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Beach-based holidays are a classic family option, offering sun, sea and lots of scope for sandcastles. In a growing market with a lot of providers increasingly attuned to families’ needs, you can choose from luxury resorts and hotels with kids’ clubs, watersports and other amenities, to simple coastal campsites, meaning that a spot of summer sun is a possibility for family holidays on all budgets. And the great thing is that you don’t have to travel far – whether flying or taking the ferry/car or train, summer sun is accessible without your having to subject your kids to long flights and the risk of jet-lag. With younger children, you shold aim for gentle sun in any case – and also research resorts with shallower waters.
Remember that sunburn in childhood can double the chances of skin cancer in adult life. Keep babies less than 6 months old out of direct sunlight. From 6 months, liberally apply a SPF15+ sunscreen every 2hrs when outdoors, even if it’s cloudy (a ‘broad-spectrum’ brand with a 4/5-star rating, formulated for babies’ and children’s skin). Use waterproof formulations in or around water, but reapply it after they’ve towelled themselves.
Invest in UV-protection garments and perhaps also a portable UV-protection pop-up tent for shade, outdoor feeding and changing.
Take particular care between 11am and 3pm anywhere the sun is shining, even if it doesn't seem strong.
Wear cool cotton clothing and hats (with wide brims, plus under-chin straps if necessary). When in the sun for prolonged periods, ensure kids wear long-sleeved top and trousers, and apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, backs of hands, and feet.
Be wary of reflective surfaces, which can bounce back up to 85% of the sun’s damaging rays – not just water, but also sand, snow and even concrete. Buy your children good-quality wraparound sunglasses as soon as they can wear them.
Ensure a constant supply of fluids – take an insulated cool bag to the beach, filled with mini juice cartons and bottles of water (if you're self-catering, put them in the freezer before going out).
For more advice, see Cancer Research’s SunSmart campaign.
See also our features on the best sun products for mums, dads and kids.
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