Overcoming the sun protection hurdle while raising kids

As summer approaches and we spend more time outside, it’s important to protect our children’s skin from sun damage. Often young children will resist wearing sunscreen and very few will keep their hat on for very long, however necessary and important it is. Although we should be uncompromising in protecting our little ones from the sun we also need to be adaptable in our approach and try to work with our child to find the type of sun protection they will wear. Using your child’s dominant sense can help with this process.

Tactile children respond well to rules and clear boundaries, don’t be afraid to make sun protection a priority. No sun protection, no playing in the sun!

Plan ahead and aim to put on the sunscreen before they reach the park, beach or pool. They tend to dislike the texture of sunscreen on their skin and will resist with vigor as you try to apply it. Sprays can be a good option as all they need to do is stand still with their eyes closed for a minute or so and be sprayed. Make sure the sunscreen is actually fully on, or trying to reapply effectively, as the tactile child rarely stands still, so think of alternatives such as clothing that blocks the sun, sun hats and large umbrellas they can play under.

You will need a low-fragrance, sensitive-skin sunscreen for your taste and smell child. They will prefer the lotion rather than a spray as the mist can interfere with their sense of taste and smell. They generally are rather sensitive, especially when it comes to being hot, tired and thirsty, so make a special effort to provide lots of drinks and shade that they can sit and relax under, without needing to keep wearing sunscreen. Instead think hats, sun umbrellas and shirts or sun body suits. This will help minimize the need for the “smelly sunscreen.”

Forget large brimmed hats that cover your auditory child’s ears as they don’t tend to be huge fans of items that can distort the sound around them, which large hats can do. Baseball caps however will be a hit especially if everyone else is wearing one or they come with a story, such as “I got this hat when we all went to Disneyland.” They will enjoy telling the story over and over and this will give you a chance to spray or rub on some sun lotion while they are distracted talking. Create a summer song to aid with the sun routine; sing about hats and sunscreen and for ease, set it to family favorites like “Old McDonald” or “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

Visual children can become obsessed with the sunscreen not showing, or being too shiny or white, so bring a small mirror to reassure them it’s all rubbed in. You may find that they will want to help you put it on - especially surrounding the face - so if they are old enough, encourage this type of self care. Pick a sunscreen that doesn’t leave a color or noticeable residue, and if it has a picture of their favorite cartoon character on it, all the better. Appeal to the visual child’s fashion sense by having an array of different hats and sun shirts to mix and match and let them pick them out like they would accessories.

Remember to try to stay out of the sun during the middle of the day when the sun is most damaging, be relaxed but firm, and have fun playing in the great outdoors knowing they are protected from harmful rays.

Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” Learn more about Dunstan at