Living in Australia and raising two very fair skinned boys, I've had to be very cautious between balancing an abundance of outdoor play and being sun safe. The reality call for me came just after my first son was born, and I had to have a small skin cancer of my own removed. The dermatologist informed me that this was very likely the result of sunburn as a child and this was lesson enough.
It's great to get outdoors
With two active boys, and with such an array of outdoor activities in sunny Perth where we live, we tend to spend as much time in the fresh air as we do inside. Here are the sun safe tips that I follow.
Keep babies in the shade and to do this we make use of the shade on our son's pram when we are out walking, and at the beach, we use a parasol or a beach tent. I seek out playgrounds with sun shades and love the natural shade that can be found under trees.
If you are out in strong sun, consider dressing your child in lightweight cotton fabrics that will cover arms and legs fully so that sunburn can't occur. Cotton and natural fabrics will also allow the skin to breathe and prevent heat rashes from sweat.
Use baby hats, and if you've got a baby like mine who pulls every head covering off his head, consider buying a hat that has a velcro fastening underneath the chin.
Use a baby appropriate sunscreen; some adult sun screens are not advisable for young, sensitive skin.
Keep your baby hydrated; during hot weather you may find that you need to increase breast or bottle feeds.
Most of the guidance for babies also applies to older kids, but the older children get the less likely they are to want to play in the shade, so the following extra precautions are useful:
Apply sunscreen often especially if your child is in and out of water or sweating excessively from sport. Look out for child safe sunscreens that work well even with water contact or sweat.
Hats are still a must for older children, and it's good to enforce a no hat, no play policy so they know the rules no matter where they are. Role model this behaviour yourself, as skin cancer does not set an upper age limit; we are all at risk.
If kids are in the pool or at the beach, buy rash vests that cover arms too.
When kids are planning to be in the sun for a full day (e.g. a school outing or a day trip) consider also using a sun protector lip balm too. Lips are prone to drying up under the effects of too much sun, and a lip balm can provide an effective barrier to sun damage.
Not all children will wear sunglasses, but over time introduce them to your children and get them more used to wearing them. Sunglasses provide valuable shade for sensitive eyes and the skin around the eyes where sunscreen doesn't always adequately cover.
Finally, on particularly hot days, when the UV index is at its highest, consider spending the hottest part of the day indoors so avoid dehydration, overheating and sunburn.