Zephaniah Esera applying sunscreen

Sun care family affair

by Mike Isle

Early childhood educators are leading the way in finding creative and conscientious ways of protecting young children from skin damage from our harsh New Zealand sun. A recent survey by the Cancer Society and Canterbury District Health Board of 26 early childhood education settings showed how teachers are proactively protecting children by providing spare hats and sunscreen.

All of the early childhood providers surveyed also have sun protection guidelines, which include provisions for shade, requiring children to wear wide-brimmed hats outside, and reapplying sunscreen throughout the day.

Amanda Dodd, deputy manager health promotion for the Canterbury West Coast Cancer Society said early childhood educators are doing a great job, sometimes with limited resources, to protect our smallest children.

“We realise we need to emphasise the ‘Slip Slop Slap and Wrap’ message again for everyone. One thing that we may all overlook is covering up tamariki with clothing that falls below elbows and knees,” Dodd said.

Jocelyn Wright, director at Hagley Community Preschool said: ‘I talk with families new to New Zealand and they are not always aware of how harsh our sun can be. We talk with them about how children are best protected.’

In conversation with educators, the Cancer Society and Canterbury DHB have found the biggest barrier to effective sun protection is how costly sunscreen can be for some. The Cancer Society is reminding New Zealanders that while sunscreen can be viewed as expensive, it is not an item we have in our shopping basket each week, so the cost is spread out over weeks if not months.