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Protecting Your Little Hikers From The Sun

Posted by Shanti Hodges on

Photo Credit: Ashley ScheiderA few months ago Mark came home from a camping trip with Mason and our little guy was as red as a tomato. Mama wasn't there to play the meanie and ensure Mason was covered up. While we're lucky in that Mason doesn't burn that often, this time he definitely didn’t escape the wrath of the summer sun.

Our issue is that Mason hates wearing hats and it’s a mega battle to get sunscreen on him. Getting him to stay in the shade? No way. Not going to happen. Over the last few years we've tried everything under the sun, excuse the pun, to keep him covered up. My suggestion if you are struggling with getting your little sun protected, try everything. We now have an arsenal of tricks and products that seem to work pretty well. If we can’t get one thing to work, we try another.


Photo Credit: Tais Kulish 

We have 4 different types of sunscreen. Spray on, lotion, a mini stick and wipes. The spray on is easiest if you have a kicking and screaming toddler. It’s fast and effective. The tricky part is getting it on the face. Spray it on your hands and apply to hands.

A stick works wonderfully for teaching kids how to put it on themselves if your little one is in that phase of "me do it!" There are a number of brands like Honest Company, Beyond Coastal, Alba, and Avon who have little sticks that fit in the palm of your hand. These are easy to slide into a fanny pack or baby carrier and take along.

Cloths are easy to wipe on while your kiddo is napping on your back or to wipe on and act like you are wiping their face off. Sometimes that will work better than admitting you are putting sunscreen on.


Photo Credit: Tais Kulish

Not all hats are created equal. We have tried every hat out there in an attempt to get Mason to wear them. Sometimes we can keep hats on his head. Other times we can’t. Try to distract your little as the hat goes on. It might be a tag team thing where one parent plays with the child while the other casually slides the hat on. Here are some things to think about when purchasing a hat.

  1. Get entertaining hats. We have a crocodile hat that Mason will wear sometimes because he loves how fun it it. While we can’t get him to wear it all the time, we can usually get a good hour of wear with this one.
  2. Look for something that is a nylon material and has a big round brim and a buckle strap under the chin. Kids can untie bows, but they can rarely unbuckle.
  3. Get sunscreen materials in the hat so there is extra protection. Also nylon dries fast so they can wear them in water.
  4. Try to get them to put the hat on in the house before going outside to get used to wearing it.
  5. Get a matching hat to them. Mason and Mark both have blue, large brimmed hats so sometimes we can get him to wear it because Daddy is wearing the same hat.
  6. Costume hats. If your kid loves being a fireman, policeman, sailor, fairy, consider getting some kind of themed hat that they are excited to put on.

When hats won't work consider other options like a muslin cloth cut in half or a bandana. Sometimes kids will wear a bandana if they think it's a pirate hat or helps get them in character. This will only keep the scalp from burning, but at least will help with some sun protection. Three brands we've found that work well and kids seem to keep on are: Sunday Afternoons, REI brand hats and iPlay.

Body Suits and Babies

Sunscreen isn't always an option, especially when babies are under six months old. Body suits, rash guards and muslin cloths are a great option. There are a number of brands who offer one-piece zip up suits for children as young as three months old. Buy them one size up so you can battle growth spurts for a bit. Some of the brands to consider that Hike it Baby families suggest are: Lark Adventurewear, iPlay , UVSkinz, and Oakiwear.

When Mason was a baby we were hesitant to put sunscreen on him. Even the natural kinds seemed a little thick and intense for a baby. We opted to use muslin cloths and umbrellas over him. Consider carrying an umbrella on an extra hot day. Sure, it might look silly, but both you and baby will be covered up, whether front or back wearing. You will be surprised at how much cooler this will keep you on a hot day.

Photo Credit: Jessie Emslie

Sun is not the enemy. It's just another part of getting out there year round and something to be aware of. If you are prepared with the right gear, your child will be happier at the end of a long summer day. Remember to reapply sunscreen often and to do regular checks every 20-40 minutes for how sunbaked your little one is. That said sometimes burns happen. Keep an aloe vera gel or a live aloe plant at home apply as soon as you can after the burn. Then consider taking a day off from summer and as much as we hate to suggest this -- hang indoors. The burn will pass within a day or two and you can get back out there and try all of the above again.

Photo Credit: Jessie Emslie

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