and feel great – meaning little ones will actually want to wear them.

The Bottom Line – Be Their Role Model

One last thing to keep in mind is that kids learn by watching their parents. Therefore, one of the best things you can do to make sure your children embrace sun safety in their own lives is to model it. By adhering to these tips yourself, you can make sun-safe habits part of your kids’ everyday lives.


About the Author

After being diagnosed with skin cancer, Melissa Papock founded Cabana Life, a beachwear brand that combines fashion and function. Cabana Life offers a wide range of stylish UPF 50+ pieces for women, men, and children.