There was a local doctor here who always growled at my sun-loving friends and me when we were looking tanned (and we thought, cool)….and he’d snap, “The sun is NOT your friend!”
Sorry, but it is. In fact, plenty of us would go insane in a place where there wasn’t a ton of sunlight. Nevertheless, we all know what he was getting at, and these days, there’s a lot we can do to help ourselves and our kids avoid the negative affects of the sun.
First and Foremost:
Slip, Slop, Slap! Teach This When They’re Young. Back in the 80s, I spent a good bit of time on the outback of Australia working on a cattle station. At that time, Australia had a nationwide campaign going on as the skin cancer rates had skyrocketed there. A cartoon figure danced out the message to a cute jingle…slip, slop slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, and slap on a hat. I’ve never forgotten the ads — and they’ve become my mantra with my kids as we spend so much time outside. As a result, I’ve learned you can create good sun habits (I don’t exactly have them, ahem, but at least my kids do!) and believe me, the earlier you make your kids slip, slop, slap consistently, the better off they are. It really does become a habit.
So following those simple words, let’s start with slip on a shirt.
Start your kids straight away with wearing swim shirts, or what the surfer guys call rash guards. These shirts fit tightly on the body, can have as much as 50SPF, and dry very quickly, so they’re pretty easy to wear. They’re a godsend when the kids are in and out of the water and without it, you’d be stuck trying to slather on sunscreen over and over while you’re out there. There are plenty of good brands for these, and what I love is that the kids don’t even know they’re wearing them once they get used to them.
Exhibit A. The kid who balks at everything…doesn’t even think about wearing the shirt.
Then there’s the mom (or dad) who doesn’t want to wear the swim shirt, but prefers something loose, but covers the arms as much as possible.
Exhibit B: the mother and the kid both unaware they’re sporting fashion that is protective….
My shirt came from ExOfficio, but you can get them all over: Cabela’s, Columbia, Lands End — just look around a little and you’ll be overwhelmed with options.
And I mean….slop. Don’t hold back on sunscreen — and even if you have a hat on, be sure to slop sunscreen on the face. I’m not going to get into the differences between zink vs. anything else, or spray vs, lotion, etc., what’s most important for this post is that you JUST DO IT. JUST PUT ON SUNSCREEN — THE HIGHER THE SPF THE BETTER! And put it on often.
A little thing about sunscreen and the kids: there’s no doubt that keeping ahead of the kids and sunscreen is a very difficult job — especially as they get more active and less OK with your fiddling with them regularly when they’re having fun with their pals. I use the spray on sunscreens to keep up as best I can. NOTE OF CAUTION though when using the spray on: have your kids hold their breath when you’re applying it. The micro mist is easily inhaled, and you’re not trying to protect the lining of the lungs from the sun…
Now….SLAP!!! Slap on that hat!!! There are tons of great options here as well, but when it comes to kids, they’re a little tougher sell. For example, my older son hates the idea of having a drawstring. Thinks it’s silly and looks girly. (deep breath. Imagine. Kids with opinions. He used to be so cute and would let me dress him….oh. I digress.) So I have to go with a hat that looks more like what he thinks is cool…so here’s what he wears:
As best you can, try to find a hat that covers the ears and back of the neck….good luck, I know this is all tough when it comes to kids. It’s too hot, it’s too big, it’s too small, it’s too tight, it’s bugging me, it’s not supposed to look like this, it’s not what Suzy wears, it’s not what Joey wears, it’s….I know. I’ve heard it all.) But be tough. It’s worth the battle.
If your child won’t go along with the brimmed hat all the way around, then do what else I’ve done with my impossible opinionated child: use what’s called a Sun Gaiter along with a baseball cap. The one he likes is made by Buff — and it comes in just about every pattern you can imagine — from camo to brown trout, to brilliant blue to whatever you want.
Now this photo is a bit extreme, but it’ll give you an idea of how it works. Just imagine the gaiter down around his neck…and maybe not a camo jacket…
This was taken from a deer stand, but it’ll give you an idea of what I’m getting at.
So what’s the message? SLIP, SLOP, SLAP! and get on out into the sun!
You can thank me that I didn’t do a video with me singing the jingle. It’s best you didn’t see that…