While spending time outside enjoying the sunshine brings excitement to many of our little ones, it also strikes fear into the hearts of many parents. Brought on by the dreaded ‘H’ word and all the tantrums and arguments that can come with it.
“No hat, no play”
“Well you’ll just have to stay inside then”
“I’ve told you, you have to wear your hat”.
Often we find that these repeated mantras act less as behaviour changing enlightenments for our children and more like tiresome frustrations for parents.
As you’ve most certainly already learnt, changing a child’s behaviour is by no means an overnight process. Wearing a hat, like many things, is a learned skill, much like learning to walk or the dreaded toilet training. Teaching your child the importance of wearing a hat can be a tiresome and lengthy process with plenty of tantrums (from both of you!) but it’s an important and necessary skill to teach our little ones. High sun-exposure in the first ten years of life more than doubles melanoma risk!
Not to worry though, the best time to start is NOW and there are plenty of practical techniques and tricks that you can use for children of all ages to entice them into the world of sun-safety. These are tried and tested by many happy parents that can now breathe a huge sigh of relief as their happy-hat wearer enjoys the sunshine safely!
You’ve probably heard us say it before but we can’t stress enough the importance of teaching your baby to wear a hat right from birth! We so often hear parents or friends of parents say “oh my newborn doesn’t need a hat” or “hats are for bigger kids”, but we couldn’t disagree more! The best time to teach a child to wear a hat is before they start developing fine motor skills. If you familiarise baby with the sensation of wearing a hat right from the beginning of their life, the feeling of having a hat on their head will be normal for them. A baby who’s familiar with wearing a hat will become a child that searches for their hat to wear before going outdoors.
You’ve come to the end of summer and little one has FINALLY gotten used to wearing a hat! It was a long and painful battle, there were tears (and not just from your toddler!) but you made it! Now the weather is starting to cool down and you’re not going out in the sun as much so you’ve pushed that sun-hat and the dreadful tantrums to the back of the wardrobe. This is a mistake that we see so many parents of hat-haters make. Not only is sun-safety important all year round, but you’ve now undone all your hard work from the summer! Pushing the sun-hat to the back of the cupboard in winter is a one-way ticket to Tantrum Town once summer comes back around. Keep encouraging your child to wear a hat when they’re out in the sunshine all year round. When they’re not outside in the sun, pop a beanie on them so that the sensation of wearing a hat is something consistent across the seasons.
We hear of so many parents telling us that their child wouldn’t keep their hat on so they just gave up. But let me ask you, when cranky toddler wants to eat ice cream for dinner, do you give in? When they want to stay up and play with her toys instead of going to bed, do you give in? No, because nutrition and sleep is important for their development! Granted, arguing with a toddler is a frequent, painful occurrence and you’ve gotta pick your battles. Sun-safety is a worthy battle to pick in order to set them up for a sun-safe life.
As I’m sure you’ve learnt, defiant toddlers only want to do what THEY want to do. Figure out what it is that they LOVE. Do they have a favourite snack food, or a favourite drink, favourite tv show, favourite game, app, or toy? Now it’s time to practice wearing our hat. Pop the hat on little one and give them whichever favourite thing you’ve decided on. When little one rips the hat off, away goes the favourite thing until they pop the hat back on and so on and so forth. This process can be a long one but by associating wearing their hat with a reward or treat, they’ll think of wearing their hat as an enjoyable experience. When we suggest this, so many parents gasp and exclaim “oh that’s so terrible!” Sometimes it can feel a bit like puppy training, but for parents of toddlers it can be a bargaining game. A bit of bargaining now will set little one up for life in the sun-safety department.
Every parent of a toddler has been there… it’s been a long day, you’re on to your 10th toddler tantrum of the day, leaving the house was a big enough effort in itself let alone getting little miss to wear her hat! “PUT THAT HAT BACK ON YOUR HEAD” you yell. All of a sudden, the word ‘hat’ is scary and they now associate ‘hat’ with something negative. Try putting a positive spin on it. Use descriptive words, for example, “let’s wear your pink bunny hat today, evoking happy and positive feelings towards wearing their hat, making them more willing.
Allow me to paint a picture for you… You’re out for the day and you’re wearing a new outfit. It’s a bit different to what you’d normally wear so you’re still not quite sure about it yet. Then all your friends start telling you how much they LOVE that top on you! And oh my gosh that colour suits your skin tone so well! Confidence levels go up, self-consciousness goes down. This is officially your new favourite outfit. The same goes for kids. Children love admiring themselves in mirrors and hearing how fabulous they are. Take the time to show them their outfit in the mirror and explain how the hat would “just complete their look!” Once they’ve got the hat on, remind them how good it looks on them. With some positive affirmation and compliments, just like you now want to reach for your new outfit, they will want to reach for their new hat.
Comfort is key A comfortable child is a happy child. Look for hats made of lightweight soft materials with a high natural fibre content. This will allow for self-cooling which is critical for babies and young children. Bedhead Hats are made mostly of cotton with small percentage of elastane. This makes our hats not only soft and breathable but stretchy so that they grow as the child also grows. A lightweight, soft, stretchy and comfortable fabric has a far smaller chance of being ripped off their head as they’ll often forget they are even wearing their hat.
Allow little one to pick their hat themselves. Show them the colours and prints available and let them choose which one they like best. If they chose it and love it, they are far more likely to want to wear it and take ownership of it.
“Mum and Dad why should I wear my hat? You’re not wearing a hat!”. Little one kind of has a point. Statistics by the Cancer Council have shown that less than 50% of adults wear a hat when outdoors on weekends. Have you ever noticed that as our kids grow older they become more and more like little versions of you? Children do what has been modelled to them. So be a good model, don’t become part of that statistic and be a sun-safe, sun-loving family!