Best Non-Toxic Bug Repellents for Kids: Safe Outdoor Play Solutions | 2024 Updated Guide

Table of Contents

  1. The Importance of Outdoor Play for Kids
  2. Why Choose Non-Toxic Bug Solutions for Kids?
  3. Top Ingredients in Non-Toxic Bug Repellents
  4. Summary Comparison of Non-Toxic Bug Repellents
  5. How to Choose the Best Non-Toxic Bug Repellent for Kids
  6. Alternative Bug-Repelling Strategies
  7. Soothing after the Bite: Non-toxic Relief for Mosquito Bites
  8. FAQs

When the sun is shining and your kids are eager to play outside, the last thing you want is to worry about bug bites. But with bug season upon us, pesky mosquito bites can quickly turn a joyful adventure into a scratchy nightmare. Beyond comfort and inconvenience, ticks and mosquitoes can carry diseases - not something you want to risk with your children. Using non-toxic insect repellents for kids ensures they stay safe from mosquitoes and ticks without exposure to harmful chemicals. This guide explores natural, eco-friendly solutions to ensure your children can experience the endless benefits of outdoor play throughout the year while reducing the risks and discomforts associated with bugs. 

The Importance of Outdoor Play for Kids

Letting children explore the great outdoors isn't just about fun and games. Numerous studies published by highly respected institutions highlight the crucial role outdoor play has in a child's development:

  • Physical Health: Fresh air and sunshine promote healthy bone growth through Vitamin D synthesis, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Outdoor play also encourages physical activity, reducing the risk of childhood obesity.
  • Mental and Emotional Well-being: A recent study  by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that spending time in nature reduces stress, improves focus, and boosts mood in children.
  • Cognitive Development: Unstructured outdoor play allows children to explore, experiment, and solve problems, fostering creativity and critical thinking skills. This was highlighted in a study published in the Journal of School Health by researchers at Arizona State University.

For more information on the benefits of outdoor play for children's development and wellbeing, check out our comprehensive article here.

Why Choose Non-Toxic Bug Solutions for Kids?

While traditional insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) offer effective protection against mosquitoes and other bugs, they raise concerns for parents seeking a safer alternative for their children. Here's why non-toxic options are worth considering:

By opting for DEET-free, non-toxic solutions, parents can ensure their children are protected from pesky insects and the diseases they spread without the worry of potential health complications, allowing them to enjoy the outdoors with greater peace of mind.

Top Ingredients in Non-Toxic Bug Repellents

When looking for natural, child-safe mosquito protection, consider these effective ingredients:

  1. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE):
    • Approved by the CDC for effectiveness against mosquitoes, including some that may carry diseases like Zika
    • Studies show protection can last up to six hours
    • Not recommended for children under three years old
  2. Citronella Oil:
    • Offers decent protection against mosquitoes
    • Effectiveness typically lasts around two hours
    • Generally safe for most ages, but follow label instructions
  3. Geranium Oil:
    • Effective against mosquitoes and other flying insects
    • Protection lasts up to two hours
    • Not recommended for children under three
  4. Catnip Oil:
    • Emerging research suggests effectiveness against mosquitoes and ticks
    • Duration of protection still under study
    • Best for older children due to limited data

    How to Choose the Best Non-Toxic Bug Repellent for Kids

    When selecting a natural insect repellent for your child, consider these factors:

    1. Age Appropriateness: Ensure the product is safe for your child's age group. Some ingredients, like OLE, are not recommended for very young children.
    2. Activity Level: For active kids or longer outdoor sessions, choose repellents with longer-lasting protection like OLE-based products.
    3. Application Method: Consider sprays, lotions, or balms based on your child's preference and ease of application.
    4. Ingredients: Look for products with a higher concentration of proven effective ingredients like OLE or citronella.
    5. Environmental Factors: Consider your local climate and the types of insects most prevalent in your area.

    While the benefits of outdoor play are undeniable, bug bites can certainly put a damper on the fun. Mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects can not only cause itchy irritation but also transmit diseases. This is a particular concern in areas with high rates of Lyme disease or West Nile virus.

    However, this doesn't mean you have to keep your kids cooped up inside. The following sections will explore various non-toxic and eco-friendly strategies to keep bugs at bay and ensure a happy, healthy time outdoors.

