Summer Essentials: Sun Safety and Terrariums

As we cautiously open our doors to the world, with trepidation and excitement, we are finally flirting with summer. After months of confused confinement, fear and sorrow, summer tempts us with the sun, and the outdoors!

Indoor Green Whimsy

If you don’t have access to a safe garden/outdoor area, or are looking for new ways to embrace your living space, now is a great time to start the new season. Although perhaps past the “spring cleaning" season, it is always fun to make some small changes or additions to the house. While eagerly waiting to get outside and into the garden, until it is safe, you can start by bringing some of the outside in!

Affordable bits of nature being my favorite, terrariums fit the bill. Terrariums are miniature plant ecosystems that are, my favorite word, sustainable. Creating a terrarium as a way of creating a miniature slice of nature. Aside from their scientific benefit of cleaning the air of toxins by absorbing carbon dioxide, plants also improve your mood, making you pause and smile. Caring for a plant is restfully purposeful, seeing greenery and nature has been proven to help generate a sense of calm and relaxation.

So Why Build a Terrarium?

1. It is simple, flexible, and affordable.

You can design a terrarium in any clear glass vessel that will allow sunlight in. Terrarium containers can be elaborate and whimsical, or simple; in mason jars, wide-mouthed vases, coffee carafes, candles jars, and/or unused, recycled or antique glassware...

2. They are easy to make and low maintenance.

All you need is good potting soil, activated charcoal to avoid root rot, some stones for drainage, plant(s), and anything else you choose to add to decorate.

3. Picking your plants.

Choosing the plants is based mainly on whether you make an open terrarium or a closed one with a lid. Open terrariums are less humid, and require more watering. Closed terrariums favor plants that thrive in the humidity, such as ferns and African violets.The terrarium plants are generally small houseplants, which are inexpensive, so the whole project, depending on the size of your jars, can be made for under $20.

Some plants I recommend are:

  • Small ferns

  • Lucky bamboo

  • Nerve plant

  • Prayer plant

  • Club moss

  • Creeping fig

4. Improve your living space, improve your mood.

They are relatively easy to take care of, yet every time you walk by, you will smile. Get creative with the decorations inside and out. Line them up on your window ledges and imagine yourself inside a secret garden. You can make a terrarium in less than an hour.

Until the summer weather decides to stick around for a while, creating an indoor garden is a wonderful outlet for creativity with a calming, functional and decorative result.

Creating a Terrarium Directions:


  • Container

  • Small stones

  • Soil

  • Moss

  • Small plants

  • Activated charcoal (optional)

  • Small collectibles or figurines (optional)

First start with choosing your container. Glass allow you to see the layers of rocks, soil and moss.

Fill the bottom with rocks to provide drainage for the plants. If you want to use activated charcoal, add that next. Charcoal helps prevent bacteria and mold from growing but If you do not have charcoal available, just add extra rocks.

Add a small layer of potting soil.

Arrange your plants in a pleasing way.

Add your own personality to the terrarium. You can use moss, figurines, shells, sticks, rocks and anything else that is small and water proof to create a scene.


That Powerful Sun

As a mother and a pediatrician, I have always stressed the importance of sunscreen.

Unfortunately, over the past 30-plus years, malignant melanoma has risen in children and teens an average of 2 percent every year. Below I’ve provided some information on sun safety and some sunscreen recommendations. Make sure to apply before you start your gardening or your outdoor play time!

The sun gives off UVA and UVB radiation that damages cells in our body. UVA(ge) rays play a major role in skin aging; UVA damage causes wrinkles. UVB(urns) rays lead to freckles and suntans. UVB damage causes sunburns The amount of UVA radiation is constant, while UVB is seasonal...Both contribute to cancer.

Playing outside is crucial for kids - not only for exercise, but also for vitamin D. But unfortunately, studies show that kids who play outside do not use appropriate sunscreen with with their initial and even more importantly subsequent applications. And attentive parents are watching from the sidelines also getting sun exposure.

Sunscreen is part of a daily health regimen. Make it part of your morning routine, then remember to reapply.

Mini-Me Rainbow Chakra Rash Guard



Avoid midday sun.

Swim practice is a prime example in my house of hours in the sun: reflections from the water increase intensity of the UV radiation, making the risk for burn even greater. Skin guards are critical.

Wear sun-protective clothing.

Invest in rash guards, hats, and sunglasses that your child actually likes, and thinks is "cool" so they will cooperate.

The FDA revised sunscreen labels. Manufacturers can no longer describe their products as "waterproof," "sweat proof," or "sunblock." Sunscreens labeled "water resistant" must state how long you'll be protected while swimming or sweating. Remember that you need to reapply every hour or two.

SPF = Sun Protection Factor. Choose "broad-spectrum" sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Broad spectrum protects against both UVA and UVB rays; 30+ SPF means you'll avoid more than 97 percent of UVB rays. The FDA has not found that sunscreens labelled SPF 50+ are not any more effective than SPF 50 products.Please note that sunscreens have an efficacy expiration dates.

The Ingredients:

Everything you put on your skin gets absorbed to some degree into your system. But mineral-based ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on top of the skin and are minimally absorbed. Questions remain about the safety of oxybenzone, parabens, and vitamin A in sunscreen. My rule with skincare, in this case only, is that strong sunscreen is better than a strong sunburn, always. Remember, babies under 6 months should avoid the sun and the use of sunscreen if at all possible; and use caution with toddlers under 2, who still have thinner and more absorbent skin than older children and adults.

Here are some of my favorite sunscreens.

Blue Lizard Australian Baby Sunscreen (SPF 30)

Recommended by dermatologists for more than 20 years, Blue Lizard Australian Baby Sunscreen promotes soft skin. The SPF 30 lotion is water resistant for 40 minutes, so parents need to reapply frequently. To help you remember, the BPA-free turns deep pink when exposed to harsh UV rays. ($24)

Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream (SPF 30)

In addition to zinc oxide that protects your baby’s skin from rays, the Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream contains a mix of sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E for moisturization. The hypoallergenic sunscreen resists water and sweat for 40 minutes, and it’s scented with tangerine and vanilla – just like a creamsicle! ($12)