What better way for children to bring out their imagination
and allow their creativity to surface than by creating art.
Art of any type or medium allows kids to express their emotions,
to learn and develop appreciation for art. It's wonderful
when their school provides art projects for them or when
they are encouraged at home to express their creative side.
As adults we need to make sure that we provide for children
a safe environment to do art. Many adults are unaware that
certain arts and crafts materials can be dangerous to
Long exposure to some type of paints, solvents, glue, and
other craft materials can hurt our children's health because
they may contain substances that have been shown to cause
tissue and organ damage, affect their mental state, make
their allergies worse or cause other more serious side effects.
Some crayons, paints and inks may contain lead. Rubber cement,
aerosol spray paints and fixatives, as permanent markers
may contain solvents. Some arts and crafts materials may
even contain other chemicals that children should avoid.
Since children's bodies have not fully developed, they are
more (than adults) susceptible to toxics. Most art materials
are designed and tested for adults, so these materials have
a more concentrated effect on children. Children with a curious
nature may tend to use these art materials inappropriately
by putting some materials in their mouth, inhale fumes from
paint or spill them, increasing their exposure to these chemicals.
To help your children have a safe art experience, here are
some things you can do:
- Keep a telephone handy with the telephone number to your
local Poison Control Center so you can call immediately in
case a child swallows a product by accident. Keep the product
close by for label information.
- Examine the labels of all the materials you will use.
Art materials that pose a chronic health hazard must have
a warning label by law with a statement saying that it is
inappropriate for children. Do not use these materials.
Only use non-toxic products that have the statement: "Conforms
to ASTM D-4236" which is required by the Labeling of Hazardous
Art Materials Act and are specifically designed for children.
- Do not use old materials or materials that do not have
a label on them. There used to be less strict laws before and
you don't know what they may contain.
- Do not use any type of solvents with children.
- Avoid paint powder mixes, which can get in the eyes or
can be inhaled. Adults can prepare these ahead of time if
you need to use them.
- Adults should do any part that may require aerosol spray
cans, air brushes, etc. outdoors.
- If a child has an open cut or sore, make sure it's well
protected or change the art activity to something that may
not irritate the cut or sore.
- At all ages make sure children are supervised by an adult
when doing art projects.
- Do work in a ventilated area. If you can't work outside,
make sure windows are open and use a fan if available.
- Always instruct children on the proper use of the art
materials they will be using before they being their art
- While working on a project, take time to put the lids
back on paints, glues, solvents and other materials that
came with a lid.
- Do not eat, drink or snack while doing an art project.
- Do not work near eating areas and do not use eating
containers to mix paints or to store art materials.
- With children under 6 years old, distribute small amounts
of materials at a time. This will help them use the materials
they have instead of wanting to play with the rest of the
- Observe the child while working with art materials and
see if there are any allergies or reactions to the materials,
as some kids are sensitive to certain products.
- If using markers stick with washable markers. If using
crayons avoid the imported type as they may not have proper
- When finished with the art project, clean the materials
used completely, as well as the area you worked on right
- Mop the floor to get rid of chemicals better.
- Children should wash their hands thoroughly when finished
with their art project.
- Put away all materials that need supervision and carefully
stored them away from children's reach when not in use.
Taking these safety precautions can make your children's
art experience not only fun and rewarding but safe.
Gladys Jimenez is an artist, art docent and founder of Happy Scribbles, where kids can create art, learn about
art, enter contests, win art supplies and color on line. Visit Gladys at Happy Scribbles.