How To Keep Kids Sun Safe In Australia

If you’re planning a family visit to Australia then you need to learn all about sun safety for kids.

Australia has many dangers, and you might think the worst are sharks in the sea or spiders in your shoes. Far more dangerous to your health is our ferocious summer sunshine. Below you can read how we Aussies protect our kids from the ravages of the sun.


This article is equally for new parents here in Australia, and for new immigrants to the Lucky Country. If you are not very careful about sun safety for your babies, toddlers and indeed children and teenagers then they might well get a nasty burn. And then there’s sunstroke and dehydration to worry about too.

Forewarned is forearmed, so grab a cup of tea or coffee and read on.

Cancer Council sunscreens 700
Here are a few items to help children stay sun safe in Australia

We Slop On Sunscreen

All over, all the time. Ideally, we all slop on our sunscreen before we get into the car to go anywhere. At home that’s harder as the kids are running in and out and jumping into the pool all day. But I do insist on getting sunscreen on by 9.30 – 10am and then letting in sink in for a while.

We like to buy our sunscreen from the Cancer Council shops (found in many Australian shopping centres) as it costs the same as others but supports cancer research.

To check up on how much sunscreen to use, read this post from Fabulous and Fun Life.

As the Cancer Council tell us:

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, with between 95-99% caused by excess exposure to UV. The incidence of skin cancer in Australia is one of the highest in the world, two to three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.

Zinc Is The Secret For Faces

The twins and I are out all day some days, at Clovelly on a boiling day, at gorgeous Dee Why surfing, on the beach at Jervis Bay and in Fiji too.

This year we had clear zinc on, and used the very expensive Invisible Zinc too until we lost it (ouch!) It made a huge difference – huge!

zinc clear

I’m not at all fond of the neon coloured zincs. The do look very cute on kids, but the zinc get all over your clothes and cossies. It does stay on all day but then it’s hard to get off at home… usually ends up wiped off on the towels.

Best Zinc Oxide Creams to Buy 

Check out a fantastic guide to buying the best zinc oxide creams for your kids here.

zinc clear

Wear A Rashie!  A What??!!??

Rashies, or rash vests, are the thin tops, usually made of lycra, that we all wear at the beach. They were first invented by surfers who would get a rash from lying on their surfboards. I guess this was more abrasions that a pricky rash.  A thin top would stop the rash.

Then it was realised that rashies could stop sunburn and they’ve been used a lot ever since. Hooray! Your rashie should be tight fitting and in your favourite colour of course!

Here’s me in my rashie on the Great Barrier Reef
Cancer Council sunscreens 700 2
Kids rash vests from the Cancer Council. I ish they did these designs in adult sizes!

 So, We All Wear Our Rashies 

The kids have two rashies each and they wear them every time they’re in the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm. Later in the afternoon they might go nude, but never in the middle of the day.

My favourite bright pink rashie was finally worn to death over the school holidays, so I am in the market for another. I don’t look that trendy in my husband’s huge one.

I wear mine all the time too except when doing serious ocean swimming – too much drag – unless there are sea lice about.



If you can possibly get your children to wear sunglasses, do that!

‘ve never managed to get my four kids to wear sunglasses successfully and have lost many pairs trying. Mind you, sunglasses are something the big boys wanted to wear once they became teenagers so there’s a small win.


The best and safest hat to wear is…. any one that’s actually on your head.  Hats left at home, in the car or lost under the bed are actually useless for sun protection!

I have a hat box right by the front door and also keep a few old ones in the car so there’s no reason not to have one.

The best thing about hats is that they make you feel cool, and even more so when worn with a pair of sunglasses.

Hat failures: I just can’t keep my kids wearing hats when running around at the beach, especially when they are in the water. They used to wear legionnaire-type hats, but even they didn’t last for long. 

There are ways to ways to get babies and toddlers to wear their hats, though, persistence is key.

I recommend this article to learn more about which hats actually offer the best sun protection, by my friend Jo Castro of Lifestyle Fifty:

Sun Safety For Teenagers

I do know a mother who can get her 16-year-old sun to wear a rashie at all times… miracle!

For all the rest, it’s universal that they cast rashies, and caution, to the wind just post puberty.

For a while I could force them to wear a rashie when I was there. But of course these days, when my big boys are at the beach, I’m not anywhere close by. They make sure of that.

I do appreciate that they need to show off the muscles they pump so much iron to get…. but….

They each got burnt, they were each mortified and couldn’t go out in public until their skin calmed down. It was painful to watch… and worrisome, but I reckon the burning taught them a lesson. Hopefully until at least next summer. Maybe longer?

Don’t be a daft tourist and think it’s OK to get burnt. Don’t think that peeling skin is somehow normal for summer.

It’s not, it’s more dangerous than all the sharks in Sydney Harbour, and it’s totally unnecessary!

Happy slip, slap and slopping and stay skin safe in Sydney.

And, if you’re an older mum like me, use moisturiser with sunscreen to help keep those wrinkles at bay.

Please do ask any questions about Sydney, other parts of Australia and sun protection too.

Happy travel planning.


Here’s a Pinterest-friendly image for you!

how to keep kids sun safe_mini

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  1. says: Charlotte

    Hi Seana, if you are looking for a new rashie they have some lovely patterned ones at
    They call them swim tees. The sizes come up big so a size small is plenty big enough for size 12. I bought a couple from there last year and love them. Also have the ‘ugly Christmas rashie’ (Google it, it’s a Christmas jumper rashie) which got a few comments on the beach at Christmas!
    Charlotte x

  2. says: jenny

    We keep a rollon sunscreen in the car, so if anyone forgot it can be applied as we are driving.
    Do you find the invisible zinc better than other types of 50+ sunscreen?

    1. says: Seana Smith

      That’s a good idea. If I’ve got it together I keep the spare hats in the car, in both cars… but must add in sunscreen. I much preferred the clear zinc to 50+, it worked so much better for my busy water-loving kids. But I was using a stick of clear zinc rather than the actual brand ‘Invisible Zinc.” I do like the latter but it’s very expensive. I did buy and lose one very fast – painful!

  3. Love your daughter’s complexion! And its great that the kids learn the importance of sun protection early on. I only started wearing daily sunscreen 10 years ago when I moved to Australia! I hope it’s not too late. I’m still not a regular rashie wearer. I only wear it for diving/ snorkelling if I feel the water is a little bit cold. But I should regularly wear one! Skin ain’t getting any younger 😉

    1. says: Seana Smith

      I just had a swim tis morning with no rashie… did dab some sunscreen on. I wear a moisturiser with a sunscreen and hope for the best. Have made friends with my wrinkles… but then I lived in Scotland until I was 18 so rarely saw the sun. My wee girl has the Scottish skin and those gorgeous freckles.

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