Author: Michelle Baker, Melanoma Fund

Keeping outdoor kids safe

So it begins, the long hot, hazy days of summer.  May be when you were young, like me, this period was not filled with pre-organised activity, but more playing all day, making dens in the fields or hanging around parks with friends, unaccompanied by parents, without mobile phones, in far more seemingly innocent times.

Many of you I am sure will recall not being provided with anything more than a bottle of diluted squash and half a pack of biscuits as sustenance for the day if that. The idea of sunscreen (then called suntan lotion) being applied before you left for the day, or popped in your bag for reapplication, I can also bet, was never heard of either. Unless of course you had very forward-thinking parents!

It’s not surprising now that this systemic neglect or maybe ignorance around sun protect, teamed with the increased number of hot summer holidays taken in the 80s, has caused skin cancer to flourish. It is now the most common cancer in the UK, more prevalent than all cancers put together, and rates are rising rapidly, not just here, but on a global scale.

Habits for life

Whilst many of us were taught to brush teeth twice a day, eat a healthy diet, drink lots of water, get 8 hours sleep, and are careful to wear seatbelts in cars, wear crash helmets on bikes, it seems we still have a long way to go when it comes to protecting our skin from the sun.

Melanoma is the most common cancer in young people, and with just one blistering sunburn doubling the chance risk of in later life, it’s important for all parents to not just to instil sun protection habits in their offspring, ideally before their teens, but also lead by example, because the fact is, children do as we do, not as we say.

Outdoor kids

The Melanoma Fund recently attended our community games is on a mission to get us to take the issue of sun protection seriously, and to add it to our daily routines, especially when playing sport or being outdoors for prolonged periods, such as when children attend summer holiday camps.

They run four sun protection campaigns including the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code, designed for all those who work outdoors with KS2 children.  This is a free resource that provides a downloadable toolkit of materials to help create better routines, which when carried out regularly will become part of a healthy lifestyle, just like brushing teeth.

Take the Sun-Sorted! quiz

It is important that young children understand exactly why they are being asked to protection their skin, as this will help fast-track good habits.  To make this easy, the Melanoma Fund created the Sun-Sorted quiz, a fun, engaging and educational resource that once taken, is never forgotten.  It is ideal for all the family, providing a certificate on completion and a grading to identify how sun-sorted you really are.

Organised outdoor activity clubs

Active Suffolk supports the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code and is signed up as sun protection accredited, alongside thousands of sports clubs and primary schools around the UK.  It is simple to implement and once in place will last all summer long.

If your child is attending a club this summer, or if you run an outdoor activity group, why not get involved.  It is free and becoming accredited will help you fulfil your duty of care, communicate with parents, and create better habits in young children, ensuring they grow up with healthy skin.

For further information on the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code and the Melanoma Fund’s other sun protection campaigns, visit