Blog — Eco Kids


Top 6 Alternatives to DEET: Natural Tick and Mosquito Repellents 0

natural tick repellent

Insects are an inevitable part of spring and summer in North America. While an important part of our ecosystem, they can also pose a threat to the health of our families. With pest-transmitted diseases like Lyme Disease becoming prevalent in our communities, it's become imperative to practice bug-safety, just like we protect our skin from the sun in the summer or the cold in the winter.


However, more and more studies show that the traditional bug-repellents don't just harm mosquitoes and ticks, they also can be harmful to those who wear them. DEET, the active ingredient in many of these agents, has negative effects on the nervous and endocrine systems, especially on children who have a smaller surface to volume ratio than their parents. It has also been known to cause allergic reactions to those with sensitive skin.


While we want to protect our families and ourselves from potential diseases and bothersome insect bites, we don't want this risk to limit the time that we spend outdoors in nature. That's why it's important to adopt habits this season that will minimize our chance for bug bites.


We have a large family ourselves, so we spent a lot of time researching and looking for the best there is in terms of natural tick and mosquito repellents.


Citrobug Mosquito Repellent Oil for Kids (+ Outdoor Cream)

 Shown to be one of the most effective products in its category in Canada, this spray is comparable to competitors that contain up to 25% DEET. However, it can be used safely as the active ingredients are a combination of essential oils including lemon, eucalyptus, pine need, geranium, and camphor. It also comes in an Outdoor Cream Version which doubles up as a moisturizer. Bonus: it's hypoallergenic




Druide Citronella Insect Repellent Spray Lotion

Druide is a favourite of Canadian outdoor fanatics, and their citronella line is loved by many. Citronella essential oil has for years been appreciated for its insect repelling qualities, and this specific blend includes other plant extracts to boost its effectiveness. However, this formulation is not recommended for children under the age of 2.



Take a Hike Outdoor Joose

With an ingredient list that you can fully read and understand, you will love the additional refreshing and moisturizing qualities of the aloe juice in this formulation. Can also be used on pets' coats!



Care Plus Icaridin 20% Deet Free Insect Repellent

The active ingredient, icaridin, also know as hydroxyethyl Isobutyl Piperidine Carboxylate, is an odourless and nearly colourless liquid that is a known bug deterrent. This makes it an attractive choice for those who are sensitive to scents or come in close proximity with those who do. Studies show that Care Plus Icaridin at a 20% concentration can be as effective as solutions containing 30% DEET for protecting again mosquito, tick and black fly bites.



Atlantick Outdoor Spray

This product was developed by a Canadian family with a personal story associated with Lyme Disease along with researchers at Acadia University. Atlantick spray contains ingredients like witch hazel, lemongrass, jojoba oil and ocean water to protect families from bug related situations.



  DoTerra TerraShield

Many natural insect repellents enlist the help of essential oils to keep bites to a minimum. If you already have a collection of oils, you might already have what you need to make your own repellent spray. We like to dilute DoTerra Terrashield with Witch Hazel at a ratio of  10 drops to 1 fl. Oz. and keep the mix in a small glass spray bottle.


Hopefully one of these products will work for your family's preference! Remember, that what's good for the earth is also good for us, and by taking care of our bodies with natural products, we also keep toxic chemicals out of the ecosystem.


Stay Green!


Mrs. Greenway


How Imaginative and Symbolic Play Affects Child Development 0

grapat toys


We all want beautiful childhoods for our little ones, full of fun-filled moments and skill-building experiences that will help them thrive. There's so much pressure to create an environment that is safe, secure, and in which they are comfortable to be themselves. And while we continue to change for the duration of our lives, most psychologists will agree that childhood and our upbringing has an enormous impact on the shape of our adult selves.



In a society when it seems like there is an app or toy for everything, we lose the opportunity to expose our children to imaginative and symbolic play. One where they are the "masters" of the situation, and they can assign roles to different objects, creating a story behind it.


So What Exactly is Imaginative Play?


Well for the most part, it's a lot of pretending! Pretending that a box is a train wagon, or that a block is a phone. It's assigning meaning to something so that they can play out a behavior or action that they have witnessed in the past.





Why is Symbolic or Imaginative Play Important to Child Development?




Social Skills

While exposing your child to others can obviously stimulate social and emotional skills, imaginative play allows for kids to put themselves in roles that they don't necessarily perform on an everyday basis. An example is nurturing a toy dolly and pretending that he or she is a parent, or playing out scenarios with multiple toys where there might be a conflict of interests. Symbolic play introduces children to empathy, the ability to "be in someone else's shoes" for a bit rather than see the world through an ego-centric perspective.



Cognitive Skills


Even as adults, we function in a world where objects or symbols symbolize greater ideas or things. Examples are money, flags, even the colours on traffic lights. Understanding that there can be items that represent abstract concepts is something that will be useful for their entire lives and they will just build on. Imaginative play also gives children the chance to play through certain scenarios or problems in a safe place to make those real life connections.



