sun high in blue sky

Kids and the outdoors go together like ice cream and summertime. You can't keep them locked inside all day, but you can prevent sunburns without preventing fun. Every day, you protect your kids from potential dangers: you teach them to look both ways before crossing the street, to cover their mouths when they cough, to chew their food completely. Teaching healthy sun habits early on will help to prevent skin cancer. Here are some tips.

1. Cover your fair-haired and freckle-faced tots.
Though all kids need to be protected from the sun, those with fair complexions burn the easiest, and are at greatest risk for developing skin cancer later in life. Dress them in protective clothing made from material that breathes, but isn't see-through. Long sleeves and pants are best, whenever possible. A wide-brimmed or billed hat and UV-protected sunglasses are sunny day essentials. Throw a backup in your bag, just in case.

You should not use sunblock on babies under six months, so keep them out of the sun completely and cover them up as much as possible. Use an umbrella or a pop-up tent as a portable source of shade.

2. Block the sun, not the fun. Apply a 30+ SPF sunblock at least a half hour before letting your kids loose in the sun. Water-resistant sunblock is also sweat-resistant sunblock. Even if your kids aren't planning on being directly in the water, chances are they'll work up a sweat.

Kids move--and so does their clothing. Be sure to lotion underneath bathing suit straps and below swimming trunk waistbands. These areas are least often exposed to sun and therefore the most sensitive and likely to burn.

Make lotioning-up fun, not a chore: try coloured sunblock for fussier kids. They can draw on themselves with their favourite colours! And they'll know it's all rubbed in when they can't see it.

Reapply! Have the kids take a break in the shade every two hours or after swimming to grab a refreshing snack and a reapplication. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mid-day is the perfect time for an extended rest from the day's strongest rays. Have a picnic or encourage a nap in the shade.

3. Beware the invisiburn.
Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. Even in cloudy weather, the sun is still going strong. Your kids may not feel like they're getting burned, but on overcast days, UV rays reflect off sand, water, and concrete. Make sure to apply sunblock as you would on the sunniest days. Use a light facial moisturizer with SPF to soothe dry, chapped skin in winter months.

4. Practice after-sun care.
Sometimes the sun proves too strong for even the most diligent caretaker. If your child suffers sunburn, it's not too late--there are still steps you can take to limit the damage and relieve the pain.

Have them soak in a cool bath, or apply wet compresses which will alleviate the feeling of heat.

Aloe vera gel or moisturizing lotion can help soothe irritated skin and decrease inflammation. Consult with your doctor before applying lotions with benzocaine or lidocaine to little ones. You can also use 1% cortisone cream in the first couple days for more severe burns, but do not use cortisone cream for children under age two. If necessary, an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, can be used for discomfort or pain. Be sure to read the directions on the bottle. Don't give aspirin to children or teenagers. Also, make sure your child drinks enough fluids to avoid dehydration.

Remember, the best way to introduce your kids to healthy sun habits and to enjoy a burnless summer is to practice protection yourself!