How Can I Protect My Toddler From The Sun During Outdoor Play? (Factors To Consider & Sun Safety Tips)

When taking your toddler to the playground, prefer going out in the early morning or evenings to avoid maximum direct sun exposure. Consider the playground, its surroundings, and the materials the swings are made from, as they can increase sun exposure and change the overall playtime experience. Note practical tips to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, and heat rash. Remember to use sunscreen and protective clothing. Allow your child to rest in between and gain energy through healthy snacks and water. In case of a sunburn, heat stroke, dehydration, or heat rash, immediately seek medical attention.

Taking your toddler to the park to play with them or have them socialize with other kids is an essential milestone for all parents.

When it comes to outdoor play for toddlers, parents want to ensure their kids learn to play with others and form friendships.

But amongst all this, you tend to overlook the risks of your little one playing under the sun and how it can affect them or even become dangerous to their health.

To ensure safe playtime in the playground, you need to be aware of how sun rays might affect your toddler and what you can do to reduce its effect and let them play happily!

Why does my toddler need sun protection?

When you take your little one to the playground for some vitamin D, fresh air, help them socialize with other kids, and let them become fitter and stronger, there’re several things you should consider.

The temperature of the playground, air temperature, temperature of swings, and so on can change the overall experience of your child’s playtime.

Kids tend to have sensitive skin and are more susceptible to hot weather conditions because their bodies regulate their temperatures less effectively than adults.

If a child experiences discomfort due to heat or the sun’s harshness, they may feel uncomfortable coming there in the future.

The National Program for Playground Safety found only three percent of playgrounds across the country had full shade during the hours of strongest sunlight.

☀️ From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the sun emits the highest amount of UV rays.

Only 30% of the playgrounds had partially shaded areas. The rest are either partially shaded or have little shaded areas.

While summers are more dangerous, even during cold weather, UV rays act similarly, so proper UV protection is necessary.

If the playground you take your little one is surrounded by concrete, bodies of water, sand, or snow, change the way of sun exposure; as the UV rays get reflected, it affects them more.

Factors to consider when taking your toddler to the playground

There’re some factors you need to consider, the temperature of which can alter your child’s playtime experience, including how the sun affects them.

A toddler girl is trying to go up the slide at the park

An extreme temperature can lead to sunburns, dehydration, hyperthermia, and health issues.

1. Location

The playground location is significant when it comes to taking your baby there.

Less shaded areas lead to more dangerous surface and ambient temperatures, which are even more harmful during summer.

2. Surface material

Pay attention to the surface material in the playground. Different playground surfaces absorb and release various amounts of heat.

The surface on which swings are set and placed and even the material from which swings are made can make a huge difference in the playtime experience.

Sometimes the swings have a much higher temperature, up to 189 F, enough to burn a child’s hand.

Synthetic surface material creates more heat and an overall warmer temperature for the kids.

3. Changes in weather

While the same swings and surrounding surface materials in summer can create too much of a warmer climate for your little one, it changes during other seasons.

In winter, the same environment may lead to frostbite and even hypothermia.

Therefore, the playground structure, material, and location should be planned considering all the above factors.

Harmful effects of the sun on your toddler

Your toddler doesn’t need to be in the sun to be harmed by the UV rays.

A toddler boy is posing for a picture while playing at the park on a sunny day

Even if you’re out in the playground with them in a shaded area, the surroundings can change how UV rays affect them.

This is why you need to pay attention to the UV index that informs you of how intense UV radiation is at any time of the day.

A UV index above 3 means the radiation is high enough to damage the skin and lead to skin cancer.

  • Too much sun can lead to sunburn. For sensitive kids, it might take 11-23 minutes. Sunburns usually take 12 hours to appear.
  • Continued exposure to the sun over an extended period can lead to skin cancer. By the time a child turns 18, they have experienced 23% of their lifetime sun exposure. Proper protection can save them from skin cancer.
  • Getting five sunburns could lead to doubling the risk of melanoma, where 86% of melanomas have their origins in sun exposure.
  • Sunburns also lead to pain and blisters the next day, and those with sensitive skin suffer more.
  • Potential eye damage.

Sun safety tips for toddlers

Now that your kid is a toddler, they can be pretty active and would want to go to the playground more often to play with other kids.

It’s a must to bring your kid to the playground every day to increase their movement, let them exercise, and also get them to socialize with other kids.

But sun protection is essential too.

  1. Now that you can use sunscreen, ensure you reapply it every two hours. It’s best to avoid the 10-4 time and take them out during the evening.
  2. It’s best to get them to cover up as much as possible in lightweight cotton clothing. But now hydration with water is essential as well.
  3. Always keep plenty of water bottles with you because your child will sweat out a lot.
  4. A number one danger to kids is dehydration which causes them to faint when they’re not hydrated enough suddenly.
  5. Also, keep nuts or some healthy snacks with you just in case your little one feels low on energy.

You can give them sunglasses to wear when they aren’t playing. Use sunglasses to protect their eyesight from UV rays and ensure the sunglasses have UVA/UVB protection.

About 80% of UV damage is done by age 18; sunglasses are a must to protect that from happening.

Talking from my experience, playing with toddlers is much more fun and can be made a joyful experience if you take them out during the right time of the day.

Taking my brother out as a toddler was fun for him when I would take him to the playground after or during the sunset.

While sometimes we would have fun in the playground, other times when the temperature would be too hot to handle, I would take him to the swimming pool to help him exercise and cool down too!

During the weekends, the best time would be early in the morning.

How to avoid dehydration in toddlers?

You need to keep your little one hydrated enough so they don’t feel dehydrated and fall sick because of a lack of water.