Motor Skills


Acting out "pretend" play takes a lot of movement- whether that's with the entire body in imitating a flying superhero, or minute focused movements to move small objects into the right position. It's a great juxtaposition of motor and cognitive skills, keeping kids moving and thinking rather than being couch potatoes.




What Can We Do to Induce Imaginative Play

goose grease toys mrs greenway

Really, kids are naturally curious and open to symbolic play, it's part of their nature. Our role is to keep it from being suppressed by alternative activities that don't provide the same level of social, cognitive, and motor stimulation. There are many toys out there, like the Rainbow from Grimm's Toys, or the "peg people" from Goose Grease and Grapat Toys. The latter that are customizable to any role the child gives them. They can draw on different outfits, accessories, making them the perfect addition to a minimalist child's toy box. The rainbow is also versatile, as it can be stacked as a rainbow or become a cradle for dolls, a fence for animals,  a tunnel or bridge for vehicles, or a  house for dwarfs.



Just a few small pieces can become a plethora of different environments and characters. As they are wooden and non-toxic, they are toys that everyone can feel good about giving and getting.


images: (1) Grapat Toys (2) Goose Grease Toys

Zerowaste Living With Kids | Is it Possible? 0

zero waste kids

Minimalism is difficult- but doable. Until you have kids. Not only do they rapidly grow, constantly needing new clothes, toys, and accessories, they easily tire of the same old, same old. Your once pristine living room is now a mini playground and your porch has turned into parking for strollers and tricycles. Getting out the door, even for a grocery run, means packing for every eventuality and then there's the question of what you wouldn't do for just five minutes to yourself.


And on top of that, zerowaste often means a little extra work. But is it doable? Even with kids?




It's true that you'll have to pick your battles, but there are some cardinal habits that can make the lifestyle easier to implement, and maybe even achievable.


 Buy in Bulk

Have you ever noticed how much waste is produced by baby and kids' snacks? Everything is wrapped in portions which, granted, are easy to grab, but also produce so much waste! Whenever possible, buy in big packs, or better yet, in bulk. From there, you can package them in the portions you want in the container you want, be that a snack pouch, beeswax wrap, squeezey, or a jar. Snacks like granola bars you can make yourself without resorting to wrapped ones, and Bulk Barn has plenty of other bulk options.


 "No Gifts Please"

This is one that is especially difficult, because it requires you controlling other people. People love giving gifts to kids. The little things are so cute and adorable, it's nearly impossible to come empty handed to holiday or birthday celebrations! However, this is also a chance for you to educate those around you. To keep your home clear of useless items and things that come in excessive packaging, it's always easiest to say "no gift please." If the friend or family member insists, ask for it to knock off as many of the following as possible: consumable, homemade, recycled, package free, sustainable, biodegradable, and USEFUL! It might seem strange, but sometimes it's easier to just make a gift registry for items that you child needs. If you fear that this might be weird for some, just go NO GIFT!


 Dress with Longevity in Mind

Being mindful with kids' clothing seems impossible because they are always growing and always getting dirty! However, that doesn't mean that your children need a million outfits. With laundry now a days, most of the time you won't even reach the bottom of the drawer before you pile on the outfits you just washed. The key is quality over quantity. Choose items that have been sustainable made with natural fabrics that will be able to take repeated washing and being worn by multiple children. There are North American companies like Cotton Vanille and Milkbarn producing "grow clothes" which fit kids for a longer period of time, making the extra money spent on quality and slow fashion worth it. Other options include shopping second hand, trading outgrown clothes with other families, or simply creating "capsule wardrobes" for each growth period.


 Compostable/Recyclable/Reusing Activities and Toys

The toy industry is a large one, and it's not slowing down! However, every parent will be able to share in the feeling of being inundated with them. And it's not a good feeling! Instead of running to the toy store every time your kids seem to be bored with what they have, give them a chance to play creatively with items found in nature like flowers, sticks, pinecones, acorns etc. During other seasons, you'll be surprised with what you can make out of a empty water bottle, milk jug, or the fun you can have with simple wooden blocks. Sometimes it takes the parents' creativity to trigger the effect in their kids.


 Do the Toy "Flip"

If you already have a lot of toys, consider doing a toy "flip" instead of getting rid of all of them just to buy them again later. Take half of the toys in your kids' room and put them into "hibernation" in  your attic, basement, or even a closet. Your little ones will forget about them a play with what they have. Once they seem bored with the options they have, voila! You have new toys to offer them.




Of course there are plenty of other things you can do to minimize your waste generated by kids, but these five tips are a good starting place for your family's journey towards a #zerowastelifestyle.

Raising Environmentally Conscious Children- 5 Tips & Tricks 0

eco kids

Many people find their children's future motivational when considering the impact that they are leaving on this planet. Though some environmental effects are more direct and immediate, others take time to compound and feel, creating the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. However, when you put it into the perspective of the lifespan of your children and their children, many are willing to evaluate their footprint on the planet.


But apart as using our little ones as motivation, we should also be raising them to be environmentally responsible members of society. They are our future and our hope, and for now it's up to us to communicate all our knowledge and passion to them.


