Kids Sun Safety Training We Should Borrow From Australia for ourselves and our families.
Kids’ sun safety training we should borrow from Australia is an important guideline. The lesson from this image that comes to my mind is the darker colors block the sun from their bodies. There are also the long shadows that help kids learn about sun safety. We will discuss shadows in a moment if you are new to this.
You may not have known, but Australia is the driest continent on our planet. This has made sun safety important, all the way down to the preschooler’s curriculum. This important emphasis on sun safety continues through all a student’s school years in Australia.
“No hat, no play was the rule while I was in elementary,” is what an acquaintance from Australia said she learned to help keep herself sun-safe early in life. What kid likes to miss playtime because they forgot their sun hat?
She said there were also sunscreen stations in Kindergarten! They were taught while in kindergarten to use sunscreen. Thanks to these sunscreen stations at kindergarten, she mastered how to apply sunscreen very young.
She also said that now as an adult she wears a hat and sunglasses, even in the shade. She claims that she even wears sunscreen when it rains. I understand that, as rain is unexpected I am sure, just as it is in central Texas where I live. We may not be as dry as Australia, but we are dry. For sure this spring hot and dry describes our climate.
Staying Safe In The Sun
This friend of mine’s sun-safe habits exhibits to us how people live who start practicing good sun-safe habits when they are young. Just as kids who grow up eating all kinds of vegetables are generally vegetable eaters as adults.
There are many behaviors that we as parents try to teach our kids to keep them healthy and safe. Sun safety is left to parents, here in the US and often they don’t know either. I sure didn’t know about sun dangers when my kids were young.
Teaching children sun safety habits should begin at a young age for safer lifelong habits. We here in the US are receiving increasing numbers of skin cancer diagnoses, every year. The total of skin cancer diagnoses is more than all other cancers combined! We need better sun safety habits.
Here in the US, we have more than 9,500 people finding out that they have skin cancer every day. Statics are also showing that more than 2 people die from skin cancer every hour.
It only takes just 1 blistering sunburn while we are children through adolescence to more than double a person’s risk of developing melanoma after they get older.
Skin Cancer Rates, Yes I’m Trying To Get Your Attention about Sun Safety!
- Statistics tell us that 1out of every 5 U. S. citizens will have skin cancer by the time they turn 70 years old.
- 9,500 people find out they have skin cancer every day!
- Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S.; in fact, skin cancer is more common than all other cancers, combined.
- The rates for skin cancer vary according to the ethnicity and skin tone of the individual.
- Women usually receive a skin cancer diagnosis before the age of 50.
- Men are usually over 50 when they get their diagnosis.
- Technology is allowing better count and tracing of skin cancer, and rates are rising: Diagnosis of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by 77% between 1994 and 2014; while new invasive melanoma cases rose by 44% between 2011 and 2021.
- White men are the most likely group to develop melanoma. However, no ethnicity is immune from skin cancer. In those with darker skin tones and complexions, skin cancer is most likely to appear in less-exposed areas, especially the plantar portion of the foot.
Don’t forget: that exposure to UV rays through tanning beds and natural sunlight is the most common cause of skin cancer. Don’t be a statistic; be proactive, wear sunscreen every day, and don’t try to tan!
Sun Blocking Clothing, A Super Hero
So how do you teach your kids sun safety habits? About the superhero job, sun blocking clothing can do for their skin?
We teach by modeling the behavior for our kids. Wear your sun blocking hat when you leave the house during the day. Grab your sunglasses when you go outside. Wear your long sleeve loose-fitting sun blocking shit while out.
Start early and incorporate skin protection from the sun into their everyday routine.
After your children are older than 12 months of age, dress them in their sun blocking hats, sunglasses, and, sun blocking shirts. Before 12 months old? Keep them protected with sun blocking clothing or out of the sun. Don’t use sunscreen on kids under 12 months old.
Help your child apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, to all exposed skin not covered with clothing. This should be done at least 20 min before going outside so it has time to take effect.
