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Early childhood sun safety

Year-round sun protection is important for children in Queensland, as the UV Index is typically at damaging levels even during winter. Children are particularly vulnerable to skin damage caused by exposure to the sun's UVR, due to their underdeveloped skin and involvement in outdoor activities. Research demonstrates that high UVR exposure in the first 10 years of life more than doubles your risk of developing melanoma. Reducing sun exposure in childhood is the most effective way of reducing the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. The early childhood education and care setting provides an appropriate opportunity to influence positive sun safe behaviour and establish the use of daily life long sun protection practices.

Ensure your centre or school approaches sun safety in an integrated and multi-strategic way, with links between policy, curriculum, and environment.

Policies

All Queensland early childhood education and care services should have a comprehensive sun protection policy which outlines the commitment to sun protection, and the responsibilities of teachers, parents and families, and children.

The policy should:

  • provide a framework for the service’s action
  • identify area to improve
  • develop a timelink and action plan for improvement (eg apply for grant, change outdoor play times)
  • document evidence of the service's commitment to health and safety, which can be provided to families and in the prospectus for future enrolments.

Some examples of issues covered through policy include:

  • curriculum education and support for teachers, parents, carers and community members
  • timetabling eg rescheduling outdoor activities to avoid the middle of the day
  • supportive environmental strategies such as shade in the playground, providing portable shade when needed or when holding a special event or excursion
  • sun safe clothing (PDF 4MB) and sunscreen recommendations
  • a sun safe style shirt if you have a specific shirt for your centre
  • enforced 'no hat no play' rule.

These resources can assist with policy development, including templates to adapt for your centre.

Legislative requirements

The early childhood education and care sector is required to work within a combination of state and national legislative requirements for sun-safe procedures.

State requirements

Existing early childhood education and care services are required to maintain compliance with the relevant version of the Queensland Development Code (QDC) including the particular provisions relating to shade.

Approved providers should contact their local Early Childhood Officer within the Department of Education and Training for further information.

National requirements

The National Quality Standards are made up of 3 separate documents:

Together, these set out the requirements for most long day care, preschool, kindergarten, family day care, and outside school hours care services in Australia.

The National Regulations incorporate a broad provision regarding shade that is intended to accommodate vast variations in climatic conditions between jurisdictions (for example between Queensland and Tasmania). Regulation 114 prescribes shade requirements for the physical environment in outdoor spaces and outlines that the approved provider of a centre-based service must ensure that outdoor spaces provided at the education and care service premises include adequate shaded areas to protect children from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Under the National Regulations, services must have policy and procedures in relation to sun protection (Regulation 168 (2)(a)(ii)). Services are assessed against the National Quality Standard, and the Guide to the National Quality Standard (PDF, 18MB) includes reference to having shaded areas that meet the recommendations of relevant recognised authorities for protection from the sun.

Designing shade

Creating effective shade should be considered as one strategy within a comprehensive sun safety policy.

Well designed and effective shade not only provides sun protection, it will also help to cool the grounds and reduce heat. Natural shade in the form of well planted trees and shrubs can provide shade and help to improve the natural environment at the same time.

Consider involving the educators as well as parents of an early childhood education and care service to ensure the whole facility is supportive of the shade development. This also provides a good opportunity to discuss overall sun protection within the early childhood education and care environment and to establish the importance of skin cancer prevention for children.

Early childhood services should consider quality standards in all areas in relation to one another, to consider children's education, health, safety and wellbeing. It is also important to consider how health and safety objectives can be balanced against the need for young children to have appropriate opportunities to spend time in outdoor environments and be physically active in open spaces.

When considering shade for your facility, you may need to conduct a Shade Needs Assessment, as part of a process to plan, cost and approve a shade project.

Read about how to design for shade and sun safety in public facilities:

  • Sun and shade basics
  • Enhancing community wellbeing and liveability (planning shade solutions and developing policies)
  • Design considerations (natural v built shade, climate and avoiding vandalism)
  • Find planning tools and resources (checklists and templates for planning shade projects)

Kidsafe also has information about planning safe playgrounds.

Last updated: 9 November 2015