skip navigation
SAMHSA Brought to you by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse & Mental health Services Administration 
Building Blocks For a Healthy Future Home About Us Links Get E-mail Updates Awards
Family Educators Materials
Send this page to a friend   |   Print this page Animal Characters
spacer Educators photosEducators photos

Sun Safety

Outdoor activities are a great way to promote exercise for a healthy lifestyle, but make sure your students are aware of the need for sun safety. Use these classroom activities to help children avoid sunburn now and the risk of skin cancer later.

Purpose: To teach students how to avoid the harmful rays of the sun.

Materials: Building Blocks Know Kit Card #1 (Ages 5–6) “How do you protect yourself from the sun?” (PDF); large cement area and outdoor chalk; construction paper and markers.

Procedure: First thing on a sunny morning, use the Building Blocks Know Kit Card #1 (Ages 5–6) to begin a discussion on how and why we need to protect ourselves from the sun. Is there a better time to go outside and play? (Answers will vary, but should include the following: The sun isn’t as hot early in the morning or later in the day.)

Sun and Shadow: Help students discover when it’s safer to play outdoors.

  1. Divide the class into teams of two. Give each team a piece of outdoor chalk, and take the class outside onto a large, sunny, cemented area. Have students look at and talk about their shadows. Check the time.
  2. Have one member of each team stand straight and have the other team member use the chalk to trace the shadow. Switch roles. Write the names of the team members at the feet of each shadow and write the time inside the shadow drawings.
  3. Go back inside and wait an hour or so. Have team members stand in the same place and once again trace their shadows. What’s changed? (Shadows become shorter as the sun rises in the sky and it gets closer to midday.)
  4. Repeat these steps throughout the day, keeping track of the time and the changing shadows. Have students begin to predict changes in their shadows.
  5. After the final afternoon shadow tracing, have students discuss: What happens when the sun is straight up in the sky? (Shadows disappear.) How are morning shadows different from afternoon shadows? (They appear in opposite directions.) Explain that the shorter the shadow, the more direct and powerful the sun’s rays. Based on their shadows, what times are the safest to play outdoors? (Shadows are the longest early in the morning and late in the afternoon.)

Teaching Note: Have older students measure the lengths of the shadows at different times of the day. Talk about how student shadows could act as “clocks.” When you play outdoors, have students guess the time based on the length of their shadows.

Sun Safety Awareness: Help students discover ways to be “sun safe” when playing outdoors.

  1. Have students talk about ways they can protect themselves from the sun. (Answers will vary, but should include the following: Wear shirts with sleeves; wear hats with brims; put on sunscreen; wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.) Write their ideas on the chalkboard. At the top of the list, write the American Cancer Society’s slogan: “Slip, Slop, Slap, and Wrap.” Discuss the terms: Slip on a shirt. Slop on some sunscreen. Slap on a hat. Wrap on some sunglasses.
  2. Distribute construction paper and markers or crayons to each student. Have them choose one part of the slogan to illustrate. Help students write appropriate sun tips on their illustrations.
  3. Place students’ completed drawings at exit doors around the school to help remind others to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays before going outside.

Teaching Note: Download, copy, and distribute personal “Sun Safety Checklists” (PDF) for students to use at school and at home.

Sun Safety Online: Use the Building Blocks Web site to promote sun safety. Click on “Weather Wise” for a singalong or click on “The Great Weather Race” for a dress-for-the-weather game.

Related Family Article: Summer Sun Safety


  • SunWise” from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides resources to help your school participate in the Sunwise Program. provides action steps for parents to take to be sure their family knows about sun safety.
  • Parents Guide to Skin Protection” from the American Cancer Society provides sun safety and prevention tips for the whole family.
  • Sun Safety” from gives tips and facts about sun safety and first aid for sunburn.

Please note—to view documents in PDF format, you must have Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader software. If you do not already have this software installed on your computer, please download it from Adobe's Web site.

spacer Site Map | Contact Us | FAQ | Ask SAMHSA | Privacy Policy | Web Site Policies | FOIA | | Plain Language spacer
Updated on 3/21/2012