I have a spirited little one, whom by and large I truly enjoy. I love her fierce independence and nonstop energy. That being said, it can be difficult when I need to put my foot down and enforce a firm limit, like daily sunscreen application. In my family, sunscreen is a must, but getting it onto my toddler's face is challenging, to say the least — that spirit I love makes her so squirmy! That is, until I came up with what I call the "dot method." It made it so much easier to apply sunscreen daily, protecting her skin from sun damage. She gets slathered in SPF quickly and efficiently, before there's even time to complain.
Here's what I do: I open the sunscreen bottle and I use my index finger to strategically apply dots all over her face and body. I follow this order: one on the nose, two on each cheek, three across the forehead. I dot up and down her arms and legs on the front and back, for a total of about 10 dots on each leg and five on each arm.
Phase two of the dot method is rubbing it in. I actually don't rub her face, because that's the part she really doesn't like. I don't blame her there — it must be uncomfortable to have someone pushing and pulling your facial skin around. So I begin by lightly drumming my finger pads all around the surface of her face. This action quickly spreads the cream in the areas between the dots. This works best if I've applied the dots in the correct spots, hence my very specific method. Arms and legs I easily rub, and within seconds they are covered.
The dot method works because I can do it quickly and confidently. I have learned that when it's time to set boundaries as a parent, self-assurance is most effective. But tricking my daughter a little bit helps too. I try to be as quick as possible, so that before she knows it, I've already finished. When she does resist, I remain calm. The great thing about the dot method is that you can stop and start at any point in the process, so I don't lose any progress if my child does run off or has an extrafussy day and needs a quick break midapplication.
Over time, it has also helped to involve my daughter in the process. I began allowing her to do some of the dots herself and rub in the cream on her legs. The legs were easiest for her to do and I wasn't as worried about perfect coverage since they get less sun exposure than the face or shoulders. Any opportunity for independence is very motivating for my daughter.
Summer is a time for our family to get outdoors and enjoy sunshine together. Having a solid method for getting my daughter slathered in SPF quickly and without added stress means we can get out the door faster and have fun in the sun.