Sun Awareness Week is an annual event that takes place in the UK every May, this year from 1st to 7th. Its aim is to improve understanding of the dangers of overexposure to the sun and the importance of sun safety.
During the week, various organisations, including the British Association of Dermatologists and the Met Office, work together to educate the public about the risks of skin cancer and other sun-related health issues.
This year’s focus is on the need for sun protection in the UK climate, aiming to tackle misconceptions that sun protection is rarely needed in the UK.
This theme is particularly significant in the early years, as young children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun and it’s never too early to start making them aware of such an important topic.
Here are some key points to think about – most will seem obvious, but it could be a good idea to have these written down for all to see as a reminder:
- Sunscreen: Encourage parents to apply sunscreen to their children before they arrive at the setting and ask for their permission to reapply it throughout the day. Make sure to use a high SPF and a product that is suitable for children’s skin
- Hats and clothing: Children should be wearing hats and light, loose-fitting clothing that covers their arms and legs. This can help to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays
- Shade: Make sure there is plenty of shade available in the outdoor play area. This can be achieved with shade sails, umbrellas, or by using a natural shade from trees and buildings
- Hydration: Encourage children to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated in the heat
- Education: Teach children about the importance of sun safety and how to protect themselves from the sun. This can be done through activities such as singing sun safety songs, reading books about the sun, and discussing the importance of wearing sunscreen and hats – we’ve got some great ideas for activities and games later on…
Encouraging your staff to be sun aware is an important step in promoting a culture of sun safety in your setting:
- Provide the team with training on sun safety and the risks of overexposure to the sun. Sun Safe Schools and PSHE both have some great resources and ideas for training, here:
- Make sure that you and other senior members of staff are setting a good example by practising sun safety measures yourself
- Provide access to resources such as sunscreen, hats, and shade. This can include providing sunscreen dispensers or making sure there are plenty of blinds/curtains in the setting and shade in the garden
- Send out regular reminders to your staff about the importance of sun safety. This can be done through email, posters, or staff meetings. You might also find it helpful to write a Sun Safety Policy and let parents know how seriously you take sun safety in your setting.
Top tips for parents
Here are our top tips and requests for you to share with parents and carers in your newsletter and on your social media pages:
- Apply sunscreen: Please apply sunscreen with a high SPF to your child’s skin 15-30 minutes before arriving at the nursery or going outside and ensure you reapply every two hours or after swimming. Use sunscreen that is specifically designed for children’s skin. Please give us the authority to reapply as and when necessary
- Cover up: Please dress your child in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs. Wide-brimmed hats can also help to protect their face and neck from the sun and they must bring one with them to the setting
- Stay hydrated: Ensure you always have plenty of water with you and encourage your child to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in the heat
- Avoid peak hours: Try to avoid spending time outside during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm (specifically 12 pm – 2 pm) when the sun’s rays are strongest
- Be vigilant: Regularly check your child’s skin for any changes or unusual moles and consult a doctor if you have any concerns
- Educate your child: Teach your child about the importance of sun safety and how to protect themselves from the sun. This can include showing them how to apply sunscreen and encouraging them to wear hats and protective clothing
- If you notice any changes or unusual moles on your child’s skin, make an appointment with your GP or a dermatologist as soon as possible.
A dermatologist can examine the mole and determine if it’s benign or if further testing or treatment is needed. Take pictures of the mole with your phone or camera so you can track any changes that may occur over time
- Regularly check your child’s skin for any changes or new moles. If you notice any changes, make another appointment with the dermatologist to have it examined
Remember that early detection and treatment of skin cancer is crucial for a positive outcome. If you have any concerns about your child’s skin, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and consult with a dermatologist.
Have fun and educate at the same time
Here are some fun and educational activities to do with children in your setting, to teach them about sun safety:
- Sunscreen relay race: Have the children line up and apply sunscreen to a particular body part, then run to a designated area and tag their partner to do the same. The team that finishes first wins!
- Sun hat decorating: Provide plain sun hats and art supplies, such as markers and stickers, for the children to decorate their hats. Encourage them to wear their hats outside to protect their faces and necks from the sun
- Shadow tracing: Have the children trace each other’s shadows on the ground at different times of day and discuss how the length and position of the shadows change as the sun moves. This can help them understand how to seek shade during peak hours
- Book reading: Read books about sun safety and skin protection, such as “Sunscreen ABCs” by Michelle Sinclair Colman This can help children understand the importance of protecting their skin from the sun
Things to remember
By promoting sun safety in early years settings, you can help to protect young children from the harmful effects of the sun and establish healthy sun safety habits that they can carry with them throughout their lives. By engaging them in fun and interactive activities that teach them about sun safety, you can help to establish healthy sun safety habits.
By taking steps to encourage your staff to be sun aware, you can create a workplace culture that promotes sun safety and helps to protect your employees (and ultimately the children in your care) from the harmful effects of the sun.