Sun Safety Routine For Your Family
This should be the routine as much as getting dressed and brushing their teeth before leaving the house. Let your youngsters help you apply sunscreen before going outside to play.
While your kids may not be in kayaks on larger bodies of water, they will need to protect their skin from the sun. It is especially important to make sure their faces are covered in sunscreen when wearing caps, instead of sun hats.
Remember to re-apply every 1 1/2 to 2 hours, especially if swimming or sweating. Talk to your kids about what you are doing and why. They want to be safe in the sun
I call the tools to keep me safe from the sun, my sun-safe toolbox. Keep your family’s sun-safety items in easy reach of the door most used to go outside. If there isn’t a closet handy, maybe a box or basket close by.
And don’t forget your car. Sunglasses for you and your kids, sunscreen, and a sun hat for each of you in your car. If your family still hasn’t gotten into the habit of sun blocking clothing before they leave home, they will need a shirt to protect their arms.
You pack items to keep them entertained and fed in the car, keep them sun safe as well.
Kids are pretty hard on sunglasses but keeping a pair in the backpack is important, especially if they have outside sports. She will learn to put them in the case and keep them safe. I think it is a matter of learning how. So your child will watch to see how you care for and store your sunglasses.
Sun Blocking Clothing For Kid’s Sun Safety
It is actually a good thing for your kids to wear sun blocking clothing to school. Besides the outdoor playtime, as they get older they will be playing sports outside.
If you don’t have UPF clothing yet, any clothing is better than none. So this means that lightweight long-sleeved shirts or pants will protect your kid’s bodies better than no shirt or long pants at all.
Don’t forget a wide brim hat and sunglasses. Search for UV-protective clothing for your kids to wear at school.
Another DIY for clothing that will help keep your kids safe from the sun is to use a laundry-in product. You know, like a product to brighten the color. These products cause the thread in the garment you are washing to swell, producing a tighter weave fabric that keeps more sun out.
Helping your family learn that wearing clothing while in the sun is always the safer option. Any shirt is better than no shirt. Those tee-shirts that have been washed many times will really benefit from the DIY treatment. You model this for your kids by wearing your sun blocking shirt, even one you used the DIY treatment on.
I know that you are aware of some of the new finds in sun blocking clothing. I am just reminding you, as you are busy and have so many things on your plate. Sunscreen and UPF clothing can make your life safer.
You just need t get these 2 tools worked into your daily life.
How To Make Sun Sun Safety More Fun
You can purchase some of the UV color-changing beads from a craft supply store. Making a bracelet or a zipper pull for backpacks will help remind your kids that they are in the sun and that they are exposing themselves to UV rays.
In a sunny window, lay a piece of construction paper (the darker the color the better) You might just cut a small square of a 3″ or 4″ square. Set something on top of the paper, in the center. Like a bottle cap or lid. Or a small object of some sort.
Once a week, look at the paper with your child and pick up the object and see how much the sun fades the color. Talk to your child about how the sun is fading the color, that the sun can do the same to their skin. About how it can actually damage their skin.
There is also a fun project to bring sun protection awareness to your kids is to letting them decorate the brim of their wide-brimmed sun hats. You can use fabric painting pens or paints. Girls might like to add colorful ribbons, boys might like leather strings to tie around the crown. Just to make it theirs.
For the older kids, getting their friends to sign their hats with the paint pens is a fun souvenir from a birthday party.
Learning About The Shadow Rule
Kids, especially as they get older need to know about the shadow rule.
During the early morning, and late afternoon our shadows are longer.
Obviously, this is better to demonstrate by getting out at various times of day and talking about the shadow length.
If their shadow is shorter than your child is tall, the sun is directly overhead and dangerous.
If there is no shadow, the sun is directly overhead. Find a shade to be in.
UV rays are more harmful (usually between 10 AM and 4 PM). Short shadows or no shadow? This is the signal to get in the shade or in the house. Take a walk through your yard and neighborhood. Ask your child to point out different places to get in the shade.
Your Kids Are Smart. Help Them Become Sun Smart!
Teach your older kids and teens about the dangers of the sun.
