Try This Sunscreen Science Project with Preschoolers

Let’s use the Scientific Method to try a sunscreen science project with preschoolers!

This sunscreen science experiment was inspired by a comment Lady in a Small Town had left a comment on an earlier post, Sun-bleached Alphabet Puzzle. She had heard of an experiment where sunscreen is painted on paper and the sun bleached the paper except for the painted portions. It sounded like fun!

How to test sunscreen on paper with a fun science experiment for preschoolers.
Test sunscreen on paper with this fun science experiment for preschoolers.

We added the Scientific Method as I have always wondered which type of sunscreen was more effective: rub-on or spray-on.

What is the Scientific Method? It is a way of finding a problem and searching for the solution, as provided by evidence. The Scientific Method requires four basic steps:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Make a hypothesis or a statement of truth
  3. Test hypothesis with experiments.
  4. Determine if your hypothesis was indeed true.

Question: Which sunscreen is more effective: Rub-on or Spray-on?

Hypothesis: Rub-on is more effective.

How do you test sunscreen on paper?

We have tried this sunscreen science project twice, with mixed results as you will see below. We used the same brand of sunscreen for both experiments and with the same SPF. As there were variations in shades between the various pages of construction paper, we folded each page in half. On one half the kid’s freestyle painted with sunscreen. On the other half of the paper, we sprayed sunscreen over the page. Then the papers were left out in the sun for a few hours.

Supplies needed to test sunscreen on paper.
Gather spray and rub-on sunscreen and construction paper for this experiment.

Supplies needed to make this sunscreen experiment

  • Construction paper – any color except for white
  • Sunscreen – spray and rub-on (the same brand and the same SPF)
  • Paper plate
  • Paintbrush (or you can use your fingers)

Note: We have done this experiment twice, with two different brands. You can see how each turned out below.

Directions for this preschool sunscreen experiment

Step 1 of the sunscreen science project is to fold your brightly colored construction paper in half.
Fold your construction paper in half for your sunscreen science experiment.

Step 1

Using brightly colored (or dark) construction paper, fold each sheet in half. Open your paper back up.

Step 2 for our sunscreen science project is to paint rub-on sunscreen onto one half of your piece of construction paper.
Use your fingers or a paintbrush to ‘paint’ a picture using rub-on sunscreen.

Step 2

Squeeze some of your rub-on sunscreen onto a paper plate. Use your fingers or a paintbrush to paint a fun picture on one half of your construction paper.

Step 3 for our sunscreen science project is to spray sunscreen onto the other half of your construction paper.
Spray your other sunscreen onto the other half of your construction paper.

Step 3

On the other half of your construction paper, spray your other sunscreen (making sure not to cover the entire paper). Put your pieces of paper outside in the sun for at least 3 hours and wait to see what happens.

Our finished sunscreen science project
Results for testing sunscreen on paper a science experiment for kids.
Results of the sunscreen science experiment on paper.

Solution: As you can see, we had slightly mixed results.

With the image above, you can see that the rub-on sunscreen remained white, however you can see where the paper faded and the darker outline around the sunscreen. With the spray sunscreen it left a faded white mark on the paper, although the paper did fade too.

For the below image (a different brand sunscreen), the sunscreen completely disappeared leaving both the spray and rub-on marks standing out on the sun-bleached paper.

Yield: 1

Sunscreen Science Project

test sunscreen on paper with a sunscreen science project for preschoolers

Use the Scientific Method to experiment with both rub-on and spray sunscreen on paper out in the sun.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $0

Materials

  • Construction paper - bright or dark colors
  • Sunscreen - both rub-on and spray (same brand and same SPF)
  • Paper plate

Tools

  • Paintbrush

Instructions

  1. Fold your piece of paper in half.
  2. On one side, use a paintbrush or your fingers to draw a picture with the rub-on sunscreen.
  3. On the other side, spray a small amount of sunscreen.
  4. Put your piece of paper out in the sun for a minimum of 3 hours.

More science experiments for kids from Kids Activities Blog

Have you tried this sunscreen science experiment with kids? How did it turn out? What brand of sunscreen did you use?

8 Comments

  1. JDaniel4's Mom says:

    How cute!

  2. Hee hee that’s me! We just saw the weather week wrap up episode of Sid and that’s the Fab Lab activity they did. I love that you ran with the scientific inquiry idea. It is great to have fun and learn at the same time. I am now tempted to spread sunscreen on the construction paper I use in my classroom posters. I hate when they fade. Or, maybe, this year I will use sunscreen to let the kids practice their letters and then leave them in the sun.

  3. I’m so happy to see you make an experiment out of this! So often, teachers and parents give a demonstration only – especially for younger kids. Bravo for introducing preschoolers to the fun of hypothesizing and testing.

  4. The result surprised me. I always thought that the rub on kind was more effective and I never let my children just wear the spray. I always asked them to put the rub on kind on and then if they needed to reapply they could use the spray. Was I ever wrong.

    I was just over at JDaniel4’s Mom’s blog and told her that I added her button to my blog and I’m going to add yours too. I just love how you both share such fun and creative ideas for teaching little ones. You have a wealth of great stuff here that I’d love to share with my readers.

    We are enrolled in an online school but school at home and a lot of times I hear paretns asking how can I teach my older child with toddler in tow. You have some wonderful answers to that question..

  5. It did work! I had someone who had tried it earlier, but it didn’t work for them. I wonder if it’s how thick you spread it on.

  6. I’m lucky to have a house near the beach but have to doubly careful about protecting my children’s skin from the sun at all times. I tried many brands but have finally found one that contains no harmful chemicals. https://www.CommunityNaturalFoods.com/t/outdoors have best sunscreen for kids and sunscreen for babies.

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