Tagged Summer (Season)

The ‘Intentional Summer’ Challenge: Try an Unusual Ice Cream Flavor


Sweet corn ice cream with blackberry verbena syrup.

Sweet corn ice cream with blackberry verbena syrup.Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Challenge No. 4: Make (or try) an unusual flavor of ice cream.

This week’s Well Family Intentional Summer challenge is just in time for National Ice Cream Day, celebrated this year on Sunday, July 17 — which may be a holiday invented by the ice cream lobby, but we’re not complaining.

To make it part of your Intentional Summer, try something new, by making an unusually flavored frozen dessert at home.

Why not stick with chocolate or a seasonal berry offering — or even just plain vanilla? We’re trying to make moments that set themselves apart. Building Ice Cream Day into an event, with planning, shopping and preparation – and memorable flavors — makes it more likely to stand out. Worried about things getting a little too weird for your kids? Research shows we’re more likely to embrace a novel taste if we choose to try it. So if your children are old enough, involve them in the decision about what to make.

Our suggestions: If you have an adventurous family, how about sweet corn ice cream, sweet potato ice cream, basil ice cream or savory tomato sorbet? Recipes that call for steps like separating eggs may sound like too much work, but it’s easier than it sounds, as I found out when my boys tried making strawberry-rhubarb ice cream last summer.

Don’t have an ice cream maker? Go with a wildly flavored ice pop, like this Mexican street corn paleta. You could also try one of Mark Bittman’s simple ice pop recipes, which include flavors like chocolate-chili and coconut curry, along with some boozy grown-up-only options.

“If you have a story to tell about why you’re choosing a particular ice cream it’s going to be that much more appealing,” said Jenny Rosenstrach, author of “Dinner: A Love Story” and the forthcoming “How to Celebrate Everything.” Earlier this week, she shared the history of the Ample Hills Oatmeal Lace ice cream flavor, named after a cherished family recipe, on her blog.

“Also, there are just some kids who place a premium on the unpredictable. Play up the maverick idea and they just might bite.”

Last week, we proposed going on a quest: a treasure hunt, or a search for something usual. As it turns out, millions of people took us up on the invitation — thanks to the arrival of Pokémon Go, the smartphone game that takes a virtual hunt for Pokémon into the real world.

Some readers, though, kept their quests less digital. Pattra Mattox of Ipswich, Mass., was inspired to seek out the Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, Me., after catching it on the PBS show “A Few Good Pie Places.” “Coupled with a visit to a near-by children’s museum and fried seafood at a coastal lobster shack, this short Sunday outing near our home felt like a true vacation day,” she wrote. And reader Kathleen Kirk is taking both the quest and the “walk or bike somewhere you would usually drive” challenges to a new level by biking from Washington State to Boston. “This will engage all of my senses,” she wrote, “maybe leaving out common sense?!”

This week’s challenge: Make (or try) an unusual flavor of ice cream, gelato, sorbet or any frozen dessert. Use one of our recipes, or find or invent your own, and tell us about how it goes, by commenting here or emailing us at wellfamily@nytimes.com before next Tuesday, July 12. Was it weird? Delicious? Weirdly delicious? Or did you run straight out for a pint of vanilla? You can also share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (#intentionalsummer).

Be sure to sign up here for the Well Family email so you don’t miss anything.

We’ll share reader stories and post next week’s challenge on Thursday, July 28. The real goal: to savor the summer all season long.

The ‘Intentional Summer’ Challenge: Go on a Quest


Credit iStock

Challenge No. 3: Plan a quest — find a hike with a treasure hunt, choose an unusual side trip on a vacation or set out to find something specific.

It’s human nature to find joy in solving problems and get caught up in discovery. That may sound more like what you do at school or work, but research shows that a sense of engagement increases our satisfaction with our leisure time as well.

That kind of engagement can make for a memorable family moment, and it’s at the heart of challenge No. 3 of our Intentional Summer: Plan a quest. We know summer has a tendency to feel as if it’s slipping away, so all summer long, we’re offering research-based ideas for ways to set this season apart from the rest of the year. For this challenge, all you need is a goal, a plan and a sense of determination.

If your weekend lets you get outdoors for any extended period, turn a hike into a quest. I’m the queen of the old, tattered guidebook that assures you “at mile 2.6 of the trail is a small waterfall that invites barefoot paddling,” and my online searches for things like “local kid swimming hole” have led our family down many a back road.

We’ve also tried geocaching, which turns any hike or walk into a scavenger hunt. Download the app at geocaching.com, and it will locate caches near you (usually small hidden boxes with a log book and occasionally small shareable objects), and tell you how recently others have found them. Over two million geocaches have been hidden by people worldwide, and not just in the woods — you can find a geocache almost anywhere, including in Manhattan.

