Putting sunscreen on a toddler is about as easy as trying to bathe an angry cat: They squirm. They try to run away. They whine. So what’s a parent to do to protect those baby-soft faces, other than give up entirely and head indoors? We looked around and gathered the best sunscreen application hacks to help you out. Keep reading to see them all.
Get Creative with Applicators
If you'd rather use lotion sunscreen (which in our opinion is best for an even spread), give your kids novel ways to slap the stuff all over their bodies. Makeup sponges—or even paint brushes—can work well and make sunscreen application fun for kids. Or try this awesome sunscreen applicator that was mom-designed specifically for kids to use themselves.
For applying to faces, if you don't have a stick, try using cotton swabs, cotton balls or even popsicle sticks to help glide on the sunscreen without getting it in the eyes.
Use a Stick—Followed with a Spray
Stick sunblocks are great for kids who perpetually scream "I want to do it myself!" And even if they don't do it by themselves, swiping across the nose and cheeks is way easier for mom or dad, too. Since younger kids won't likely get their entire face covered, let alone their bodies, you'll still need to help them spread the stuff on (or use a spray) once they've covered the bulk of their uncovered skin.
Put Long Sleeves and Hats on When Possible
If you just can't get your squirmy little one to sit still for a proper sunscreen application, at least make sure she's got a hat and sun-protective clothing on to keep her safe, especially during peak sun hours (10 a.m.-2 p.m.).
Make a Game of It
Kids love making their "best time ever," so try it out with sunscreen application. Set a timer to keep track of how long it takes, or race them yourself! You can also get siblings to apply to each other in a taking-turns (don't get it in the eye) way.
Make It Part of the Routine
Put the sunblock right by the front door, so that everybody lathers up when they leave the house. The more you make it part of your routine, the easier it will get to get stubborn kiddos in on the game.
Store the tube of sunscreen in a water bottle, in the ice chest.
Double points for creativity here. First, keeping the cream cold will entice kids to dry off long enough for reapplication. Second, keeping the tube of sunscreen stashed in a water bottle will prevent spills.
Do Their Faces While They're Strapped in Their Car Seats.
That whole squirming toddler thing is not a myth. Consider getting their faces covered properly while they're still strapped into their seats.
Read Stories or Watch Shows That Emphasize Being Safe in the Sun
It's always good to hammer in little lessons via stories and TV shows that kids will want to read and watch. This PBS-sponsored short about why sunscreen matters is easy for kids to understand. You can also get this "Sun Show" DVD that is packed with fun segments about sun safety. If you'd rather read to your tiny tot, this free eBook from Sun Safe Schools will teach your kids a little about sun safety.
Distract with a Song (and Your Phone)
Not only will your wiggle worm be distracted by this adorable "Sunscreen March" on YouTube, but it will also mean that you'll likely be handing her a smartphone, which almost always works to keep kids still.
—Melissa Heckscher with Gabby Cullen