    Choosing the Right Non-toxic Safe and Effective Repellent

    When selecting a non-toxic repellent, consider your child's age and activity level. OLE is a great option that provides longer-lasting protection for children over 3 years old.



    murphy's lemon eucalyptus oil repellent in nature
    Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil insect repellent spray is a classic plant-based non-toxic option - DEET-free, and provides long-lasting protection. This is our repellent of choice with our own son, who's loved by mosquitos. It works well and is especially effective when paired with other anti bug strategies. It proved itself even by lake in the thick woods of the Michigan's Upper Peninsular, where mosquitoes are especially bad.


    Looking for the best non-toxic insect repellent for a baby or toddler? Consider California Baby Citronella & Lemongrass bug repellent. It is safe for use with babies 6 months of age and older. Earthly Pest Aside bug repellent is also safe for 6M+ babies and made from safe predominantly organic ingredients. Another good option is Badger mosquito repellent, made from 95% organic ingredients and produced at a 100% solar manufacturing facility, making it both a safe non-toxic choice as well as eco-friendly.

    Earthley non-toxic kids' insect repellent how it works

    Another good spray we like for family use is US Organic mosquito repellent spray consisting of various essential oils like Lemongrass Oil, Citronella Oil, Cedar Oil, Rosemary Oil, Peppermint Oil, Geranium Oil, Lavender Oil. 

    Remember, with most natural repellents, regular reapplication throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming, is crucial for optimal protection.

    Summary Comparison of Non-Toxic Bug Repellents

    Here's a comparison table of popular non-toxic bug repellents for kids:

    Product Name Active Ingredients Age Range Protection Duration Special Features
    Earthley Non-Toxic Kids' Insect Repellent Coconut, neem oil, citronella and patchouli essential oils 6 months+ 2-3 hours USDA Certified Organic
    Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Spray Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus 3 years+ Up to 6 hours DEET-free, Plant-based
    California Baby Citronella & Lemongrass Citronella, Lemongrass, cedarwood oils 6 months+ 2-3 hours Gentle formula for babies
    Badger Anti-Bug Balm Citronella, Cedarwood, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Geranium oils 6 months+ 2-3 hours 95% Organic ingredients
    US Organic Mosquito Repellent Spray Lemongrass, Citronella, Cedar, Rosemary, Peppermint, Geranium oils All ages 2-3 hours USDA Certified Organic

    Alternative Bug-Repelling Strategies

    While repellents are a great first line of defense (we will explore non-toxic repellents later in this article), there are several creative ways to reduce your child's exposure to bugs without resorting to chemicals.

    Dress for Defense: Clothing can be a powerful tool in the fight against bug bites. Opt for long, loose-fitting clothing made with natural fibers like organic cotton or linen. Tight clothes can trap bugs closer to your child's skin, while looser garments create a barrier and make it harder for them to land.

    In your search for chemical free non-toxic anti-bug clothing you likely stumbled upon insect shield clothing line for kids and adults. To achieve bug repellent qualities, these clothes are treated with an insecticide called "permethrin". 

    What it is: Permethrin is a common insecticide used in various products like bug sprays, lice treatments, and clothing treatments. It works by affecting the nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and death.


    • Potential Carcinogen: The EPA classifies permethrin as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans" based on animal studies, though the risk for humans is considered low with proper use.
    • Skin Irritation: Permethrin can cause skin irritation, redness, and itching, especially for those with sensitive skin.
    • Toxicity for Young Children: Due to their tendency to put things in their mouths, permethrin is not recommended for direct application to young children as it can be toxic if ingested.

    Consider these non-toxic clothing tips for added protection:

    • If you dressed your child in appropriate protective clothing, but mosquitos are so bad, they are biting them in the neck or face, consider purchasing head netting. While kids won't love wearing them, when bugs are really bad, this may be the difference between being inside and staying outside. They take up almost no space and are great to have in your outdoor gear bag or at home for outdoor play. 
    • Spray your and your kids' clothes with one of the recommended above non-toxic safe bug repellent sprays. This would serve as an additional protection. 

    Time Your Adventures Wisely: Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Plan outdoor activities for the middle of the day when bug activity is lower. If venturing out during peak mosquito hours is unavoidable, like when you are camping, consider using a screened gazebo to create a bug-free haven.

