Keep babies out of the sun. A new baby's skin burns more easily, so try to avoid any sun exposure, especially direct exposure, until he is 6 months old. Keep his skin covered, even in the shade. You shouldn't routinely use sunscreen on a baby less than one year old, but it's OK to use if you find yourself in a situation where you can't keep him out of the sun. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that's made specifically for children with an SPF of at least 15. If your baby's less than 6 months old, apply the sunscreen to a small area of his back first to make sure there is no irritation, and then apply only to face and hands. And keep the rest of him covered up.
After 1 year of age, break out the sunscreen. Young children should stay out of the sun as much as possible, but of course that gets harder to accomplish as they get older and more active and independent. When your child reaches one year, you can apply sunscreen regularly. Apply it 30 minutes before she goes outside and reapply it every two hours—more often if she goes swimming or is sweating. Be careful not to get sunscreen on the eyelids. As with babies, use a waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen made for children with a SPF of at least 15.
Cover up to protect skin at any age. A hat with a 3-inch brim or a bill facing forward and a long-sleeved shirt and long pants made from tightly woven cotton provide smart protection against the sun. Keep in mind that sand and concrete reflect the sun's rays, increasing the chances of a burn. Most rays make it through a cloud cover and they also travel through water, so an overcast day or staying in the pool doesn't provide protection. (Learn more about kiddie pool safety, and a recall of baby floats.)
Get more safety tips in the Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety and Consumer Reports Best Baby Products guide, also available in bookstores nationwide.