Sun Safety in Early Child Care and Education Programs
Fresh air, sunshine, and exercise are essential to the healthy development of young children. Children who regularly spend time running, jumping, and playing outdoors are generally more fit and have a lower risk of childhood obesity. We should encourage children to be outside, moving, and safe!
Enjoy the sunshine, but remember, too much sun exposure may not be good for people, especially young children. In addition to making children hot and uncomfortable, too much unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can lead to sunburn, eye damage, wrinkles, and skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma. Research indicates that one serious childhood sunburn could trigger skin cancer in later years.
The Sun Safety Alliance has launched their latest Early Childhood Education project with Crème de la Crème® Early Learning Centers of Excellence. This SSA Childcare Project is aimed at educating children, early childcare staff, and parents on the importance of adopting sun safe behaviors. The educational program includes a staff training module, children's learning activities, and parent education materials. Teaching sun safety at an early age instills lifelong habits that can prevent skin cancer. The SSA, through our partnership with Crème de la Crème, is in the evaluation phase of this project to demonstrate the effectiveness of the sun safety educational materials for early care and education.
To download PDFs of the Children's Learning Activities and the "Safe Fun in the Sun" booklet, click on Resources.
To purchase the staff training and parent information sheets, please contact Dr. Charlotte Hendricks, Project Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.childhealthonline.org
What can you do to keep children sun-safe? Follow these simple guidelines in ECCE settings and encourage parents to follow these at home:
- Schedule children’s outdoor playtime to avoid sun exposure during the peak UV hours of 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM (4:00 during summer months) Remember, the UV rays are present, even on cloudy days.
- Pay attention to the UV and Heat Indexes for your area. During high UV or heat days, be especially sun-safe or consider alternate indoor activity so children can stay cool while playing and exercising. You may also pay attention to pollen counts and air quality index (urban areas).
- Provide plenty of shade on playgrounds. Plant trees or use large summer umbrellas, awnings, or sun tents around your play area. Play games with children in the shadow of your building.
- Avoid direct sun exposure for infants.
- Encourage parents to dress children in cool, lightweight clothing, Loose-fitting shirts with sleeves, and capris or long pants provide more sun protection than tank tops and shorts.
- Make sure every child has a hat with a wide brim that shades the ears and neck. Let each child decorate a big floppy hat that he or she can wear each day.
- Provide each child with sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection.” Polycarbonate or impact-resistant lenses are safest. Teach children to wear sunglasses when they are outdoors, and to store their sunglasses properly after playtime.
- Children have tender skin and can easily become sunburned. It is recommended that you apply sunscreen labeled SPF 30 to all areas of exposed skin. Follow the directions on the sunscreen, and apply liberally and reapply every two hours. Remember, check your state and local guidelines about sunscreen use in childcare.
- Encourage children to drink plenty of water.
- Be a role model! These recommendations apply to both children and adults!
Remember, sun safety is important every day, even on cloudy days. And practice sun safety all year long; during the winter, the UV rays can be even more intense as they reflect off snow. Make sun safety a part of your daily activities.
We would greatly appreciate it if you can share this information through your local networks. For more information, please contact Dr. Charlotte Hendricks, Project Director, at email@example.com.