Natural Bug Spray Options

Take a Hike Outdoor Joose

 

You want to play outside all summer, but how do you avoid mosquito- and tick-bourne disease? You need to deter those bugs somehow.

Don’t Breed Bugs

Start with the cause: the fact that the bugs breed in numbers. Don’t give them fertile ground—or water.

Do not leave standing water in your yard. After rain, empty plant saucers, shake out pool covers, clean the bird bath, and keep your yard either free from water that can breed mosquitos or keep any water in your yard clean.

Create a Physical Barrier

In order to bite you, the bugs need to get to you. So, create barriers. When you are inside with open windows, make sure the window screens have no holes. When you are outside, wear long sleeves and long pants. Keep your shirt tucked.

Even ankle to wrist coverage outside won’t keep the bugs away completely. You will still need some kind of insect repellent to stay bug free.

That is where the trouble begins.

Health Canada and Natural Bug Sprays

If you look at Health Canada’s recommendations for insect repellents, you will notice that there are none of the familiar brands of natural bug sprays.

And, here is where you find the sad tale of how Health Canada killed DEET-free, natural bug sprays like we have been using and selling for years.

Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic books available at bynature.ca, explained what was essentially a ban on natural bug spray last year. It is still possible to get approval for some ingredients, but few manufacturers can afford the testing. The fact that they have no testing doesn’t mean the products are unsafe, but it does mean they can’t sell anything they call “insect repellent” or “bug spray” or “outdoor spray.” For the full story, read her TorontoNow column “Black Bug Down: How Health Canada Buzzed Natural Insect Repellents off the Shelves.”

Amusing in a very discouraging kind of way is the fact that the ingredients that will deter bugs naturally are still fine to include in many other cosmetics. So, you could search in other cosmetics for those ingredients known to deter bugs, if you can get anyone reliable to tell you what the ingredients are.

Doesn’t that seem like an ineffective way to keep your kids bug free? Yeah. I thought so, too.

Sure, there are still plenty of bug sprays in the stores that include synthetic neurotoxins like DEET, but we find that most eco-aware parents avoid these.

Your new options are:

  1. put DEET insect repellents on clothes only;
  2. make your own bug spray or lotion; or
  3. buy one of the few natural bug sprays left, if you can find any.

I don’t think #1 is a good option, since you are still exposing your child to DEET.

I wouldn’t recommend #2 either, since there is too much misinformation surrounding essential oils. It’s confusing to non-professionals to hear self-appointed professionals giving contradictory advice. Don’t make your own unless you start with a trusted source—a professional herbalist with more than just a degree in Google search or a one-day multi-level-marketing sales pitch.

So, we’re left with buying whatever natural insect repellent you can find.

Take a Hike! Outdoor Joose

At bynature.ca, we usually have several options. Our favorite that is still on the market is Take a Hike Outdoor Joose. This is the bug spray Naturemom and her family use when they go back country camping and canoeing. It comes family size (250ml) and travel size (125ml).

  • Handmade by herbalists.
  • Safe for daily use.
  • Safe to re-apply throughout the day.
  • Essential oils recognized by Health Canada as safe alternatives to DEET.
  • Not sticky! 25% aloe vera mix in a witch hazel base.

Ingredients: Witch hazel extract, Distilled water, Aloe vera juice, Essential oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Pine, Lemongrass & Lemon Eucalyptus.

All bug sprays have cautions. We like that these cautions are few and easy to follow.

  • Avoid eyes.
  • For babies under 12 months, spray on clothing or carrier.
  • Spray on your dog’s coat, but avoid face and eyes.

Maybe next year we will have more options for you. For now, we are happy to give you the natural bug spray that we love.

5 Outdoor Fun Accessories to Keep Baby Safe & Organized

Beachfront Baby water wrap

As summer creeps up on us and the cottagers and campers start visiting our store, we have seen a lot of interest in sun and fun accessories for babies and children. These are our most popular outdoor items this year.

Rosk Sun Cover

Rosk sun cover for babiesWhen your baby is too young for sunscreen, under 6 months old, we have the perfect non-toxic solution: a lightweight cotton sun protection cover. The cover is versatile. Two sets of ties work with soft baby carrier, car seat, or stroller. Lab-tested to block 98% of UVA & UVB rays. Infant to four years. Made in China.

Water Resistant Outdoor Blankets

Make a soft, dry place to sit against damp grass, beach sand, or a dusty campsite. We have beach and park blankets in two styles this year.

Beach blanket

Water Resistant Blanket. The cool cotton striped top side of this outdoor blanket comes in two colors. Lightly padded for comfort. Rugged nylon backing.

