Kids sunscreen and children in the sun: how to provide SPF for kids, while making it fun!

Childhood is precious; a time to have fun, play, learn and be adventurous. It’s a chance to freely explore and tackle the great outdoors and all the wonderful challenges that come with playing outside. We understand that outdoor play is crucial for a healthy childhood because it helps build independence, confidence and a love for everything that nature can offer.[1]

But what is exactly the safest sunscreen for kids? Is it actually just all about spf for kids? What about sunscreen for kids with sensitive skin? It seems that there are so many factors to consider, but let’s keep it simple.

So, let’s raise kids that love to run free, but are also sun safe while they play.
And there are several ways we can protect children from burning and sun damage – without taking away the fun. Because burning is not fun and it can be life-changing.

Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.[2]

As adults, we can teach about the right way to apply sunscreen and how we can protect ourselves from the sun. Education and awareness save lives, it could also help protect kids for life!

In this blog we’ll share sun tips to prevent burning and damage and some fun ways to get sunscreen on little wrigglers and teach them to enjoy applying it themselves.

First, five simple (but very important) sun safety tips:

  1. Always keep kids covered up – brimmed hat, clothing, sunglasses
  2. Apply lots of broad spectrum, high SPF (SPF30+) kids sunscreen 20 mins before they go outside as spf for kids is highly important.
  3. Reapply every 2 hours – more if getting wet or toweling (apply again straight after)
  4. Avoid peak sun between 11am and 3pm
  5. Seek shade and wear UV protective clothing whenever possible[3]

However, we know that keeping children out of the sun is not easy (ask any parent)! And applying sunscreen to small moving targets is even harder…

They wriggle, run, sweat, roll around in the sand and dirt, swim, which are all factors that make it hard to keep even the best sunscreen for kids stay put – every time sunscreen is compromised, gets wet or is rubbed off, you risk losing the efficacy of the SPF. It may not be protecting as much as you want!

But because children learn really quickly (little sponges absorbing everything), teaching them about sun protection at an early age might be key here.

Young children have a certain way of engaging with the world and they learn by doing and through movement. The way they take in information is through all the senses instead of talking like we do as adults. They require real and relevant experiences, with lots of touching, direct contact and exploring playfully with materials and objects. Young children learn best by sharing experiences with adults and even more with other children.[4] 

This is why the best sunscreen for kids, and possibly the safest sunscreen for kids, may be the ones that involve social interactions and learning by playing.

Here are 10 practical tips for applying sunscreen to children by The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) – some with added fun![5]

  • With squirmy children who are eager to get out into the sun, it can be easy to miss patches when applying sunscreen. Don’t forget to check easy-to-miss areas such as the ears, tops of feet and hands.
  • Get creative with sunscreen application; giving your kids novel ways to apply their sunscreen will make it more of a fun activity rather than a chore.
  • Trial different types of sunscreen and see which works best for your child. You may find they are more receptive to a sunscreen spray or applying it themselves with a sunscreen stick.
  • If you’re going to the beach or the pool, you’ll likely find it much easier to get your child to apply sunscreen before you leave for the day, or else they are likely to want to run straight into the water! This also allows the sunscreen to fully dry and be as effective as possible (application 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure is best).
  • Distracting children whilst applying their sunscreen could be a useful way of getting them protected. Something as simple as putting on their favourite TV programme or song could give you the opportunity to apply sunscreen.
  • Applying a second coat of sunscreen about 15 minutes after the first helps cover any patches you may have missed the first time
  • Try writing a word as you squeeze the sunscreen onto their skin, maybe one letter on each limb, torso etc.
  • Alternatively, ask them to guess what picture you are drawing (a flower, smiley face) as you squeeze it on, and then tell them they can help ‘rub it out’ (i.e. spread it onto the skin)
  • Do a ‘join the dots’ with the sunscreen, letting them spread the cream from one dot to the next.
  • Coloured sunscreen makes it easier to spot if you’ve missed an area when initially applying sunscreen but will then fade.

Making sunscreen fun was one reason we designed the new Altruist Family Sunspray SPF50 250ml. This product comes with a new trigger spray, which makes it easier to apply to the wriggliest little bodies and helps make learning and staying protected from the sun more fun!

But this is not simply a sunscreen for kids with sensitive skin – it’s great for the whole family, including babies (+6 months) and reef friendly too.

Let’s work all together in educating children about safety in the sun.

The Family Sunspray SPF50 250ml is now available to help start the ‘Safe Sun Fun’ learning journey.



[3] White, J. (2019). Playing and Learning Outdoors: The Practical Guide and Sourcebook for Excellence in Outdoor Provision and Practice with Young Children. Routledge.

[4] Importance of play for children I Starting Blocks


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