A bottle of sunscreen, sunglasses, a towel, and a hat.

Sun-Safe Practices: The Kids Are Getting It!

I’m kind of excited right now. I have been advocating for sun safe-practices for several years now, and it can get discouraging at times. It’s difficult to see progress past the sunburned selfies and tan lines at the grocery store. Last week, however, I could see that change is indeed on its way.

Sun safety starts with the kids

Our school’s field day activities are always scheduled for the last month of school. It’s a great day, but it’s typically a hot and miserable one as well. We plan to spend anywhere from 2-3 hours outdoors on the playground with very little opportunity for any time in the shade at all. I'm a teacher, and I always encourage my students to bring or wear sunscreen for the big day.

Kids didn't love hearing what I had to say

When I first began advocating for sunscreen use years ago, my advice wasn’t met with a lot of enthusiasm and few seemed to take heed. Without scaring my students with talk of cancer, I stressed the importance of protecting our skin, all of us, from sunburn. Even then, not many wore or brought sunscreen. Many looked at each other and said, “My mama says I don’t need any” or “I don’t use that.” But something is changing, and it makes me happy.

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Reaching out to the parents

Beginning about five years ago, I added sunscreen as a suggestion on our field day reminder note to parents. Along with the usual (running shoes, water bottle, and towel) I added sunscreen. Without fanfare, without sermons or an overload of information, I added it as a field day item. I fully expected some questions or, at the very least, for that line to be ignored altogether. The first year, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of students who showed up with their own brand new bottles of sunscreen. The next year, there were even more students who sat with a bottle or can of sunscreen on their desks when I walked in on the highly anticipated morning.

They seemed willing, but it wasn't exactly familiar

My students were more than willing to wear sunscreen, no matter who encouraged it. I learned pretty quickly, though, that this was an entirely new experience for most of my students. While they had no problem with wearing it, they were quite lost as to the application process. For the first few minutes, I watched as some applied enough lotion for themselves and eight of their closest friends while others didn’t know how to begin to work the safety nozzle on spray cans. After some quick redirects and a demonstration, we were protected, set up for reapplication later, and on our way to the playground so the games could begin.

The times they are a-changin'

Things are definitely changing, and for the better. This year was the best year yet for sun protection at our school. Several of my students not only brought sunscreen, butthey brought hats and sunglasses, too. Word is spreading, parents are pushing, and differences are being made. Where we used to simply treat sunburn the day after a long day outdoors, we are now preparing to protect ourselves from experiencing that pain in the first place. Sun protection begins with children, and my little class is living proof!

What kinds of changes have you seen in the fight to stay sun-safe? Share your experiences with us in the comment section. We would love to hear from you!

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