Teach them that there is no such thing as a healthy tan. If your skin has changed from its natural color after being out in the sun, this could indicate potential skin damage.
Any change in your natural skin color after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, tanning beds damage faster than the natural sun.
UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen.
Yes, this includes UV tanning devices. There will be more people who develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking!
Young women who have had 6 indoor tanning sessions in tanning beds are 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma while still in their 20s than those who choose not to tan indoors.
17 states plus the District of Columbia prohibit people younger than 18 from using indoor tanning devices.
If you use a tanning bed before age 35? You are increasing your risk of melanoma by 75%.
Making sun safety a habit early in your kid’s life will make it easier for your kids to continue these same sun-safe habits throughout their lives.
Be a role model for your kids. Set a good example by showing them that sun safety is important to you and the members of your family. They are a part of the family and need to practice safe habits from the sun as well.
My acquaintance for Australia says that when she goes to the beach, she sits in a fully enclosed UV tent. Due to so many residents of Australia having light skin, hair, and eyes, they are at higher risk. She assured me that many of her friends use the UV tent.
I had to go online and look up the “UV” tent, and of course, there were many sizes and features to consider if you want to add this to your sun protection.
Obviously, living in our part of Central Texas, I have not spent much time at the beach. I am sure the tent would be a good tool and will add it to my list of possibilities if we do decide on a beach holiday.
The UV tents could have been helpful with little ones at the ballparks when watching older brothers and sisters play different sports. Our little towns have a fairly informal game set up and everyone is happy to bring a folding lawn chair.
Ways Our Kids Can Protect Their Skin
You can educate your kids about how dangerous the sun is. However, you can talk to them until you’re blue in the face!! And still not change the chances they take.
Until your kids understand how to protect their skin they will not be any better off.
So let’s try to make it easy for them to remember. Here are 7 easy steps for kids to remember:
- They need to wear sun blocking clothing.
- Remembering to apply sunscreen regularly to their skin that is not covered is important for their skin protection.
- Kids need to know that they can use an umbrella, tent, or other types of pop-ups for shade.
- Can’t see your shadow? Find shade or go in the house.
- These kids need to know to look for shade under trees, or next to buildings. Shade is just not something kids think about by themselves.
- Then there is the real biggie of wearing a hat.
- Wearing their sunglasses outside all the time. Again, not something they always remember.
Finding ways to help your family build good sun-safe habits will take some time, but will be building a lifelong habit. It could be what keeps them safe from skin cancer.
A review of the shadow game for getting out of the sun. Kids love playing with their shadows. Use this kid-friendly way to make them more aware of where the sun is to teach them the rule, “Short shadow? Seek shade.”
(When their shadow is shorter than their height, the sun’s UV rays are more likely to cause a sunburn.)
For Eye Safety In The Sun Wear Sunglasses
I was surprised to find that the Skin Cance Foundation recommends that our kids over the age of 6 months wear sunglasses.
Kids under the age of 10 are at very high risk for ocular changes that happen when there is UV ray damage.
Don’t forget that their eyelids and the skin around their eyes are more vulnerable to the sun than adult skin is. Remember the warning to not use sunscreen on a baby under 12 months? A kid under 10 still is maturing his or her skin. They just do not have adult skin yet!
Sunscreen can sting if it gets close to your kid’s eyes. Most of us are kind of iffy about getting sunscreen close to our eyes. Wear your sunglasses and protect yourself.
Help your kids to notice when other people around them are wearing sunglasses. If other people have their sunglasses on, it’s a sign for kids to grab theirs.
Do Your Kids Know When Peak Sun Hours Are?
Are your kids aware of the time of day when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest?
Helping your family to be aware that the hours of 10:00 AM. to 4:00 PM are the most dangerous for their skin will make them better able to protect themselves.
Help get your kids in the habit of paying attention to the time of day before they head outside to play. Hopefully, they’ll soon reach for protective sun gear without you nagging them.