You can customize your quest to meet your family’s interests. If you have a child with a sudden passion for minerals, you might find caves or rock-hunting opportunities nearby.

A love of good food makes for great quest opportunities, especially when traveling — go on a search for the one shop that makes its own chocolates, or seek out a farmers’ market to find a local specialty and make a multisensory memory (even if fresh boiled peanuts, for example, don’t turn out to be a family favorite).

Last week, we suggested playing old-fashioned backyard games. Here’s what we heard:

A reader named Janet reminisced about playing a softball-like game called Scrub when she was in her early teens in Westport Harbor, Mass. “We lived year-round directly by the sea but had a huge yard, shaded, in those days, by giant elm trees.” The game involved a bat on the ground in front of the pitcher’s mound, and the person at bat would roll the ball toward it and set off running to first base.  “I remember those warm summer nights with the sound of the waves and fireflies and my father loving this game along with us,” she wrote.

Alison from Woodbridge, N.J., wrote: “This challenge reminded me of a game we made up in our neighborhood as kids called Jaws. My parents’ porch was the safety of the ship and one kid played Jaws trying to capture us as we ran around the yard. We would compete to see how many times we could circle the house without being caught.”

And a group of teenagers from Phoenixville, Pa., told us about an intentional summer tradition we liked so much, we may borrow it for a future challenge. For now, we’ll just tell you about some of their favorite games: “extreme hopscotch” (extending all the way down the block) and “glowquet” (croquet after dark with glow sticks on the wickets).

Keep on playing!

This week’s challenge: Plan a quest. Tell us about yours, and how it goes, by commenting here or emailing us at wellfamily@nytimes.com before next Tuesday, July 12. Did you find what you were looking for? Discover a new passion? Delight one member of the family while driving another crazy? You can also share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (#intentionalsummer).

Be sure to sign up here for the Well Family email so you don’t miss anything.

We’ll share reader stories and post next week’s challenge on Thursday, July 14. The real goal: to savor the summer all season long.

Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Children’s Summer Skin Care


Credit Getty Images

Summer is here, and we know we’re supposed to shield children from the sun. There’s strong evidence that early sun exposure can increase children’s risk of later skin cancer, and that’s true also for darker-skinned children who are less likely to burn. Boston and Miami Beach are providing free sunscreen in public places, and now New York is talking about it, too.

Parents have certainly gotten much more aware about sun protection, though they sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by the variety of products and by the job of keeping up with the imperatives for proper use.

And with old worries about ticks and new worries about mosquito-borne viruses, parents wonder if they should also be coating a child’s exposed skin with bug repellent.

But babies’ delicate skin is more permeable than adults’, so any chemicals we apply may be more likely to be absorbed, and their immature organs may be less able to handle those chemicals. What stays on the skin may be absorbed; but what doesn’t stay on the skin doesn’t shield. Dermatological toxicology involves considering the balance between “wash in,” the risk of absorbing potentially toxic substances through the skin, and “wash out,” the loss of protection as substances are lost by sweating or water exposure or rubbing. Both are highly complex processes, with many variables, and not necessarily well studied in young children.

With little babies, the advice is always to rely on reducing exposure, on shade and clothing for sun, and on adding screens and netting to keep the bugs off. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasize that babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight, protected with shade, shielded with sunhats and protective clothing when they do have to be out, rather than relying on sunscreen.

Babies’ skin surface is large in proportion to their body volume and their internal fluids, putting them at high risk for heat and dehydration. So make sure they are drinking and wetting their diapers regularly.

Adults and children alike are advised to avoid the hours of maximum exposure — to stay out of the sun between 10 and 2, and to avoid going outside at dusk in areas with lots of mosquitoes. But of course, that isn’t necessarily easy.

Sun hats and protective clothing are important for older babies and toddlers, and so is avoiding those peak hours. For children under 2, “the rule of thumb in this age group is clothing first,” said Jacqueline Thomas, an assistant professor of dermatology and surgery at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, who is the senior author on a commentary reviewing pediatric sunscreen and sun safety guidelines published last year in the journal Clinical Pediatrics. Dark colors and more tightly woven fabrics are more effective.

As to sunscreen, experts say not to choose by what is marketed for children or babies, and to read the label carefully. In 2011, the F.D.A. required much more information to be standardized on sunscreen labels; parents should look for products with an SPF of 30 or higher, advises the American Academy of Dermatology, and make sure they are labeled as “water resistant” (lasts 40 minutes in the water) or “very water resistant” (80 minutes), and as “broad spectrum,” meaning that they block both UVA and UVB rays, both of which do damage. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen.

