Summer means more time to play outside and, hopefully, lots of sunny days. While the sun provides some benefits like vitamin D--which helps absorb calcium, and builds strong bones and teeth--it also has a dangerous effect.
The sun's light is made up of invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. When these rays reach our skin they cause tanning, burning and other skin damage. A sunburn develops when the amount of UV exposure is greater than what can be protected against by the skin's melanin. All skin, no matter what color, responds to sun exposure.
Research indicates that most children experience between 50 and 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18. Therefore, it is extremely important to protect young children from dangerous levels of UV rays and to teach kids lifetime habits that will keep their skin healthy.
Protecting Children from Dangerous Sun Exposure
Here are six things you can do to protect children (and yourselves) from the harmful effects of the sun:
- Avoid the strongest rays of the day. The most dangerous time of day is noon to 2 p.m. in most areas. Schedule playground times during morning hours if you can. If outdoor play must occur during the middle of the day, try to provide games in shaded areas.
- Keep outdoor play time at a reasonable length. Children's skin has some natural defense against sun damage but those defenses do not last long. Limit the length of your outdoor play to help children avoid burning or otherwise damaging sensitive skin.
- Cover up. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and hats with wide brims provide good sun protection.
- Use sunscreen consistently. Children over 6 months of age should always use sunscreen during outdoor play in summer months, when UV rays are more intense. Generously apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before outdoor play. Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours and more often if water play is involved. Avoid sunscreens containing PABA and those with an SPF of less than 15.
- Encourage shade activities. Children can enjoy outdoor play without spending all of their time in the sunniest areas of the yard.
- Be a good role model. Children learn by watching the adults in their lives. When teachers and parents use sunscreen and other protective measures, children are encouraged to follow along.
Have a happy, sunburn-free summer!
To learn how KinderCare Learning Centers can deliver a true educational advantage for your child, call 1-877-KINDERCARE or visit www.kindercare.com.