We’ve been enjoying beautiful sunny days in Melbourne and at Aurora Early Education, our children have been spending a lot of time playing and learning outdoors. As well as being fun, outdoor play for young children is particularly beneficial as it helps them develop their gross motor skills, connect with their environment and strengthen social bonds with the peers they are playing with.
It also allows them to absorb vitamin D, important for strong bones and muscles. At the same time, young children are especially vulnerable to the dangers of too much UV absorption; it’s extremely important to keep sun safety for children in mind when playing outdoors.
Sun Safe Clothes
Aurora maintains a Sun Protection Policy, which has specifically designed to ensure that children and staff have some exposure to the sun while staying safe and protected.
One major aspect of sun safety for children is the clothes that children wear. Even though summer may make one want to wear shoestring dresses and vests, it’s recommended that young children wear clothes which cover as much skin as possible; long sleeve tops with collars and long shorts or skirts. They should also favour broad-brimmed hats over baseball caps as these better cover the face.
Whenever possible, children should also wear wrap sunglasses that ensure maximum protection. A sunscreen over SPF 30 should be applied to all exposed skin twenty minutes before going outdoors and should be on hand for re-application every two hours.
A Safe Environment
While exposure to the sun is important, caregivers should also make sure that there are shaded areas nearby to provide children with a respite from the heat. Marquees and canopies are helpful as are dense, tall trees.
SunSmart, a skin cancer protection program in Victoria, recommends that shade be both natural and built. It also recommends engaging in outdoor activities on natural surfaces like grass and soil which do not easily absorb and reflect UV rays.
In any sun exposed area, be sure that there is plenty of drinking water on hand to prevent dehydration.
When Is The Best Time To Play Outdoors?
When UV rays are 3 and above special attention needs to be paid to sun protection. From 10 am to 2 pm each day, UV rays are typically at their highest, so it’s best to stay indoors at this time.
During late autumn and winter (May 1st to August 31st) sun protection is not required as everyone spends less time outdoors and the UV levels are lower.
However, whatever the season, make sure to up your sun protection efforts when the UV is 3 or higher. Download the SunSmart app to see UV levels and recommendations at any given time. Or, head to the Aurora homepage to find the SunSmart widget with UV information.
While caregivers should guide children on sun smart procedures, they should also try to make sure children take sun protection into their own hands. Showing them this video from SunSmart is great start; it’ll help them understand why sun protection is important.