    Become a Backyard Bug Buster: Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around your home to significantly reduce their population. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water. Check for and empty any containers that hold water, such as buckets, birdbaths, or clogged gutters. Change the water in wading pools and fountains weekly. Keep your lawn mowed and eliminate tall weeds and overgrown areas where mosquitoes like to hide. Additionally, consider using non-toxic, eco-friendly, kid and pet safe outdoor yard spray like Wondercide. This yard bug spray is made in the USA from biodegradable plant-based ingredients, can treat up to 5,000 sq ft. The downside - it is quite pricey, so may not be in everyone's budget. Another good option is Cedarcide - cedar granules you can sprinkle outside around your yard, flower beds, kids' play areas. This is another eco-friendly 100% natural option for additional protection against mosquitos, fleas, and other mites. 

    Embrace Natural Bug Repellents: Certain plants are known to have natural insect-repelling properties. Especially if you enjoy gardening anyway, consider planting herbs like citronella, lemongrass, basil, rosemary, peppermint, or catnip around your porch or patio. Marigolds also have mosquito repelling properties. While not as strong as repellents and unlikely to work alone, these fragrant plants can create a natural barrier against mosquitoes and other flying insects. 

    By combining these non-repellent strategies with a safe, non-toxic insect repellent, you can create a multi-layered defense that allows your child to enjoy the outdoors comfortably and safely. Remember, the most effective approach often involves using a combination of methods. 

    Soothing after the Bite: Non-toxic Relief for Mosquito Bites

    Even with the best precautions, bug bites can sometimes happen. Here are some gentle, non-toxic options to soothe your child's itchy discomfort:

    • Cooling Comfort: A cool compress or damp washcloth applied to the bite can help reduce swelling and itching. You can also try a cool chamomile tea soak for a more calming effect.

    • Baking Soda Paste: Mix a baking soda paste with a little water and apply it directly to the bite to create a drying effect and reduce inflammation.

    • Non-toxic bug bite relief products like this Earthley Black Drawing Salve, which is a good solution not just for mosquito bites, but also sprinters, stings, poison ivy and more. Murphy's soothing balm and Badger organic afterbite itch relief are also great options for soothing bites. 
    • Bug bite suction tool - works by removing insect saliva or venom from the skin through the use of suction. Works quite well if used fairly soon after bite. 
    • Oatmeal Bath: Oatmeal has long been known for its soothing properties. Grind up oatmeal into a fine powder and sprinkle it into your child's bathwater for a gentle, itch-relieving soak.

    Remember, by avoiding scratching, which can worsen the bite and increase the risk of infection, and using these natural remedies, you can help your child find comfort and prevent bug bites from turning into bigger problems.

    Bottom linewith the right preparation, your kids can experience the endless benefits of outdoor play without the worry of bug bites. This guide has equipped you with a toolbox of non-toxic and eco-friendly strategies. From natural repellents to creative clothing choices and backyard bug control, you can create a multi-layered defense that allows your children to explore, discover, and connect with nature safely and comfortably. Remember, the most effective approach often combines several methods. So, pack your picnic basket, embrace the fresh air, and let the outdoor adventures begin!


    1. Q: Are natural repellents as effective as DEET-based ones? A: While DEET is highly effective, studies show that natural ingredients like Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can provide comparable protection for shorter durations.
    2. Q: How often should I reapply natural repellents? A: Most natural repellents need to be reapplied every 2-3 hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
    3. Q: Can I use essential oils directly on my child's skin? A: It's best to use formulated products rather than pure essential oils, as they can be too strong for direct application on children's skin.
    4. Q: Are there any natural repellents safe for infants? A: Some products recommended above are safe for babies as young as 6 months, but always check the label and consult with your pediatrician. Protective clothing is your best defense mechanism for the littlest ones. 
    5. Q: Do natural repellents protect against ticks as well as mosquitoes? A: Some natural ingredients offer protection against ticks, but efficacy can vary. Products containing Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus do provide some tick protection.

    By combining these non-toxic strategies with safe, natural insect repellents, you can create a multi-layered defense that allows your child to enjoy the outdoors comfortably and safely. Remember, the most effective approach often involves using a combination of methods. So, pack your picnic basket, embrace the fresh air, and let the outdoor adventures begin!

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. These links help support our blog and allow us to continue providing valuable content. 

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