Sun Protection Tips and Gear for Kids on Boats

sun protection tips on boat

Summer fun in the sun can also mean not so fun sunburn. There is nothing worse than a painful sunburn on the boat… not to mention the long term effects sunburns can have on our skin.

As parents we always have to balance our kid’s summertime fun with the need to protect their skin. It is an absolute priority on our boat.

With two kids that have light skin (especially the blond!), we need to keep a watchful eye on how much sun they are getting and how well they are protected on our boat. I am also the marketing director for SureShade (those retractable sun shades on boats) so I have a lot of experience with the need for sun safety in boating.

Here are some of the sun protection tips for kids on boats that I have learned along the way… as well as some recommended sun wear and gear.

Slather on the Sunscreen

Applying water-resistant SPF 50 sunscreen for kids is our routine as soon as they slip into their bathing suits or go out on deck.

Our pick is the Banana Boat Sunscreen (available on Amazon) in the pump because it is much easier to pump out the sunscreen rather than squeezing a tube (and getting your sunscreen covered hands all over the tube). And with a full boating season – whether or not you have more than one kid on board – you’ll definitely need the family size!

For touch-ups on the face I like the Sunscreen Sticks. They are easy to add a little extra to noses, cheeks and foreheads – especially while playing in the water. This 4 pack of Sunscreen Sticks for kids is ideal for the boat – stash one in the cabin, cockpit, pool bag, etc.

Some sunscreen tips for kids:

  • Check how long it is water resistant – usually up to 80 minutes and then you have to reapply
  • Apply sunscreen on your kids at least 20 to 30 minutes before they race outdoors, whether it’s a cloudy or a sunny day.
  • Make sure to reapply sunscreen frequently, at least every two hours, and more often if children are dipping in and out of the pool, ocean or lake-or running through the sprinkler.
  • Make sunscreen application a part of the daily routine… and make sure you put on sunscreen too because kids will imitate parents

lands end swim cover upsGear up with Sun Wear

Keeping skin covered with clothing that has UPF 50 protection is a great way to ensure less skin is exposed to harmful UV rays.

I am obsessed with the Lands End Swim Cover-ups for kids because of their quality & style.

They have swim shirts for girls as well as swim shirts for boys.

First of all,  they are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as an effective UV protectant and have a UPF 50 protection blocks 98% of UV rays. So if you can’t put on sunscreen enough, these can be a good back-up.

They also wear really well – standing up to sun and chlorine – and don’t get out of shape like a regular t-shirt would in the water. As a bonus they work as a great rash guard under life jackets which can tend to chafe kid’s arms when worn for a long time in the water.

Lands End makes these shirts in long sleeve and short sleeve with a ton of cute colors & patterns for kids. I like these white long sleeve ones because they match all the different bathing suit colors (although I suspect by the end of the summer the river water will make them a bit of a dingy white).

Sun Gear for Babies

Your baby has extra special sun protection needs because their skin is so delicate. Also, sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age so you have to use other forms of sun protection.

There are several styles of hats that are good choices – here are my picks:

iPlay hats
Baby Gap Hats
Flap Happy Hat

 iPlay Baby Sun Hats

These iPlay Baby Sun Hats (available on Amazon) come in a bunch of cute colors for boys or girls and are made of water resistant UPF 50+ fabric. They feature a long neck flap for more sun protection and a front brim that doesn’t flop in the baby’s eyes.

Baby Gap Floppy Hats

If you are looking for something less basic and bit more stylish, Baby Gap always has the cutest floppy sun hats that are super soft for little hairless heads.

Flap Happy Hat

This lightweight 100% cotton hat is a nice hat to keep little heads cool under the sun. Flap Happy Hats (available on Amazon) are UPF 50+ and have a chin strap. They also come in a lot of cute baby/summer colors.

Tips for sun hats for babies on boats:

Start babies young with sun hats and they will be more likely to want to wear them
Chin straps are helpful on a boat when it is breezy so you don’t lose their hat
Stash hats everywhere – diaper bags, boat cabins, pool bags and in your car so you always have one handy

baby-sun-suitNoZone Baby Sun Suits

For a full body cover-up, try these baby sun suits. They are perfect for taking a swim in the lake or pool, these NoZone Baby Sun Suits (available on Amazon) block out more than 98% of the sun’s harmful UV rays and are rated UPF 50+.

They come in a ton of colors & styles (about 16 of them!) and sizes for babies from 0-24 months.

Don’t forget to pick out an infant life vest to wear as well!

kids-boat-shadeSeek Shade

If you have kids on board you need to have a good place for them to hide out from the sun. Canvas for your boat is essential! And if you don’t have enough shade coverage its a good idea to figure out a way to add more to your boat so you are covered as much as possible.

As I mentioned, I do the marketing for SureShade (makers of retractable sunshade systems) so I know firsthand that there are many ways to shade a boat. They have automated and manual systems for different boat sizes and styles – many boat builders are selling them as a factory option, but they can also be installed aftermarket.

We have one of the first SureShades installed aftermarket on a Sea Ray – it extends from the radar arch and gives our entire cockpit shade.

Depending on your boat type you may want to do a permanent or temporary shade structure on your boat – important thing is to give your kids more shade and sun protection!

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Diane Seltzer

Diane Seltzer

Founder at
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site Active in the boating industry, Diane is the founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.
Diane Seltzer

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