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Information and inspiration for parents and caregivers of babies, toddlers and preschoolers

Throwin’ shade: protecting kids from the sun

girl in pink bathing suit with bubble wand

Living in Arizona means dealing with a lot of sun. We all try to avoid it as much as we can. From finding the shadiest parking spots to running errands early in the morning, avoiding the sun is something we Arizonans are good at. We do it to escape the heat, and also because UV radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer.

For young children, protection against sun exposure is even more important. No matter where they live, babies, infants and toddlers are especially sensitive to sun-related skin damage and rely entirely on their caretakers for prevention. To put it simply, We are their sun protection.

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe from the Sun

Overheating can make anyone feel bad, but it can be dangerous for children. Heat can cause illnesses like heat rash and heat exhaustion. Here are some tips for keeping your kids cool and safe when playing outside.

  1. Bring Water. Make sure your kids drink cool water while they play outside. This will keep them hydrated and help keep their body temperature down.
  2. Use Sun Protection. Have your children wear sunscreen. Look for “broad spectrum” on the bottle. This means it protects against both UVB and UVA rays. A wide-brimmed hat can also help shield their face and neck from the sun.
  3. Dress Them in Cool Clothing Dress your kids in loose-fitting clothes that let air flow through. This can prevent heat rash in areas like the armpits, neck, thighs and elbows.
  4. Avoid Sun for Babies Under Six Months. Babies younger than six months should stay out of the sun. If they need to be outside, keep them in a shaded stroller.
  5. Avoid Peak Sun Hours. For older kids, try to stay indoors when the sun is the strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  6. Use Fans and Take Breaks. A portable fan can help cool your kids down. After playing for a while, take breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned area.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

  1. Pick the Highest SPF. The higher the SPF, the better the protection. Look for SPF 30 or higher.
  2. Broad Spectrum. Make sure the sunscreen says “broad spectrum” to protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  3. Apply Thick Layers. A thick layer of sunscreen is important. The SPF number means nothing if you don’t apply enough.
  4. Apply Before Going Out. Put sunscreen on 20-30 minutes before going outside for the best protection.
  5. Reapply Regularly. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if your kids are sweating or swimming.

Protecting your kids from the sun is easy if you know what to do. Bring water, use sunscreen, dress them in cool clothes and avoid the sun when it’s at its peak. With these simple steps, you can help keep your children safe from the harmful effects of the sun. Remember, you are their best defense against sun damage.

For more information, check out the CDC’s tips on keeping kids safe from the heat.

Nicoletta Kennedy, senior director of marketing and strategic initiatives, brings a wealth of experience from her background in government and nonprofit sectors, where she has passionately championed the health and early education of young children and their parents in Arizona. Reach out to her at

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