Embracing the Sun: How to Keep UK School Children Safe and Engaged in Outdoor Learning

As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, there's no better time for UK school children to enjoy the outdoors. It's essential to ensure they stay sun-safe! The benefits of outdoor learning on cognitive development and mental well-being are profound, so let’s explore how we can help children make the most of their time outside while protecting them from the sun’s harmful rays.

The Benefits of Outdoor Learning

Outdoor learning is not just a fun break from the classroom, it offers significant advantages for children’s cognitive and mental development!

Enhanced Cognitive Development: Research has shown that outdoor learning can boost cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. 

Improved Mental Well-Being: Being in natural environments has a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. MIND charity highlights that regular exposure to green spaces can enhance mood and reduce the symptoms of attention deficit disorders.

Sun Safety Tips for Children

While encouraging children to spend time outdoors, it’s crucial to educate them about sun safety. Here are some practical tips to keep them protected:

  • Apply Suncream: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50. Apply it generously to all exposed skin, and reapply every two hours, or more often if they’re sweating or swimming.

  • Wear Protective Clothing: Encourage children to wear hats with wide brims, sunglasses, and lightweight, long-sleeved shirts. 

  • Stay Hydrated: Make sure children drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can sneak up quickly, especially when they are active and under the sun.

  • Seek Shade: Plan outdoor activities in shaded areas and try to avoid the peak sun intensity hours between 11 am. and 3 pm.

Integrating Sun Safety in Schools

Schools play a vital role in promoting sun safety among children. Initiatives like the SunSmart campaign by Cancer Research UK provide excellent resources and guidelines for schools to follow. This campaign focuses on educating children about the importance of sun protection and encourages schools to implement sun safety policies .

Practical Steps for Schools

  1. Educate and Inform: Hold regular sessions to teach children about the dangers of UV radiation and the importance of sun safety. Use engaging activities to make the learning process fun.

  2. Provide Resources: Ensure that sunscreen is available for children to use and that there are enough shaded areas in playgrounds and sports fields.

  3. Model Sun Safety: Encourage teachers and staff to model good sun safety behaviour. When children see adults taking precautions, they are more likely to follow suit.

  4. Hydration Stations: Set up water stations around the school to remind children to drink water regularly.

Enjoying the sun and engaging in Outdoor Learning can significantly benefit UK school children, provided we take the necessary steps to keep them safe. By applying suncream, wearing protective clothing, staying hydrated, and seeking shade, children can explore and learn in the great outdoors without risking their health. Schools, parents, and communities must work together to promote sun safety and make the most of the beautiful weather.

For more information on the benefits of outdoor learning, you can visit Mind's Green Exercise report . To learn more about sun safety initiatives, check out the SunSmart campaign by Cancer Research UK.