The active agents in sunscreen can be either chemical blockers or physical blockers, and the physical blockers are safer for children because they are much less likely to be absorbed. For children ages 2 to 12, look for products with titanium or zinc as their active ingredients, rather than chemical agents, which really haven’t been studied in children.

The recommended amount for an adult-size body is variously described as a shot glass and a golf ball for the trunk and extremities; for under 12, some authorities suggest using the amount that would fill a child’s cupped hand as a rough guide. It needs to be reapplied after two hours, because the efficacy is gone, even if you can still feel the lotion on your skin, and sunscreens with higher SPFs don’t last any longer than those with lower SPFs (in fact, there is no evidence that SPFs over 50 are more protective).

Although spray-on sunscreens are popular, their efficacy has not been studied,, and there’s concern about children inhaling them. The F.D.A. has asked for more data.

What about insects? Mosquito repellents generally contain either DEET, picaridin or one of several essential plant oils, most commonly oil of lemon eucalyptus, as an active ingredient; permethrin, which is meant to be applied to clothing (or sometimes already applied by manufacturers) works to repel ticks.

There has been concern in the past about DEET toxicity, and the recommendation is to avoid DEET and picaridin for babies younger than 2 months, and to avoid oil of lemon eucalyptus for children under 3. But most pediatricians would recommend being very sparing with all of these substances on babies and young children, applying them only to exposed skin, right before going outside, and washing them off when you come back in. Don’t let young children apply the stuff themselves, and keep it away from their eyes and their mouths, and their hands if they tend to put those in their mouths. If possible, put the repellent on the clothing, or on the tent; there are also clip-on devices that can be attached to strollers.

Dr. Adelaide A. Hebert, a professor of dermatology and pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said she tends to recommend picaridin-based insect repellents such as Cutter Advanced and Off Clean Feel for children over those that contain DEET. “I like picaridin. I feel there’s less concern for parents using it with regard to toxicity,” she said. The strength of these insect repellents can vary as well, so again, it’s important to read the label. “We don’t recommend DEET strength above 20 percent because of concern about toxicity,” Dr. Hebert said.

Combination products are another problem, though the idea of a single lotion that protects against both sun and insects is very appealing. “I never recommend combination products,” said Dr. Hebert. “We don’t want to reapply the insect repellent as often as we may need to reapply the sunscreen.” Further, there’s evidence that the mixture may make the sunscreen less effective, and the chemicals more likely to be absorbed.

So keep babies out of the sun, be scrupulous about sun hats and protective clothing, about screens and mosquito netting. As children grow, don’t forget about protecting the eyes; think about broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses. If you need protection against insects, apply insect repellent over sunscreen, and reapply the sunscreen after two hours, on top of the insect repellent, which does not have to be reapplied so frequently.

The skin is the largest organ of the body, proportionally larger in the smallest children, and protecting it properly needs our care and attention.


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The ‘Intentional Summer’ Challenge: Play an Outdoor Game


Credit Maren Hilton

Don’t let summer slip away! Challenge No. 2: Play (and teach your kids) a classic outdoor game, like Capture the Flag.

It’s week two of Well Family’s Intentional Summer, where — to quote an email from Pete Jameson of Ligonier, Pa. — we are making sure to enjoy “the gift that is summer.”

Why be intentional about this most relaxed of times? Summer goes by so fast. One minute, it’s June, and we have all the time in the world for ice cream, drive-in movies and bike rides. The next, it’s August, and too often, we’re left wondering where it went. We want to avoid regrets over missed opportunities. Every week, we’ll offer research-based suggestions for ways to set this season apart from the rest of the year.

Last week, we suggested walking or biking to somewhere you’d usually drive. In our family, a walk to a doctor’s appointment ended in a memorable excursion through a construction zone and under a parking garage — and my 10-year-old was delighted by our “adventure.” Readers tried it too, and reported back: Sam (age 7) and Elisabeth (4) of St. Paul, Minn., (pictured) biked to the library. Anne walked to yoga and back (bonus exercise!). Myriam let our challenge inspire her to start biking to work again after the birth of her baby five months ago: “It was rather hard, my bike is in need of some tuning, I am still sleepy from being up feeding baby at night, but my lungs are so happy and the view of the ocean on the way in was breathtaking.”

On this Fourth of July weekend, many American readers will be joining friends and family at picnics and barbecues. Our second challenge lends itself to a big gathering, though it works well for smaller groups too: Play a classic outdoor game you played in your youth, and teach your kids. If you remember late suburban nights playing flashlight tag or Ghost in the Graveyard under the streetlights, or Capture the Flag in your backyard, this one’s for you.

