Tips for Healthier Art Supplies

Tips for Healthier Art Supplies

August 19, 2023

By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director

Creative play is great for your children’s development, but what about the paints, markers or glues they use?

Many common art supplies contain chemicals that may be harmful to your little ones. And playtime provides an easy pathway for those chemicals to enter their bodies: Children touch and feel their favorite supplies, absorbing chemicals through the skin, and then put those hands right in their mouths, further ingesting them.

The good news: art materials for children are generally safer than those made for adult artists.

Here are some tips to help your children enjoy all the fun of arts and crafts while reducing their exposure to chemicals – both at home and at school:

Research before buying or using.

Visit Healthy Child’s Go Back to School with Safer Art Supplies to learn about chemical hazards in markers, pens, clay, crayons, glue, paints and more, then check out our Keep Your Little Artist Safe infographic on how to avoid toxic chemicals in arts and crafts. Find more tips in EWG’s Back-to School Guide and this Art and Craft Safety Guide from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

California identifies and restricts the use and purchase of potentially hazardous art supplies for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. The state’s guidelines are a helpful resource for parents of older kids who are ready to use adult art supplies with supervision, and caregivers and teachers looking for safer options for middle and high schoolers.

Play safely.

Choose a well-ventilated room for creative play. Encourage hand-washing after play and always before meals (don’t eating while using art supplies). Read and follow labels for ingredients, warnings and safe handling instructions.

Art products with the Art and Creative Materials Institute seal on the packaging have been reviewed according to voluntary industry standards. Those labeled “AP” are free of safety hazards, but those marked “CL” carry safety warnings and could pose a risk. Art supplies are popular gifts, so check labels on presents or donated items as well.

Store supplies securely, especially if there are younger siblings in the house, and keep container lids closed when not in use. Older kids can use adult art supplies with proper supervision. 

Get involved at school.

At school, your children may be exposed to different supplies. Ask teachers about what supplies they stock in classrooms and what use policies are in place. The way kids interact, play together and share means sending your kids to school with safe supplies may not be enough.

Suggest alternatives to potentially risky products or uses. To aid the conversation, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment offers these informative Guidelines for the Safe Use of Arts and Crafts Materials.

Then rest easy and enjoy creative time with your kids!