Outdoor blanket easy carry

 

Attached carry handles and storage pockets make it easy to fold then keep both blanket and child in hand. Water resistant. Total space: 31 sq ft. Made responsibly in China

Waterproof Picnic Blanket

Spring Park Blanket. If you know it’s going to be really wet, even after a rainstorm, this 100% waterproof polyester fabric will keep your family dry. Folds into a carrying bag. Easy to clean, just wipe or machine wash. Available in two solid color combos. Waterproof. Total space: 23 sq ft. Made in Canada

JuJuBe Super Be Beach Bag

JuJuBe Super Be beach bag

When you are traveling with children, you need a lot of odds and ends. The best beach bag around is the JuJuBe Super Be. Generous size, lightweight, with inner and outer pockets that are easy to see into, and a zip top to keep everything from spilling out.

JuJuBe Beach Bag pockets

Choose from a range of patterns from subtle adult to wild beach style. Easy care by machine wash and air dry. 18″ x 15″ x 5.5″. Made responsibly in China

Non-toxic Sun Protection Suits

Kids Sun Protection Suit

If you are avoiding sunscreen, you don’t need to avoid the sun. This lightweight, stretchy sunsuit gives your child freedom to play in the sun without worry. Especially for children who are sensitive to sunscreen or who just wipe it off before it does its job. UPF rated to 50+, blocks 98% of harmful UV rays. (You will still need to use some sunscreen on arms, legs, and face.) Made in Canada

Beachfront Baby Water Wrap

Baby beach wrap baby carrier

What do you do about a slippery baby at the pool? Hold your baby tight with this stretchy, comfortable water baby carrier. Keep your hands free to play with older children while you wear your baby, even in the water. There is even just enough stretch to wash yourself and baby in the shower. Light, airy, and quick to dry. One size fits most. Water use to 30lbs; land use to 20lbs. Made in USA.

When you are heading to the beach, be sure to stop by to see all of the summer fun accessories we have for you at bynature.ca in Orillia, Ontario.

What Is Nature Deficit Disorder?

Child outside

“Technology is not, in itself, the enemy; but our lack of balance is lethal. The pandemic of inactivity is one result. Sitting is the new smoking.” Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv, in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, used the phrase “nature deficit disorder” to decribe what has happened as children spend more time in front of screens and less time outside. The idea refers to the costs of the alienation of humans, primarily children, from nature.

Is it a real disorder?

That the majority of children spend little time outside is real. The change from how children spent time only decades ago is real. There is research, Louv points out, that finds a correlation between concentration and taking walks, between greener neighborhoods and lower body mass. The change in body and mind is real.

The word “disorder” might imply a diagnosis, though, and there is none. The author chose that word to make his point simply understandable.

Do I need to worry about nature deficit disorder?

Maybe. If your child is young, your awareness that our culture pushes children indoors can help you make decisions that will give your children more access to nature. If your child is young, you can probably avoid the problem.

Encouraging your child to go outside will get more and more difficult as they get older. Create the expectation of open, outdoor play now, and the habit will be easier to continue. Model outdoor activities yourself, so it doesn’t appear to your child that outdoors is just for young children.

The truth is, you probably do need to worry about it because the pressure will increase to stay inside—peer pressure, homework pressure, and plain laziness. Remain conscious of outdoor time and prioritize nature in your family life, and you will reduce the negative effects of spending too little time in nature.

Image © Christophe.rolland1 | Dreamstime.com

Questing and Geocaching with Kids

Child outdoors searching

Treasure hunting, orienteering, puzzle solving, and building community. That’s questing. What a great way to create engaging and educational summer activities for children.

As I’ve been looking for summer activities that can spark a child’s imagination and turn into a child-lead summer project, my model has been the wonderful children’s summer activity book Weslandia.

Mapmaking close to home is great for 3-6 year olds since it focuses on what they know.

Elementary age children, 6-11 years old, may be ready for activities with more planning, investigating, solving, and reporting. Depending on their age and interest, they may even be ready to try such activities on their own.


The Quest Tradition

Questing is a North American version of the British activity Letterboxing, which started in the 19th century. The steps are easy: put a weather-proof box in a public place then spread clues to potential finders. The box usually includes at least a notebook and a stamp. Finders will stamp their own notebooks and leave their personal stamp in the box notebook. It’s a fun way to create a subtle connection with others in or passing through a community.

Letterboxing itself has come to North America and the rest of the world, as have similar activities of geo-caching (using GPS) and questing.

Questing as it has developed is more about a community and sense of place education. The Valley Quest program in Vermont is a beautiful example of community-building and education through this long tradition of hunting for clues and connections. Over two decades, they have built a program that connects history, environment, education, and citizen engagement. It takes a long time and a lot of people to build questing into a community the way they have, but everyone starts small.

Everyone starts questing or letterboxing with a first treasure hunt.


The First Quest

You as the parent may have to set up the first quest or treasure hunt in order to give your child the experience of being the finder, or your child might enjoy creating a quest for others. It may help to have a group of neighbors, a play group, or a circle of friends who are interested in questing with you so you can try out one another’s quests.

