The "Why do we need sunscreen?" Experiment

If your kids are like mine, they can’t stand it when you put sunscreen on them.  I was so excited to find this activity from Sid the Science Kid to illustrate to kids exactly why they need to wear sunscreen!

We made a few blunders on our “experiment” but hopefully you’ll learn from our mistakes!

Here’s what you’ll need:  sunscreen (not the spray kind) and a black/dark blue piece of construction paper.

1.  Fold a piece of black (or dark blue) construction paper in half.
2.  Put a VERY SMALL dab of sunscreen on one side of the paper.  This is where we messed up…we put WAY too much sunscreen on.
3.  Let your child smear the sunscreen over ONE side of the paper (again, we messed up and Big Brother got it on both sides).
4.  Put it in direct sunlight for most of the day (you’ll have to move it around a couple times to keep it in direct sunlight).
The paper after about 5 hours.  Had we not had too much sunscreen, you would be able to easily see that the sunscreen kept the paper dark while the sun faded the side with no sunscreen.

Talk to your child about how sunscreen protects our skin just like it protected the paper.  Some sunlight is good for our bodies (vitamin d, anyone), but too much is harmful.  Without sunscreen, the sun would hurt our skin.  Talk about other things that protect our skin from the sun (hats, buildings, clothing, shade, etc).

A helpful reminder for Big Brother is remembering back when I had the worst sunburn of my life back in March and how it hurt to even move…he prayed for my sunburn to feel better for about 6 weeks afterward!


  1. Karla austrich says

    Just an FYI…while in theory this experiment has the possibility of showing the protective benefits of sunscreen, the example is NOT accurate. Construction paper is NOTORIOUS for bleaching naturally in the sun. In my kindergarten class we actually place various objects on a dark (black or dk. blue) sheet of construction paper and place it in the sun for the bleaching effect it has, leaving the “shadow” of the objects, much like photographic paper works.

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