Tips for Getting Sunscreen on a Wriggly, Restless Toddler

Because it’s basically an Olympic sport.
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profile picture of Liz Callahan Schnabolk
Updated March 9, 2020
mom putting sunscreen on her toddler at the beach
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Squirming toddlers + applying sunscreen = not our idea of a relaxing day at the beach. When it comes time to slather up in UV protection, little ones can prove to be expert escape artists. But putting on sunscreen is a non-negotiable. Don’t worry, we got you! Use these tips to get your kiddos all covered up in the white stuff so you can move on to enjoy your fun in the sun.

1. Beat the Clock

Why is everything more fun when it’s a race? Beats us, but your kiddo can probably fill you in. Set a timer on your phone and then challenge your toddler to see how fast you guys can work together to get them covered up. You can even make a chart and see if you can set some personal records!

2. Pump Up the Tunes

Let each kiddo pick their own “sunscreen jam” at the beginning of the summer. Then, sing along to it every time you have to put on sunscreen. (Just be sure you’re done by the time that last verse comes on!)

3. Offer Rewards

Some call it bribery, we call it rewards. Stock up on some special stickers or other treats at the beginning of the summer and then dole ‘em out after your kiddo is safely slathered.

4. Get Drawing

You know what’s much more fun than sunscreen? Facepaint! So pretend the white stuff is just that and draw on some hearts or simple animals—whatever your artistic ability allows! Let them guess what it is, and then rub ‘em all in.

5. Break Out the Screens

There are some times when exceptions to the “no screen time” rule are totally called for—and this may just be one of them. Cue up a high-energy children’s YouTube video and hand over that phone.

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6. Put Them to Work

Aka, let your kid “help.” The most mess-free way to do this? Buy a sunscreen stick. Let them rub it on their arms (or wherever) as you go to town with the cream on the rest of their bodies. Rub the stuff they did in together when you’re done!

7. Go Nude

To be clear, this method is for when you’re in the privacy of your own home. But slathering them up before you put on their swimsuits can guarantee you get the sunscreen on their skin, not their clothes.

8. Use Backup

Nervous that sunscreen didn’t get on every inch of your on-the-run toddler? Slip on an SPF swim shirts to help boost their sun protection. You still need to apply sunscreen under the tops, but they’ll give you extra piece of mind if you happen to miss a spot.

9. Strap ‘Em In

Have to get in the car to hit the beach? Finish applying that sunscreen while they’re strapped into their seat. It’s the perfect way to get their little faces done!

Published June 2019

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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