Resources for safe, non-toxic art supplies so your kids can get messy and creative without worry over exposure to toxic chemicals.
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 hidden chemicals in art supplies. First of all, because every thing goes in their mouths – the crayons, the paint-covered hands – you know what I mean! When kids use art supplies, chemicals are being absorbed right through the skin and can off-gas into the air they breathe. Because of their small size and immature immune systems, these exposures have a greater impact on kids than adults.
Some of the bad stuff that may be lurking in art supplies include:
- lead, cadmium and other heavy metals
- touline, xylene, ammonia and other VOCs (volitile organic chemicals) that off-gas dangerous fumes
- PVC and phthalates
Non-Toxic Art Supplies
Luckily, there are plenty of non-toxic art supplies available to keep our little artists in business! Keep these tips and safer alternatives in mind next time you purchase art supplies:
(*affiliate links ahead)
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. These paints 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.
Traditional colored pencils use chemical based pigments and may be coated with toxic varnish. Pencils made from sustainable wood and non-toxic pigments are better for people and the planet.
- 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.
Conventional crayons are made with petroleum based paraffin wax and artificial, chemical-based colors. Look for crayons made with beeswax or soy wax, and non-toxic pigments instead.
- 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.
Modeling Clay & 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. Vegetable based clays colored with food ingredients are a better choice.
- 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.
- Homemade play dough
Most sidewalk chalk is make with artificial colors and some off-brands could be contaminated with heavy metals. Vegetable colored chalk is the safest option.
Avoid rubber cement and model glues that emit toxic VOCs. Stick to water-based glue instead.
Many markers contain highly toxic chemical solvents like xylene, or are alcohol-based. Stick to water-based markers for kids.
- Jolly 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.
Your turn: What are your favorite non-toxic art supplies for kids?
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