The Importance of Choosing Nontoxic Art Supplies for Kids—Plus, All of Our Favorites
It's no secret that art is essential to a child's cognitive, emotional, and cultural development. That's why it's so important to have safe art supplies available to them as early in life as possible. "Art teaches children about creative problem solving, emotional resilience, and innovative thinking," says Meg Bourne, founder of Art Feeds, an organization that provides free art supplies and creative education programming to over 58,000 children worldwide. "Whether it's with paint or crayons, there is so much power in giving kids the tools to turn an idea into something."
Unfortunately, not all art supplies are created equal. "According to the Children's Health and Environmental Coalition, exposure to the toxic chemicals found in some art supplies (including paints, glues, markers, solvents, and glazes) can result in problems ranging from headaches and nausea to cancer or death," says Leah Fanning, the owner and founder of Natural Earth Paint. "Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxins because of their small size, higher metabolisms, and immature immune systems."
Fanning discovered that a majority of kid-catered art supplies are actually brimming with hazardous ingredients. "As a mom and professional artist, I researched what was in conventional children's and artist's paints and was shocked," Fanning explains, "formaldehyde-based preservatives, petroleum-based dyes, toxic additives, heavy metals, parabens, and phthalates—all of which can sink into the pores of children's skin and into their bloodstreams just by getting it on their hands."
Ready to get your hands on some truly child-safe art supplies? Here are ten nontoxic art items that your kids will love as much as you do.
Martha Stewart Family-Friendly Craft Paints
"Kids love to paint," says Jamie Schmidt, a sixth-grade art teacher, "but a lot of it is heavy metal-laden." By contrast, Martha Stewart's family-friendly paint is a nontoxic, indoor/outdoor paint. Its highly pigmented color comes in 60 whimsical names—like "Kiddie Pool," "Candy Apple," and "Teddy Bear."
Martha Stewart Family-Friendly Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint, in Ultramarine, $2.49, michaels.com.
Studio Skinky Playon Crayons
Designed to strengthen tripod grip muscles and improve motor coordination, these eco-friendly kid's crayons at Crayon Rocks are composed of solid soy wax, so they're free of harmful toxins, too.
Studio Skinky Primary Playon Crayons, $12, studioskinky.com.
Eco-Kids Eco Dough
While it's often labeled as nontoxic, most play dough on the market is colored with artificial ingredients—making it less kid-proof than you might have imagined. Go for vegetable-based clays, like Eco Dough, that are made with real ingredients like blueberries, beets and carrots, for a product that's 100 percent all-natural and kid-friendly.
Eco-Kids Eco Dough, $23.59, amazon.com.
We Can Too Veggie Baby Sidewalk Chalk
Believe it or not, some brands of sidewalk chalk may be contaminated with dangerous heavy metals, like lead. Stick with organic chalk, like this veggie-based option from Wee Can Too, so your kids can color the streets safely.
Veggie Baby The Original Sidewalk Chalk, $15, veggiebaby.com.
OMY Magical Felt Pens
The only thing better than a beautiful set of nontoxic markers is one with color-changing pens. This water-based box of markers at Omy features 16 felt tip pens that can change colors when mixed with a special marker that comes included—all made locally in a French factory to support the local economy and minimize their environmental footprint.
OMY Magical Felt Pens, $16, us.omy-maison.com.
Macaron Pom Maker
Dexterity is good for everyone, including little crafters. Developed to be your tool of choice–it makes perfect pom-poms, feels good to hold (made from solid beech wood), and comes in a few select colors from safe, nontoxic paint.
Macaron Pom Maker, in Rose, $18, pommaker.com.
Onyx and Green Liquid Glue
Looking for a good glue that's free of toxic VOCS? This transparent quick-dry glue at Earth Hero is made of plant-based materials but is still more than strong enough to hold your kid's art project together.
Onyx and Green Plant Based Clear Liquid Glue, $5, earthhero.com.
Eco-Kids Eco-Art Pad
No kid-safe art session would be complete without a nontoxic drawing pad to color or paint on. This eco-conscious art pad at is made in Maine with FSC certified paper and printed using soy inks for added earth friendliness.
Eco-Kids Eco-Art Pad, $8, shop.ecokidsusa.com.
Alpino Colored Pencils
Traditional colored pencils use chemical-based pigments and may be coated with toxic varnish. Not only are these sustainable colored pencils made of reforested wood with natural lacquer finish, they also feature an ergonomic triangular barrel shape that can help improve your kid's hand coordination, too.
Alpino Trimax Jumbo Triangular Colored Pencils, $12, amazon.com.
Natural Earth Face Paint
Looking for a way for your kids to safely play with face paint? This clay and mineral-based face and body paint is free of nano particles, heavy metals, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and petroleum-based dyes—and boasts organic skin conditioners, like shea butter, to boot.
Natural Earth Paint The Mini Natural Face Paint Kit, $13, naturalearthpaint.com.