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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Sunscreen as Routine

Sometimes when I get together with other mommy/parent friends we end up chatting about “when we were kids.” We talk about the cartoons we watched and how simple, yet violent they were. We reminisce about the hours of playtime around the neighborhood without parental supervision. This often leads to a discussion about technology…who remembers the rotary phone? Cable television was new and we were a one-car family. Parenting trends have certainly changed. Sometimes I feel like we, as parents and caregivers in the 21st century, have a lot more to worry about. And that makes me crabby.
However, one thing that has certainly changed for the better is the prolific use of sunscreen on our children and on ourselves. And let me tell you, it took me a long time to get there. I was a teen who spent the months of June to September covered in baby oil. Sun protection was to be avoided at all costs. As a teen in the 80s, bronze was the color I wanted to achieve. (What is bronze, exactly? I wanted to look like metal?) As I got older, I started to listen to the health news and wore more sunscreen. But the moment of real understanding came when a close family member was diagnosed with skin cancer a couple of years ago. It was treatable and all is well, but for a little while it was extremely scary. I went to the dermatologist for a baseline check of all my freckles and spots. That’s when I built sunscreen into our daily life.
Then there are my boys. Henry is so fair that you can practically count all his veins. Leo is less so, but we still have to be careful. Sunscreen has become an everyday thing for me. A no-brainer. Especially as we live in Southern California. For my kids, sunscreen is a part of the daily routine like brushing our teeth. As we move further into winter and fall here it is easy to forget sometimes. The funny thing is that the boys DO remember. They have never (knock on wood) had a sunburn so the idea of one is terrifying. (Good work Mom! Isn’t fear an old-fashioned parenting strategy?)
Leo was very interested in the Sid episode about sunscreen and we decided to try the Sunblock Investigation. When I asked Leo about sunscreen he turned out to be quite the little expert. When asked why we wear sunscreen he replied: “So the sun doesn’t hurt our skin. (Pause) And so we can go swimming.” He also described a sunburn as “when you skin is hot and red.”
The investigation involves smearing sunscreen on one half of a sheet of
construction paper (Leo loved that!) and letting the paper sunbathe for several hours. We chose a blue piece of paper and put it on the back porch. Then, for the rest of the afternoon we ran around, following the sun, moving the paper from spot to spot. It eventually ended up across the street in a neighbors’ driveway.
Unfortunately, our results were inconclusive. We used the wrong paper. A little investigation into our inconclusive results revealed that the construction paper was the wrong kind for this experiment. It was not the fuzzy kind but matte. I think when I was a kid, there was only one kind! We talked about how the paper was supposed to look and speculated about why it didn’t turn out that way. Leo wisely observed that blue paper is different than skin. I was impressed that the sunscreen didn’t dry up after being in the sun all day. Leo wasn’t disappointed by the results, but he did mention that he prefers painting with paint, not sunscreen.

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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