Sunshine is both enjoyable and beneficial (it helps your body make vitamin D, which is important for bone growth and your immune system), but too much can be harmful. Most parents have heard that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer later in life. While sunscreens can be useful in protecting your child from sunburn, we don't yet know for sure if sunscreens actually prevent cancer, and they contain organic chemicals whose long-term health effects are still somewhat uncertain.
Make sure your child's sun exposure is kept to safe levels by using hats, well-ventilated clothing and shade for protection from the sun. Limit sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm, when sunlight is most direct and intense. (Remember to encourage your child to drink to stay hydrated and keep from getting overheated, too!) When you've done all this, consider sunscreen for supplemental protection of exposed areas (remember the scalp and the tops of the feet, which are often overlooked). Reapply every few hours, and always after swimming. A sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher should be used. Remember: don't assume that sunscreen alone will protect your child from skin cancer in the future.