A toddler is drinking water to stay hydrated while playing outside at the park on a sunny day

When they’re out in the playground, their body is constantly shedding sweat, and water gets evaporated from their body, which is incredibly high if playing under direct sunlight.

You can’t let your toddler fall sick or faint due to a lack of water and fluids in their body.

There’re enough signs of dehydration that, if paid attention to, can help in rehydration.

These signs include:

  • Dry or cracked lips
  • Dark colored urine
  • Little or no urine for eight hours
  • Cold or dry skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Low energy levels
  • No tears when crying
  • Extreme fussiness
  • Fast breathing or heart rate

Therefore, you must carry enough water with you and keep giving them sips of water at intervals.

Don’t let them play under direct sunlight for long; tell them to play under the shade.

Children don’t know how and when to stop. As a parent, you must ask them to rest, give them water, and eat healthy snacks to munch on to increase their energy levels.

What is heat rash in toddlers?

When the skin becomes too hot, it sometimes traps sweat, and this could lead to heat rash.

This might lead to developing symptoms like small blisters to deep inflamed lumps. The situation could be manageable or something severe.

A heat rash also develops when a toddler is exposed to the sun for too long, is overdressed, or engages in a lot of physical activity.

This kind of rash is not good for a toddler to experience, and as parents, you need to do a couple of things to soothe their rashes and comfort them.

You can apply a cold compress, put them in a cool environment, give them cold baths, and keep them without clothes or loose cotton clothes.

Don’t take them out at all until all the rash has disappeared.

When to call a healthcare provider:

  • When the rash hasn’t disappeared within 3 days of starting at-home treatments.
  • You seem to notice other symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, and body aches.
  • Rash gets infected or spreads to other parts of the body.
  • You notice a seizure.

What are the signs of heatstroke in toddlers?

When your little one plays in the heat for longer, they could get a heatstroke.

It’s when the body overheats, which happens when proper precautions against sun exposure aren’t taken and the child gets dehydrated.

In short, it’s a medical emergency.

Sings of heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature to over 40 C/ 104 F
  • Altered mental state
  • Alteration is sweating, which could mean red, hot, or dry skin
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Lethargy or confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Headache

Since it’s a medical emergency, you should immediately take your child to the hospital.

In the meantime, you should:

  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Keep them in the shade or a cool place.
  • Cool them down by giving a cold shower/cold bath or with a garden hose.
  • Fan with misting cool water.
  • Sponge with cool water.
  • Place ice packs and wet, cool towels on the neck, temple, underarms, and groin.


What precautions should I take for outdoor play during allergy season?

For parents who have kids below 2 years of age have nothing to worry about, as seasonal allergy is less likely to cause any issues for them.

On the other hand, if your kid is above 2 years of age, then you should take the following precautions during the seasonal allergy season:

– Ensure your kid washes their hands and face as soon as they return from the playground. This will avoid rubbing off pollen in their eyes and nose. The best course of action to take is to get them to shower.

– Check the weather each day and track pollen activity. If it’s too high, then avoid sending them outside at all.

– Dry your laundry in the dryer. Those who hang their laundry to air dry shouldn’t do so during this season, as pollen can easily get stuck to clothes.

– Showering before bed can work wonders and avoid any issues at night.

– Keep the windows closed and use the air conditioner and air purifier. The air conditioner should be put in re-circulating mode.

Is it safe for my toddler to be around garden pets?

To have a pet and baby at home is double the responsibility. However much you love your pet, there still needs to be a boundary between them.

The most well-mannered pet could suddenly become aggressive or curious and do something you might regret later.

Always supervise any kind of interaction there is between your pet and your toddler. When letting them play in your personal garden, ensure the garden doesn’t have pet poop lying anywhere before letting your child play there.

Never leave any pet medications outside, and ensure your pet is de-wormed. Always teach your child to be gentle with the pets.

What are some safe outdoor plants for my toddler to interact with?

When looking to plant some non-toxic outdoor plants, you can choose anything from:

– Sunflower
– Nasturtium
– Butterfly bush
– Daisies
– Lamb’s ear
– Marigolds
– Pole bean
– Sweet alyssum

Avoid poisonous and harmful plants like:

– Devil’s ivy
– Heartleaf
– Peace lily
– ZZ plant
– Aloe Vera
– Bird of Paradise
– English Ivy
– Yellow Oleander
– Foxglove
– Castor Bean Plant
– Angels Trumpet
– Asthma Weed
– Rhus Tree
– Grevillea

If you’re into gardening and keep some indoor and outdoor plants, then discussing the importance of gardening with children from an early age is necessary.

Involving them in watering the plants, supervising them, and getting their help in little things will keep them updated about plants and how to care for them.

This can also be a great activity for you to bond with your child for years to come.

What should I pack for a day out with my toddler?

Planning a day out with your toddler can be a fun activity as a family. The things you might want to pack and take with you differ depending on how long you plan to stay outside.

For toddlers, you might want to keep the essentials such as:

– Nappies and wipes.
– Spare clothes such as lightweight cotton full-sleeve shirts and cotton pants.
– A couple of their toys, books, and stuff they enjoy playing with.
– Disposable bibs for when you’re feeding them.
– Snack for your toddlers, which depends on what they like to eat and what you can pack. But always pack more than sufficient snacks.
– Toddler-friendly cutlery, including plate and spoon.
– If you’re potty training them, then take a pop-up travel potty.


Was this article helpful?

As a writer for 1happykiddo, Saumya wants to help new parents and older siblings help raise the newest member added to the family. Her parenting tips come from her experience of being 15 years older than her youngest sibling. When not writing, you can find her reading novels, traveling, and cooking nutritious meals.

Leave a Comment