How to Apply Sunscreen to Small Children

by Sarah Bregel
Originally Published: 

There are certain summer necessities that you can’t get away with neglecting when you have children. One of those God-awful obligations is applying sunscreen to every imaginable inch of their exposed skin in an effort to stave off harmful UVA rays and uncomfortable, itchy burns.

But unless you particularly enjoy a struggle, getting small children to sit still long enough to apply said sunscreen can be a lesson in patience. You may even find yourself doused in sweat and swearing off the outdoors by the end of the whole debacle.

Here’s a step by step guide on how to apply sunscreen to small children:

1. Vacuum the area where you will be sunscreening the children thoroughly. This is a preventative measure. After they are finished flinging themselves on the ground and the baby is exhausted from crawling under the table to get away from you as you trail behind panting and swearing (hey, adult knees were not meant for crawling!), they will undoubtedly be covered in less animal hair, crumbs and other household debris.

2. Begin with a blank canvas: aka naked kids. Not only does this help to achieve even tan lines and fewer missed spots, it also ensures that their clothing and bathing suits won’t soak up more sunscreen than their actual bodies. You also won’t tear and/or stretch their new summer outfits when trying to cling onto anything you can for dear life.

3. No matter how nice the weather, you will want to go around the house and shut all the windows and doors and probably lock them. In the case that there is screaming (and of course, swearing), you’ll still be able to show your face when you make your way out to the car, somewhere around 3 hours from now.

4. Make sure all children are well fed, in good spirits and that you have a few bribes up your sleeve in case their general mood shifts suddenly (ya know, after the yelling starts).

5. Take a few deep breaths. If you haven’t done this in awhile, it starts with an inhale and ends in an exhale. It also helps to have a mantra to practice. If you can’t think of your own, try something generic like, “it’s only sunscreen. It’s only sunscreen,” or perhaps, “there’s always summer camp, there’s always summer camp.”

6. Tell the children you’re going to start applying their sunscreen now and ask for good behavior. Remind them that the quicker the sunscreen makes it onto their bodies, the quicker you’ll get to the pool/beach/park/zoo/outdoor bar with free childcare (that should really be a thing, right?).

7. Spend 45 minutes chasing half-slathered, naked children in circles. Take a short break to catch your breath and check the time. Become enraged that you haven’t gotten out the door yet.

8. Head into the kitchen and take a shot of whiskey, swig of rum or just put your face under the box of wine and let it rain. Then, start over with a new, sunny, positive outlook.

9. Tell the kids you mean business. If this sunscreening doesn’t happen soon, you will simply stay home for the whole day! Lie through your teeth while you say, “I don’t care if you’re bored, you can make your own fun!” Hope to whatever God you believe in that this jolts them into action, knowing that full days at home listening to “I’m bored” is the reason you started going to therapy.

10. Make a little headway with their shoulders, arms and back and start throwing around some encouraging words like, “hey! We’re almost done, guys! We’ll be out of here in no time.”

11. Get simultaneously headbutted in the face and kneed in the crotch when you hit a ticklish spot. Try not to sound mad even though you have a bloody nose and you’re thinking, “it’s a good thing we’re done having kids,” because you may have suffered some kind of uterine damage. Sop up the blood and keep going.

12. Spend 20 minutes looking for the sunscreen-stick because it’s the only way to do faces and make it out alive. Realize the baby has been chewing on it for an hour and call the poison control number on the back. Let the woman on the phone talk you off the ledge and feel slightly reassured that not that much was really ingested. Carry on, but keep your eye out for signs of nausea.

13. Apply the sunscreen stick to everyone’s faces. This may require brute force and it helps if you have a pony tail to hold onto. Don’t forget the ears.

14. Release a deep sigh of relief that the sunscreen is done, although you can’t be sure how well. Tell the kids to go play while you fill water bottles and try to locate your other flip-flop.

15. Glance out the window to see the kids diving in the baby pool with three-day-old, filthy water and washing all their sunscreen off just minutes after completing the task of a lifetime.

16. Go into your bedroom, rummage through your drawers to find a few old t-shirts and some baseball hats.

17. Stuff everyone’s limbs into the oversized, ridiculous-looking shirts and their heads into hats and be on your way.

18. Drive to your destination while secretly praying for a few moments of silence to recover from the morning’s events.

19. When the silence doesn’t happen, roll down the windows, crank up the radio and belt out the words to “Shake It Off” to drown out the chaos coming from the backseat.

20. Pull up to your destination and park. But before you get out of the car, take out your phone and make a note of the six or seven pretty decent “indoor ideas” you just came up with to keep the kids entertained tomorrow.

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