As a parent, you undoubtedly understand the importance of sun protection for your children, who likely spend a lot of time outdoors – especially during the summer months. And, as you may be aware, the risk of developing melanoma (the most aggressive form of skin cancer) is largely influenced by the level of sun exposure sustained during childhood.
Even if sun-safe practices are second nature to you, explaining sun safety to your children might still be a bit of a challenge. For kids, concepts such as skin cancer can be vague, confusing or difficult to comprehend. For these reasons, when you constantly tell them to apply sunscreen, they may simply perceive your good intentions as nothing more than parental nagging.
To help you out, here are some ideas on how to teach your kids about sun safety:
- Be a role model – Instead of simply telling your kids to be careful in the sun, set a good example for them. Be sure to liberally apply sunscreen and put on a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing every time you go outdoors.
- Incorporate sun safety into everyday conversation – This might turn out to be easier than you think. As you prepare for each day, check the weather forecast together, and then discuss the types of clothing that would be most appropriate to wear.
- Make it fun – Kids of all ages might enjoy conducting scientific experiments or engaging in other activities that allow them to learn about the power of the sun on their own. Create art projects using sun-sensitive paper, fabric or beads. Play with shadows. Set up a do-it-yourself sundial outside. Or, try building a solar oven to make s’mores or cook eggs using the sun’s heat.
Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair of the Cutaneous Oncology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center, has come up with a simple but effective way for kids to learn healthy sun-protection habits. He calls it “slip, slap, slop.” First, slip on protective clothing, such as long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Next, slap on a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Finally, slop on a lot of sunscreen. Remember: slip, slap, slop!