What’s more fun than finger paint? Or getting messy with markers, glue and clay? When you set your kids up at the art table, you want them to dive in, get creative and have fun! The last thing you want to have to worry about is safety.
Unfortunately, because of the lax regulations governing the use of chemicals in our country, untested, dangerous chemicals are allowed in many products that we use every day, including art supplies.
Why It Matters
Children are especially vulnerable to these hidden health hazards for a number or reasons. First of all, because every thing goes in their mouths – the crayons, the paint-covered hands – am I right? When kids use art supplies, chemicals are being absorbed right through the skin and fumes are in the air they breathe. Because of their small size and immature immune systems, these exposures have a greater impact on kids.
Some of the bad stuff that may be lurking in your art supplies include:
- lead, cadmium and other heavy metals
- touline, xylene, ammonia and other VOCs (volitile organic chemicals) that offgas dangerous fumes
- PVC and phthalates
Non-Toxic Art Supplies
Lucky for us, there are plenty of non-toxic art supplies available to keep our little artists in business! Keep these tips and suggestions in mind next time you purchase art supplies:
Beware of oil based paints containing chemical solvents like methyl alcohol and toluene that emit dangerous VOCs. Also avoid paints colored with pigments made from highly toxic metals such as cadmium, arsenic, and lead, and may also contain formaldehyde. Children should always use water-based paints instead of oil based paints.
- Glob – Water based paints made with pigments found in vegetables, fruits, roots, herbs and spices.
- Eco-Kids – Finger paint made with fruit, plant and vegetable extracts from annatto seed, beets, carrots, purple sweet potato, red cabbage and spinach, and other natural ingredients.
- Wee Can Too – Finger paint made with real vegetables. Vegan, wheat free and sugar free.
- Natural Earth – Face paint made with certified organic ingredients including beeswax and shea butter.
Conventional crayons are made with petroleum based paraffin wax and artificial, chemical-based colors.
- Stockmar – Beeswax crayons made with food-grade pigments that pass tests for detection of pesticide residues, PCB’s and heavy metals.
- Filana – Paraffin free, organic beeswax crayons.
- Eco-Kids – Crayon rocks made with natural wax and mineral pigments.
- Honeysticks – Chubby beeswax crayons made with non-toxic pigments.
- Crayon Rocks – Non toxic soy wax crayons designed to strengthen grip muscles.
- Earth Grown Crayons – Etsy shop selling fun-shaped crayons made with natural soy wax and non toxic mineral pigments.
Traditional colored pencils use chemical based pigments and may be coated with toxic varnish.
- Trimax – Natural pencils made from reforested wood with a safe lacquer finish.
- Stubby Pencil Studio – Eco dry highlighter pencils made with sustainable wood and non-toxic pigments.
Modeling clay and play dough
Polymer clay, used for modeling, is typically made with PVC material and softened with toxic phthalates. Most play dough, although labeled non-toxic, is colored with artificial colors.
- Pastilina – Vegetable based modeling clay
- Eco Kids – Handmade eco-dough colored with real ingredients like blueberries, beets and carrots.
- Wee Can Too – Veggie dough – comes in powder form so you can mix it yourself.
- DIY play dough – Here’s a recipe from Katie at Non-Toxic Kids. (check pinterest)
Avoid rubber cement and model glues that emit toxic VOCs. Stick to water-based glue instead.
- Tessa Bunny – Cornstarch based organic glue
- Homemade glue (check pinterest)
Many markers contain highly toxic chemical solvents like xylene, or are alcohol-based. Stick to water-based markers for kids.
- Duo felt tip markers – water based and certified non-toxic
- Non-toxic water-based, non-scented markers
- Note: Water-based markers are safer and easier to clean up too!
Skip smocks made with toxic PVC vinyl material.
- 100% cotton art aprons with a water-based acrylic coating in adorable prints.
Choose eco-friendly art pads to go along with your non-toxic art supplies.
- Eco Kids – Eco art pad – FSC certified paper
- Strathmore – Drawing pad made from 100% post consumer recycled paper.
As a parent, there is nothing quite as special as the drawings, paintings and other artwork made by my children. I proudly display them on the walls and tables in our home and finally tuck them into a box to save for later, when childhood is just a memory.
Your turn: What are your favorite safe art supplies for kids?
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(Image credit: jdurham via MorgueFile)