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How can I get my child to put on sunscreen without a fight???

Elmo SunscreenSometimes it’s as if children know exactly what’s best for them, and plan their resistance accordingly.  If one of your struggles is getting your children to let you put sunscreen on, then here are a few tips that may make it easier for you!

First, do it yourself—make sure your children see you putting on sunscreen before heading out into the sun—at least 15 minutes for proper absorption. Remember the adage that children will learn more from our action than from our words? Well, it’s true. Before you get your kiddos nice and slippery with sunscreen, apply your own. Make it known that you are protecting yourself and lather away. If you are a person like me, who loathes the feeling of sunscreen—suck it up and take one for the team.

Make it routine, so that your children will develop the habit of applying sunscreen. It’s not just for special occasions like the beach or the pool–sunscreen is necessary when you’re taking a walk outside, running around in the yard or hitting the waves. The more consistently you build applying sunscreen into your routine, the more your children will become accustomed to protecting themselves.

In order to get the best application, it can help to apply before your children are in their bathing suits away from excess stimulation. As an adult, I would struggle to stand still and let someone slather lotion on me while my favorite shoe store was having an awesome shoe sale only yards away. Also, if you’re slopping on the lotion and you are standing in the sun, your skin is already unprotected.

Give the sunscreen a little help by dressing your children in clothing that helps guard them from the sun. Rash guard shirts, floppy hats and cover-ups can keep the sun from shining down on your little one’s tender skin. Create shade with umbrellas, tents and canopies. And limit the time your children spend out in the sun. Remember, it’s called sun burn because it’s a burn—and who wants that for their kids.

Make a game of it, sing a song, or count the body parts, whatever you need to do to distract a child irritated by the application process can help. Use a generous amount of sunscreen and rub it into the skin. This definitely not a situation where less is more—coat your children. Use a palm full of lotion to be safe. The Mayo Clinic suggests that an adult use the equivalent of a shot glass full of lotion to cover their full body.

If you have more than one child, let them put it on each other when possible, and you touch up the missed areas. It might be messy, but making the application process into something children actively participate in can decrease a child’s resistance.

Find stickers of your child’s favorite character and stick them onto the Sunscreen bottle or can. Increase the appeal by making it Elmo, Cars, Spiderman or Princess Sunscreen. Yes, it’s a little sneaky, but my kids are enthusiastic over toothpaste with their favorite character on the front—why not sunscreen, right?

Finally, remember these tips.

Babies 6 months and younger cannot use sunscreen—parents must keep them out of the sun for their protection.

Put sunscreen on every part of your body that may see the sun. Don’t forget your ears, lips, neck, face and the tops of your feet. If your hair is thinning, apply sunscreen to your scalp or opt for a hat.

Typically people get sunburned because they did not apply enough sun screen or did not reapply after a period of time in the sun.

Sunscreen is supposed to remain effective for three years. After three years or the expiration date on the product, toss the bottle. If you purchase a bottle without an expiration date, scribble the date on the side of the bottle yourself. If we all slather up one ounce per person each time we’re in the sun, a bottle of sunscreen shouldn’t last past three seasons anyway.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying a water resistant sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher 15 minutes before you go outside so that your skin can absorb the lotion and at least every 2 hours to remain safe as well as immediately after you swim or sweat excessively. The AAD recommends buying a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.

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