One of the best ways to help your children or grandchildren build healthy sun safety habits is to start early. Sunburns and sun damage over time can increase your skin cancer risk. One or more sunburns in childhood could double your lifetime melanoma risk.
To help teach children about the importance of sun safety, MD Anderson Cancer Center created and developed Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum. This evidence-based curriculum educates children, teachers and parents about sun protection and promotes sun safety behaviors in an effort to reduce children’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.
We spoke with Payal Pandit Talati, a program manager in Behavioral Science and a developer of the Sunbeatables Program to teach children about sun safety. Here are her tips.
Start early. Once children are older than six months, you should protect them by applying sunscreen before they go out in the sun. And just like adults, kids need a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Making sun protection a habit early in life will make it easier for kids to continue practicing this behavior throughout their lives.
“As they get older, it hopefully becomes part of their daily routine, “says Pandit Talati.
Remember it’s not just about sunscreen.
Don’t forget these other sun safety tips:
- Apply lip balm with SPF 30 and reapply regularly
- Cover up by wearing wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses with UV protection and protective clothing
- Seek shade whenever possible
- Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Model the behavior
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and practice the other sun safety tips listed above. One of the best ways to teach your children about sun safety and set a positive example is to show them that you practice the behavior.
Get the school involved.
You shouldn’t be the only advocate for sun safety in your children’s life. Talk to their teachers about sun safety. Make sure they’re practicing and reinforcing sun safety habits at school. You can even let them know about sun safety education programs, like Sunbeatables, that make sun safety more engaging for children.
Make it fun
Children will be more likely to practice sun safety if it’s something they want to do. Relate sun safety to the Sunbeatables superhero characters or other characters from shows, books and movies they enjoy. Remind them that these characters and other role models in their own lives practice sun safety habits. Use songs (the Sunbeatables program features a few) or games.
Pandit Talati taught her son to pay attention to his shadow length to know when to be SUPER-protected like the Sunbeatables. During early morning and late afternoon, shadows are longer. If your shadow is shorter than you are, or you have no shadow, then the sun is directly overhead (10 a.m – 4 p.m.) and the sun’s rays are more harmful. “He loves looking to see how long his shadow is,” Pandit Talati says.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 855-690-2446.