Outdoor play can be an excellent way for children to add physical activity to their day, develop gross motor skills and build social skills. Keeping everyone safe as temperatures soar is every parent and caregiver’s first priority, especially on Oklahoma’s sweltering summer days, which often last into the new school year.
The National Weather Service lists Oklahoma’s average daily temperature as 93 F. in August and just eight degrees lower, 85 F., in September. From sun safety to hydration, planning ahead can prevent illness and even long-term issues for children this summer and beyond.
Avoid peak hours
Schedule outdoor play in the early morning or evening. Avoid peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Get mosquito tips to prevent pesky bites and other risks from mosquito-borne illnesses.
Buy new sunscreen One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70 and individual risk doubles with just five sunburns in a lifetime, according to SkinCancer.org. With back-to-school season around the corner, parents and caregivers are prioritizing their purchases, with new backpacks, clothes and school supplies to buy. One item your child care center may request isn’t on traditional back-to-school shopping lists but should be an important purchase this season: sunblock.
Sun safety matters even after summer break. Including a fresh bottle of broad spectrum sunscreen can prevent allergic reactions to expired sunscreen, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list as having a maximum shelf life of three years. Your child care center may request spray-on sunscreen as a low-contact option.
Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30; children typically tolerate zinc oxide and titanium oxide well, which are also ingredients in diaper rash cream. Apply as part of your child’s morning routine and send their labeled sunscreen bottle to be reapplied every two hours during outdoor play.
Note: Babies under 6 months of age cannot use sunscreen. Avoiding direct sunlight, dressing infants in light, breathable clothing and using stroller shades are some tips for outdoor outings with young babies. More information is available online and from your pediatrician.
Use sun-protective clothing
Long sleeves and specially treated fabrics to block UV rays are ideal for outdoor play. Remember to put sunglasses and hats on children of all ages. More information about clothing is available from the CDC.
Play in the shade, take breaks and stay hydrated
Play under trees, set up an open-air tent or use a large umbrella to shade children from the sun. Take breaks at least every hour to cool off; adding supervised water play to outdoor time can help children stay cool but the CDC reminds the public to be aware a dry shirt offers more UV protection than a wet one. Reapply sunscreen and encourage everyone to drink from a water bottle while having fun in the sun but also plan to offer a drink, watermelon or ice pops during intentional break times. Rotate child care staff or plan outdoor play with other adults like relatives, friends or neighbors to provide adequate break times. See our blog post for more water play ideas.
No matter how you choose to play outdoors this year, everyone will be more comfortable with some seasonal preparation. See a complete list of CDC recommendations, including tips especially for child care centers, on the agency’s website.