Though the topic can be a large one to address and pass on to our kids, there are some easy ways to incorporate environmental values to our kids through everyday habits and chores.



Here are just some ideas that we love and thought were worth sharing:

 1. Sorting Duty

Taking out the garbage should be a "chore of the past", just like rewinding VCR tapes or churning butter. The chore of the present is "sorting duty". From a young age, kids should be taught how to properly sort the trash, adhering to the practises in your area. At first, it's important to watch and correct any mistakes, but after a while, it will become second nature to them. Afterwards you can branch out to taking the organics to the composter in the yard and the recycling into a bigger bin. But for now, teach them that this is "normal" and you'll find that they will be as (or even more) bewildered as you are when in a situation where there is only one bin for everything.


2. Instilling a Love of Nature

There's a lot of ethics involved with environmentalism, and it takes a certain level of maturity to be able to comprehend it all. But if from a young age we can pass on a love and appreciation of nature, it's easier to explain why we do things the way we do. Help them learn the local species in your region, explore all the different trees and plants, enroll them in programs where they can learn to love and protect nature. So next time they ask why you use special laundry detergent, you can reply, "because it's better for the frogs and their habitat." Kids will understand this logic much better.


3. Supply them with Their Tools

Kids love gadgets and tools, things which validate what they are doing. The more personal they are, the more exciting to the little person. By involving them with their own reusable bottles, straws, lunch bags, recycle bins and more, you make the process of being zero waste and environmentally friendly more exciting. It's even more exciting when they get to be part of the selection process!


4. Hanging Laundry

Summer is a great time to put this chore into rotation with the older kids. Now that the weather is better and the temperatures are higher, it's time to be more energy efficient and air-dry your laundry. Hanging, and then later taking down and folding, is a sustainable habit to instill into  your children. Just make sure that you communicate the benefits, or else it will only just seem like a worthless hassle.


5. Cleaning with Natural Products

Whether you make your own or buy all-natural cleaning products, get your kids involved in household cleaning as early as possible. When the cleaners are non-toxic, there are no worries about negative effects on their little bodies, and they might even enjoy helping you bring your home to a sparkling clean condition!



Kids like mimicking the behaviour of adults they see. Take advantage of this phase to plant the seed of change in their minds. Later on, they will consider all the sustainable steps the status-quo, and hopefully integrate them into their own lives, building on it and in turn inspiring our generation.

Teaching Your Kids the Green Way | Eco living for Children 0


green living for kids


Our green mission was actually inspired by our kids and grand kids- we wanted to leave them an earth that is as beautiful as the one that we get a chance to live on. It meant a drastic change in our lifestyle and our perception of the world around us.


However, if we really want "the green way" to thrive, we need to make an effort to instill this mentality and eco-conscious mindset to the next generation. The younger they are exposed to environmentalism, the easier it will be for them to accept ecoliving as "normal" and routine.


 Lead By Example

Kids are like sponges. You might not even know it, but they are constantly soaking up all the information you give them. They are the true definition of "monkey see, monkey do", if you can use this example in this context. By making an effort yourself to do things like recycle, reuse containers, clean using natural products, and more, they will copy your actions to be "just like mom and dad!"


Instill an Appreciation of Nature

Provide context to your eco-actions by sharing the beauty of nature with your kids. Through  family hikes, camping trips, and encounters with nature, they learn to love and appreciate the outdoors. The more the they love it, the more they will want to respect and protect it, even with simple things like making their own snacks instead of buying wrapped ones or making a bird feeder out of used yogurt containers rather that buying a new one.


Make it Fun

We're lucky to live in a time when eco-values have started trickling into the mind of many, giving us resources that can help with teaching the little ones the green way. From DIY aquaponic sets that show that sustainable farming systems can exist, to fun toys and books like the Good Fairie Dolls, environmentalism doesn't have to be a chore - it can be a family bonding feature.


 Present it as a Special Mission

Mission "Green way" can be one that your kids learn to love. Present your ecolifestyle as a earth-saving mission (which it literally is!). Challenge your kids with monthly goals and award bonus prizes when they covertly get their friends to join in on this eco-adventure! Your kids will love the fact that they are part of something greater than them, something so important and life-changing!


 Make it Easy to be Green

If being green means that the kids need to put in a greater effort, it going to be difficult to convince them to do it. It will just seem like an additional chore they have to do. See if you can adjust anything to make it simpler to be eco, from conveniently placing little recycle bins in every room to subbing cleaning products with natural ones that are used the same way or even require less effort.


 Give them a Leadership Role

Once your children hit a certain age, allow them to be leaders in your home's eco mission. Ask them to come up with new ideas and help bring them to fruition. Get them involved in choosing your household cleaning and laundry products, as well as choosing which all-natural toothpaste they prefer. This will give them ownership and shape them into eco-leaders within their friends and later colleagues. We love seeing kids shopping with their parents at our stores, giving input on their preferences and the selection.




Do you have any more ideas about how to make our little ones eco-advocates in today's world? Leave your thoughts in the comments!