Taking toddlers to the beach requires the expert planning of a logistician. It’s pretty much like acting out the Scouts’ motto “Be prepared”. You’ve got to pack for wet, dry, hot and windy conditions, insects that sting and bite, hungry and thirsty kids, mini-scientist-kids and sand engineers, even budding marine biologists who like to collect things. All of this before you even think about sun protection.
You’ve packed what seems to be enough kit for the entire neighbourhood and your mind returns to an essential aspect of a beach day: lobster-pink is so last century. It’s time to add the sun safe part of the beach tool-kit – hat, rashie, sunglasses, sunscreen, zinc or block-out. We now understand that Australians’ love of the beach, which is central to our enviable way of life, isn’t as benign as we’d like. “Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, including the most deadly type – melanoma,” says Craig Sinclair, Chair, Public Health Committee, Cancer Council Australia.
Kids are growing up with the sun smart message. They’re part of the #SunSmartGeneration. It’s very different to when we grew up, when a summer without peeling just wasn’t summer and the smell of Coppertone was as summery as the fragrant frangipani.
Cancer Council Australia recommends five sun safe elements: slip(shirt), slop (sunscreen), slap (hat), seek (shade) and slide (sunglasses). But according to its recent National Sun Protection survey, over half of Australians are confused about sunscreen: how much to apply and how often. There’s also concern about sunscreen chemicals and if they’re safe to use on children and babies. Associate Professor Schumack from the Australasian College of Dermatologists says that “we don’t generally recommend widespread use of sunscreen in the first six months of life.” He adds that, “The primary forms of sun protection should always be protective clothing, hats, shade and sunglasses for babies and children of any age.”
Sun wear is simply one of the most effective ways to minimise sunburn and protect our kids from the sun. A rashie (rash vest) is a practical, convenient way to go. Think of it as a t-shirt with benefits. Quick-dry fabric and offering a high UPF, rashies have got you covered; back, front and shoulders in one easy step! Rashies are comfy, stretchy, sun and kid proof. It’s a quintessential Aussie look. Rashies eliminate the need for sunscreen in the areas they cover. Thankfully, days of the plain black rashie are long gone and you’ll find a range of vibrant and playful prints and colours. The kids can play sunsafe dress-ups in their fave print and it’s so much easier to spot them on the sand.
Shade a retro beach umbrella is a great idea. We all know that the struggle is real and that beach umbrellas get kinda unwieldy – but don’t give up, it’s an important part of your beach kit. There are many light, fold away pop-up tents and umbrellas on the market. And a quick beach hack; find some natural shade under a tree by the sand.
Sunshine and sun sense Avoid the heat of day. It’s best to go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower. UV radiation peaks at midday, so look for longer shadows before you head outside. The most recent Sunsmart campaign advises to seek shade between 10am-3pm.
Sunscreen is important and an essential item in the beach bag. Sunscreens use either a mineral or chemical barrier to protect the skin from sun damage. In Australia, sunscreens are strictly regulated by the Therapeutics Goods Administration to ensure that the ingredients are safe and effective. SPF50+ means 98% of all UVB rays are deflected and also offers improved protection from ultraviolet rays. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours.
When the time comes to settle the kids into your patch of sand, hats on and you’ve rubbed all those little faces and legs with sun screen – really, it’s quite like applying a liberal layer of fluid sand paper – the last thing in the world you feel like doing is getting tiny sandy hands to rub your face with sun block. But that’s what we do as parents. We put a positive spin on it, and take the massage and exfoliation pampering any way it comes. And we’re already dressed for beach success in a stylish rashie, so happy days.
This article first appeared in Active Babies Smart Kids