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How to ensure children stay safe in the sun

Two boys sitting on beach chairs on a sandy beach

Spending time outdoors is a great way for children to get some fresh air, exercise and valuable Vitamin D. No more so than over the summer when the sun is shining and the days are longer! However, exposing children to too much sun can have a harmful effect on their health and wellbeing and so, we are here to help you with guidance on how to keep your children safe in the sun.

What is Vitamin D and why is it important?

Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These two nutrients are essential for keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. For young children aged 1-4, the NHS recommends taking a daily supplement throughout the year to avoid becoming Vitamin D-deficient. 

How much sunlight is recommended for children?

It is important to say that UV radiation from the sun can happen all year round, and not just in the summer. Over-exposure to UV rays can cause sunburn, skin damage and increased risk of skin cancer. 

Children are at risk of sunburn within 10-15 minutes of being exposed to strong UV rays and so it is very important that measures are taken to protect them and to encourage sun-safe practices from a young age.

How can you help protect your children from the sun?

We know how much children love to be outside in the summer – those endless afternoons spent darting through the sprinkler, splashing in a paddling pool or making sandcastles on the beach. There are some practical ways to protect a child from the sun and as with everyone, the amount of time a child spends in the sun should be closely monitored.

  • Wear a sun hat – we recommend that children wear hats with a drop-brim and elongated legionnaire back, to protect their faces and necks as much as possible. There are hats available which are UPF-graded, which will block out the majority of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sun cream regularlysun cream should be applied following the manufacturer’s guidance before going into direct sunlight. If there is no guidance, sun cream should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and then at regular intervals when children are going outdoors. Following swimming in a pool or the sea, sun cream should be reapplied immediately after.
  • Stay hydrated – it is easy to get dehydrated when the thermometer creeps up and so children should drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Stay indoors during the heat of the day – the sun is at its strongest between 11 am and 3 pm and so, if possible, children should be kept indoors or in the shade to avoid heat stroke and sunburn.

Six ways to entertain children outside this summer

There are some fantastic games and activities that children can do outside in the shade, fuelling their bodies with Vitamin D and furthering their education and development! 

Pass the water

This is a great game for a warm, sunny day and can involve the whole family! Positional language and hand-eye coordination will be tested here. 

Teddy bears picnic

 Why not have a picnic with all your teddies in the garden? This is a great activity to broaden your child’s communication skills and encourage sentence construction. 

Clingfilm easel 

A messy but fun activity that encourages children to mark-make as well as strengthen their fine and gross motor skills. 

Shadow drawing

Tracing around shadows in the shade of the garden is a brilliant way for children to develop their knowledge of shapes and colours. 

Ice-cream making 

We all know how much children love eating ice cream so why not engage their curious minds with making it too! 

Washing babies

Recreating scenes from the home is an essential part of role play. Children can exercise their fine and gross motor skills in caring for the dolls, and done outside, means a spill-free house!