Question: My youngest daughter’s preschool class keeps putting food dyes in various projects. I have read that when eaten, they are linked to various things like hyperactivity when you eat them. I’m curious if they’re safe to play with. Actually I’m curious about art supplies in general. What’s safe? – Anabelle, mom of 3
Answer: Such a good question. What’s a proper childhood without crayons and markers and paint and all the other supplies that create art and make a happy mess in the process? Though these early-year essentials unlock creativity, learning, and more, the materials they’re made from aren’t always chemical-free. Some art supplies emit toxic fumes — even ones labeled “non-toxic.” Others put unsafe chemicals and hazards in contact with our children’s highly absorbent skin. These issues are compounded by the tendency kids have to create with wild abandon, which spreads the mess around and increases the chances for exposure.
Not making art and crafts isn’t an option, so instead, make sure to choose art supplies made from natural, not synthetic materials; this includes the pigments. You can also make your own paints and play dough — it’s not difficult and then you’re in charge of the ingredients.
When in the market for new art supplies, look for water-based, washable markers and pens, as well as pre-mixed and water-based paints with natural pigments. Avoid powdered and acrylic paints as well as conventional modeling clay. If you’re collaging, choose white glues and glue sticks over rubber cement, spray adhesives, or any super glues; these contain unhealthy solvents to speed drying times. And don’t let kids chew on crayons!
Last but not least, it’s always a good idea to wash hands after crafting and before snacking.
To learn the specifics about the potentially harmful chemicals found in everything from finger paints to facepaints, check out our latest free-to-download ebook Easy Steps to Safer Toys & Gear, as well as our latest infographic, which is all about safer art supplies: