Let’s face …it can be tough with kids and teens. And the child who was fine doing what we asked last summer, is now this summer refusing to use it.  We want to encourage it, but if we force it, children just rebel.  And…at the end of the day, we want them to establish a life long good habit; not turn them off from it.  Since we can’t hold them down and apply it, here are some small tricks and ideas.

5 ways to get kids and teens to use sunscreen and protect their skin.

  1. Let them pick the sunscreen.  Generally, giving kids at least the illusion of choice helps.  If you buy 2-3 different ones, and then have them pick the one they like best, they may go for it.  Some kids love sprays, but the younger ones really can’t apply these evenly.  If you let them spray it, and then make a game of you “massaging” it in, it may help.
  2. Make it into a game. Can you find a way to make it fun?  This will work with many younger children. Things like… let’s pretend we’re a monkey and we’re doing a special dance, etc.  Use your creativity.  Find social media of celebs applying it for teens.   Or make it into a contest between two children to see who can apply it the best…and then a small reward. Things like that.
  3. Enlist a teen or older sib/cousin to model it.  Younger kids often love an older sib or cousin.  Enlist them to help you teach the younger ones.
  4. Clothing may be the best option. Can you skip the battle altogether and just go the clothing route?  Cool “surfer shirts” or “surfer rash guards” are good.  Or even the one piece jumpsuits for younger children.  Hats are always good, if you can get acceptance. Companies like Coolibar, Sun Precautions, REI, Patagonia, have fun styles. Even a fairly thick regular tee shirt and and longer swim trunks saves having to sunscreen as much area.
  5. Teach them about sunburns. Talk about the fact that they hurt and might ruin the vacation, etc.  You can find images of sunburn on the web for more visual kids.  This is usually more motivating than discussion sun damage and skin cancer with them.  🙂

Consistency is key!

I hope this helps,

Dr. Brandith Irwin


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