Summer is not far away now, and as we look forward to hot days and deep sunshine there is a big question mark over how prepared early childhood services are to ensure young children's sensitive skin and eyes are not harmed.
New research on sun protection in teacher-led ECE services provides important insights. Researcher, Mary Duignan, interviewed key informants from a sample of early childcare centres, including nationwide organisations, kindergarten associations and a district health board early childhood health promoter. As well, sun protection policies supplied by informants were analysed along with Ministry of Education information and requirements.
A high level of awareness by early childhood staff of the need for sun protection was reported. However, policies and practices tended to fall significantly short of the best practice recommendations of the Cancer Society and the World Health Organisation.
The research highlights the need for parents and educators to access up-to-date information on sun protection practices and discuss how they will be working together to keep children safe from September through to the end of March when UVR levels are highest.
Before the end of Term 3 ECE services need to engage in consultation and develop a policy. For services who already have a written policy, it is time to evalute and review the policy to ensure it is up-to-date and fully meets best practice recommendations.
It is also a good time now to be planning and putting in shade structures, and addressing potential hazards such as concrete paths and walls that may produce glare.