Work Up A Sweat? Add More Sunscreen
Even though you have used waterproof sunscreen, it still needs to be reapplied after playing sports or anything where you get sweaty. Just like when you are swimming, sweating dilutes your sunscreen protection.
If your kids are wearing sun blocking clothing, they don’t have to have their whole body swabbed down with sunscreen. Just the areas that aren’t protected with clothing, like their face, the tops of their hands.
Remember, your kid is only protected if they wear sun blocking clothing. The hat, sunglasses, and sun blocking shirt won’t help if your child takes it off.
If you can get kids in the habit of coming to you for more sunscreen after activities that cause them to get wet or sweat, the awareness of when to add sunscreen is becoming a habit.
Yes, you’ll need to chase them down at first, but soon the need for this will gradually decrease over time.
Habits are sometimes slower to take hold, remember.
No, It Isn’t Easy, But Neither Is Skin Cancer!
Want to check the weather before you leave for a day’s outing. Find out your sun risk for the day by checking the EPA’s SunWise program.
You can download the app to your phone, or request a daily email that predicts what the UV index in your zip code is likely to be.
The higher the UV index, the more sun-safe kids need to be.
Studies have shown that kids are more likely to take sun safety advice from a pediatrician.
Maybe you could enlist your pediatrician about addressing sun safety with your kids.
This is especially important as your older kids start to associate tans with beauty and interest in tanning beds begins to pique.
Scary Teen Statistics
These statistics, from the American Skin Association from a study by the American Academy of Dermatology about attitudes toward tanning among teens:
- When asked about getting a tan, 63% of teens believe they look better when they have a tan
- Everyone, old and young, male and female look better with a tan according to 59% of teens questioned.
- A whopping 43% of teens say they lie out in the sun even knowing how dangerous it is for their skin.
- Then there are the 28% of female teens and 14% of male teens who claim they never use sunscreen.
- Only three in ten teens who lie out in the sun say they always use sunscreen.
- None of the teens questioned were excited about covering up!
This is a very risky business, and these teens are taking chances on their long-term health.
Your Job As A Parent? Be A Role Model.
When they are young, your child won’t be as happy to put on a hat outside if you don’t.
Kids are more likely to embrace sun safety if their parents do, too. It’s up to us to walk the talk.
I know, adding even one more thing into your morning routine is tough. But this one is a must-do. When kids are old enough, have them apply sunscreen after brushing their teeth in the morning or figure out a way to make it easy for them to work it into their routine.
Until then, you need to do it for them, and likely multiple times per day to build this habit of a lifetime. Our sun protection tool kit sits out, by the door, (as much as I dislike the clutter) so that I don’t forget about it. It is a hard habit to change.
Pick one habit and work on it. When it becomes easy, add another. Leave the sunscreen out so that you see and remember it.
If we can borrow the idea of training our kids early to protect their skin from the sun, hopefully, our families will have less skin cancer as we live our lives.
Sami’s Take On Kids Sun Safety Training We Should Borrow From Australia
Starting to help kids learn when they are young that the sun can be dangerous. They can also learn how to protect themselves, and be a part of the team. You won’t always be there to remind them.
I’m not trying to tell you this will be easy. Changing your family’s sun careless ways to sun cautious ways will take a while.
The sooner you get started, the better.
Making small steps is better than no steps for improvement. As kids grow and begin to become more independent they need to be comfortable with good habits to protect themselves from too much sun. Be accustomed to applying sunscreen at the start of the day.
Becoming aware of the safer times to be out in the sun. Comfortable with using their shadow to help determine how dangerous the sun is.
If your family has high-risk members, those with blond or red hair and light-colored eyes, helping your family develop good sun-safe habits is very important.
The dangers of the sun are difficult to communicate to others. Usually, there is a delay between when you get your bad sunburns and when your skin cancer develops. You think risky behavior is OK because there was no immediate repercussion.
Consider how changing just a few things will protect your family. Help them realize there are safe times to play. That covering up to protect your skin is a wise move.
Borrow some of the “starting early in the life of your family” tricks from what the Australians have done. Give your family and yourself the gift of asking cancer-free life. I wish I had.