Anecdotally, parents know our kids spend less time playing outside than we did, and research bears that out. When mothers were questioned about the differences between their childhood experiences and those of their children, 70 percent described playing outdoors daily as children, many for more than three hours at a stretch. By contrast, less than a third of their children played outside every day, and most for far shorter periods — and while most of the mothers said they played street games, only about a fifth of the children ever had. That’s a shame: Outdoor games encourage self-reliance and independence along with an appreciation for just being outside.

“Kids who are used to more structured activities may not know how to create these things on their own,” said Kristen Race, a psychologist and the author of “Mindful Parenting.” With no set number of players and played outdoors, such games encourage a loose creativity (and camaraderie) to develop quickly. “If adults get things started, children will quickly take over,” she said. She suggests pulling aside an older child or two to get things organized. Then, after the adults race around for a bit, sit off to the side and watch the children create their own memories.

We’ve found the rules for some old favorites for you: Ghost in the Graveyard or flashlight tag for evening gatherings that stretch into twilight, or Capture the Flag and Kick the Can for anytime play — but we want to hear about your games, too. If you remember epic nights playing TV tag, tell us how to play and how you recreate them in your yard or local park.

Tell us about all your adventures by commenting here or emailing us at wellfamily@nytimes.com by next Tuesday, July 5. You can also share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (#intentionalsummer).

Be sure to sign up here for the Well Family email so you don’t miss anything.

We’ll share reader stories and post next week’s challenge on Thursday, July 7. The real goal: to savor the summer all season long.

Sign up for the Well Family newsletter to get the latest news on parenting, child health and relationships with advice from our experts to help every family live well.

The Intentional Summer


Credit Getty Images

Summer officially starts today, brimming with delicious potential. You may think you don’t need to schedule summer fun — it just happens, right? Well yes, sometimes, but research shows it helps to plan for it.

Well Family is declaring this the Intentional Summer, and we’re here to help you avoid regrets over missed opportunities. Every week, we’ll offer research-based suggestions for ways to set this season apart from the rest of the year.

The sense that summer fun slips through our fingers is real, and it’s reflected in how people report feelings of health and well-being over the course of a 24-day vacation: Our positive feelings increase quickly at the outset, peak about one-third of the way through and then start a downward slide toward our baseline happiness — and sadly, leave us back there about a week after we return to work.

Jessica de Bloom, the researcher on that and other studies on vacation and happiness, suggested that we take time to consider how we can maximize our summer pleasure, even when we’re not on vacation. A sense of autonomy — of making active decisions about how we spend our time — is one of the elements that helps us enjoy our free time.

“Make ordinary evenings and weekends more memorable,” she said. Do the things you normally do “a little bit differently. Take a bike instead of the bus” or car. Research also suggests that people appreciate their leisure most when it includes elements of challenge, connects us with the people we care about, or helps us to feel a sense of purpose, she said.

To add some or all of those elements to these few weeks of summer, planning is essential. As a bonus, planning and anticipating something new can boost our happiness. Once we’re carrying out our plans, said Dr. de Bloom, we need to detach from our usual roles (and our gadgets), relax and savor the experience.

Join us! Every week for the next two months, we’ll propose a simple challenge to help connect you to the season and to the people you love. We’ll be listening to your feedback. Expect fresh ways to get outdoors, get moving (and slow down) and flavor your summer.

Having started with the solstice, we’ll end with another astronomically notable event: the annual Perseid meteor showers, which occur every August and peak this year around the 12th of the month (start thinking now about where you can find some dark sky to watch those “shooting stars”).

This week’s challenge: Walk or bike to somewhere you would normally drive or reach via public transportation. Pick a short distance that might turn into a summer ritual (a bike ride to the library, for example) or a longer trek.

A friend and I once took an entire summer day to walk from his apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan down to Battery Park City, something I still remember over a decade later. And that’s exactly the point, said Gretchen Rubin, the author of “Better Than Before” and host of the “Happier” podcast. “Life feels richer when some parts of it are different.” Routine days run together into a single memory, while special things stand out.

If you’re walking with children, let them help pick a destination, mode of transport and route. Leave enough time to enjoy unexpected discoveries along the way, whether it’s a street fair or a turtle living in the run-off ditch by the side of the road.

Let us know how you do by commenting here or emailing us at wellfamily@nytimes.com before next Tuesday, June 28. Was it more fun than you expected, or did things go wrong? Would you do it again? Did you make a day your family will remember? You can also share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (#intentionalsummer).

Be sure to sign up here for the Well Family email so you don’t miss anything.

We’ll share reader stories and post next week’s challenge on Thursday, June 30. The real goal: to savor the summer all season long.