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Sunscreen Painting - Science Experiment

This science experiment is super easy to do and even young children will begin to understand how important it is to wear sunscreen!

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Teach the importance of sunscreen by painting!

Do your children despise wearing sunscreen? This is a great way to help them understand the effects of the sun and what it can do to our skin through painting and art! This activity will work on any dark colored construction paper (black, dark purple, blue, green etc.) and with sunscreen of an SPF 15 or higher. You don’t need to have a super hot day to see the activity work, just a sunny day because after all you can get a sunburn in almost any weather and temperature! 

📚What’s SPF Stand For? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin if you apply the sunscreen exactly as directed compared with the amount of time without sunscreen. 

☁️ Cloudy Days Ahead! Even when it’s cloudy, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth. 

🌤️ Compare and Contrast: Try completing this activity on a sunny day and again on a cloudy day. Notice a difference in the art?


For this activity you will need:

Dark colored construction paper

Sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher


Plate or paint pallet

4 rocks or small weights

The sun!

Learning Outcomes






Asking questions that can be answered through observation


Step 1:

Place a dollop of sunscreen on a paint pallet or plate for your child(ren) to use.

Step 2:

Encourage your child to paint the dark colored paper using the paintbrush. Let them know the paper will represent their skin and everywhere they put sunscreen is protected from the sun. Encourage them to leave some “blank” space to see the difference sunscreen makes. 

Step 3:

Once they’re happy with their painting, take it outside in a sunny spot. Weigh the paper down with 4 small rocks or other weights to prevent it from blowing away.

Step 4: 

Leave their painting outside for at least 2-3 hours depending on the time of day (the sun is typically the strongest between (10am-2pm).

Step 5:

Once a few hours have passed, bring the art inside and have your child examine the difference between the paper that was protected from the sun and the unprotected parts. 

⬆️ For older preschoolers: This is a great opportunity to open the conversation around skin tones and why people have different skin tones depending where they live geographically.

⬇️ For younger toddlers: Keep an eye out for younger children putting the paint brush/sunscreen in their mouth as the sunscreen you use may be toxic if ingested.

Playful Questions

What would happen if we left the paper out in the winter on a sunny day?

What would happen if we left it outside on a cloudy day?

How do you think sunscreen works?

What are other things we can do to avoid direct sunlight?

Do you remember a time when you forgot to wear/reapply sunscreen? What happened to your skin?

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