Valley Quest have very easy to follow instructions for making a quest, making a simple quest journal (one for the quest box and one for each finder), and making a stamp (one for the box and one for the finder).

If you are ready to embrace questing, one book stands above all other resources: Questing: A Guide to Creating Community Treasure Hunts by Delia Clark and Steven Glazer. The foreword is written by David Sobel, whose Mapmaking with Children I’ve suggested often. Sobel writes about his own ten-year-old son exploring then returning to say:

I’m a good explorer because I really look at all the details, all the little places you can go, all the crannies you can find. I don’t just look at it and go, I spend a lot of time on it, make forts and stuff and traps.

Quests, he writes, are about getting into those crannies.

If your child becomes interested in questing, this could become a local movement. Questing can be a way to build a sense of place and draw closer to local history, environment, and people. Elements of mystery and suspense add to the fun for children, but I think adults appreciate building a community of curious children who love to get outdoors and explore.

Image © Pro777 | Dreamstime.com

Outdoor Games for Toddlers

Toddler play in mud

It’s warm. You’ve got your natural sunscreen ready. And, your toddler is itching to go outside.

What to do? Especially if your toddler is solo, you might want to start with everyday games that are interesting and engaging. Reinvent the familiar in an unfamiliar space. Create an opportunity for hours of open play.

Open-ended play works well as toddlers are learning to push the boundaries very quickly. So, I have come up with a few prompts that encourage your toddler to play without much structure.

Inside Out

Take your inside play things outside. Do you have a play kitchen? Take it outside. Do you have a bunch of stuffed animals? Outside they could become wild animals for your budding young Jane Goodall to meet and study. Musical instruments—or even a collection of pots and spoons—outside become very interesting because little people can make big sounds.

Mudpie Kitchen. You don’t need a specific piece of play kitchen equipment to set up your own mudpie bakery. Set up a work space at toddler arm level with a variety of containers within reach. Provide a bucket of dirt and a basin of water. Go exploring for rocks, sticks, flowers, leaves, and other decorations, and it’s time to bake.

Outside Already

What do you already have outside? Is there anything that could be transformed? Your sandbox could become a treasure chest or an archaeological dig. Your furniture could become an obstacle course when extreme running, jumping, and climbing is called for.

Tricycle Obstacle Course. A toddler who has already learned the basics of peddling a trike or some other wheeled contraption might be looking for a new place to practice this skill. Set up your outdoor furniture, a tree stump, a collection of 5-gallon buckets, and whatever other large treasures you find in your garage. Leave plenty of space to get between the obstacles. Make it interesting enough that there is more than one way to get through. My mother’s method with games like this was to start my children at the beginning and tell them she would count. They would run or ride far away then rush back to her to hear how far she had counted. Both my mother and my children seemed to find this very engaging. They could occupy themselves for an hour as the numbers themselves became part of the exploration when they ask, “If I do this, does it make my time faster or slower?”

Color

Sometimes painting can be messy business. Outdoor painting is a worry free business that can get as messy as it needs to get. Finger painting? That’s for indoors. Outside, how about toe painting–or belly painting for extra giggles. Sidewalk chalk gives a great big canvas. My children loved to use sidewalk chalk on our dark brick house

Big Paint. Sometimes a paint brush just isn’t big enough to capture the wave of color we need. Giant sponges and cleaning brushes, however, make nice, big paint brushes for little hands. Mix sidewalk chalk or powdered paint in buckets of water, making very thin paint, and you have color that your toddler can spread all over the sidewalk, driveway, or wooden fence.

Water

Most outdoor painting leads to outdoor water because it will get messy. Water can be big with a hose or a sprikler or small with a water wall. A water wall is a collection of old containers and tubes screwed onto a back board. When the child pours water in the top, the containers dump water into other containers. What makes a water wall or any outdoor day even better is bubbles. Bubbles are very nearly a requirement for toddlers. Big snaking bubbles and tiny, foamy bubbles.

Car wash. Did your mudpie bakery or your big paint get combined with your tricycle obstacle course? It might be time for a car wash. Set up a bucket of soapy water and a big sponge then line up the trike, toy cars, and anything on wheels that won’t suffer too much from some attentive cleaning. Drive the vehicles to a pile of rags for the final stage of drying. You might call it clean up, but your toddler doesn’t need to think of it that way.

Open Play

Whatever you are doing outdoors with your toddler, don’t fill in time so tightlythat you create stress. Toddlers have new-found ideas and physical abilities to explore. They are driven to explore. Sometimes just going outside together and looking around is enough to spark a deep need in a toddler to explore.

A couple of my favorite gentle reminders for open play and open exploration are:

“Summer in Nature for Your Children” – How simple prompts can launch a child into their own explorations.

“Make Sure You Leave Space” – Importance of our role as parents in doing little or nothing as our children find their way, including finding their own play.

Image © Liseykina | Dreamstime.com