Heathly Crafting with Children

This article has been tough to write because the crafting world is gigantic…it’s impossible to try and cover the thousands of products that crafty people have in their cupboard. I walk into a Michaels store and I’m overwhelmed by two things: the varied depth of their craft materials and how much of it is imported & very cheaply produced. So much of that stores reminds me of the dollar store and it makes me nervous. I’m an average person on the scale of crafty – my children have always loved painting and making little projects, but with the inevitable smell that comes from opening specific paints, glues, and inks, I’m admittedly a little skeptical of how healthy these supplies actually are.

The inspiration for this article comes from a woman in the US, named Julia Andrus, who created a line of crafting materials after surviving a self described ‘mean’ cancer. Julia realized her exposure to even low levels of toxic materials in craft supplies could have contributed to her chemical exposure. On a mission to change her lifestyle and environment, Julia created EcoGreen Crafts and I guess it’s because an avid crafter created this line of products, the quality is as effective and amazing as traditional supplies. I’ve found in the past that sometimes using plant-based crafting products you loose some of the texture in paint and glue. This isn’t the case with the acrylic paint and Green Glue and is the reason I’ve stocked Green Planet Parties with these products. Just like my claim with the O’Bon pencil crayons (best I’ve every used) I can say the same about the EcoGreen Crafts Acrylic Paint.  They are amazing!  I asked some seriously crafty people to test the acrylic paint and everyone reports back loving it! It’s creamy, comes in a great sized tube, and there is no scent because the non-metallic shades of these paints are no-VOC. The metallic paints in this line are anchored to a No-VOC base, but end up being low-VOC after the metal pigment has been added. The popular 6 colors I’ve chosen to carry are popular with children and contain no volatile organic compounds. These paints are not manufactured in North America and that is reflected in the price point. These non-toxic paints are priced equally to traditional acrylic paints which is wonderful…parents love switching to same priced greener products, but while the price would increase, I hope they are one day manufactured in the US. If you’ve been searching for plant based white glue? This all-purpose green glue is great for back-to-school shopping.

For parents that enjoy painting with powdered paint, setup your environment with plant based so that powder cannot be inhaled that may contain lead. There are several paints on the market that use plant based pigments..the only brand I’ve tried is GLOB and these paints are manufactured in the US. As far as paint brushes go – I’m actively researching a ‘greener’ paintbrush. It’s actually a very difficult product because you are dealing with two issues: the handle and brush materials. If you go for a non-synthetic brush you might have anxiety about the methods used to obtain real animal hair for the brush…and these brushes are super expensive. ‘Greening’ up the handle of paint brushes is relatively easy because there are bamboo brushes on the market, but I’ve yet to find a brush I’m happy with at an affordable price.

Hands down – this point is the most important for providing healthier sculpture based craft material for your child! Don’t ever waste your money again on store bought play dough. From the amount of traffic and comments on this article “The Perfect Home Made Play Dough Recipe!” I know how many parents have discovered how easy, affordable and fun making your own play dough can be. Kids love to sculpt and it unleashes free-play at it’s best for young children and since you’ve made the dough yourself, you don’t need to worry if a small piece ends up in a child’s mouth. I’ve also experienced headaches from the synthetic scent from store bought play dough. Another sculpting product that shouldn’t be sold or wind up in your home is polymer clay that is used for sculpting small figurines…it’s made from PVC! Invest in clay that is packaged and marked ‘non-toxic’ and PVC-free. The dollar stores are not where you should be purchasing materials like this…there are no sort of guidelines it seems for this material. The amount of incorrect information on the internet about polymer clay is disturbing. Many crafting sites list polymer clay as a safe material even though it contains PVC and phthalates…it’s disturbing. I don’t have a source/brand for an alternative to PVC based polymer clay but I will post in the comments when I find one.

I was spoiled years ago when trying Clementine Art crayons – they were like applying butter to paper. I think all children would miss the variety of colors that you can achieve with a box of Crayola crayons, but traditional crayons are manufactured with paraffin wax which is petroleum. There are many brands of soy or beeswax based crayons if you are looking to ‘green’ your art supplies. I think the soy brands offer more color options, but I have only had the pleasure of using beeswax based.

Pencil crayons and pencils can easily be ‘greened’ with O’Bon. I’ve written about this brand before and love that these pencils are not produced by trees, but made from recycled newspapers. Not only is the story behind O’Bon cool, but I’ve never been happier with the pencil crayons. The quality is amazing and children love the fruit or wild-animal designs.

You can tell from the length of this article the crafting world is a vast area to try and write about in one article. For those searching for North American made craft sets which are convenient and make a great gift – check out the new brand Artterro I found at My Little Green Shop. Just one look at the packaging and you know this brand is different. I can’t wait to try these kits with my kids – not only are the supplies made of higher quality (glass beads vs. plastic, felt wool, handmade paper) but many of the components are made in the US. The craft world has seemed slow to manufacture locally – the concern of course that crafting will no longer be an affordable pass-time. It’s nice to see companies like Artterro putting an emphasis on this and side stepping the norm of producing craft kits that are filled with questionable ingredients – both for human health and the environment. Differences that impress me are the wool felt dresses in the Art Dolls Kit, copper wire & wooden handles (!!) in the amazing Bubble Wand Kits (eeep I love these!!), and for the older crowd the Paint with Wool Kits are very unique. Imagine encouraging a child to felt? It’s incredible that the boxes that Artterro supplies are packaged in can be transformed into frames to later showcase art work. Pictured below are the finished kits from Artterro with bubble wands and felt painting.

I hope this gives you a starting point to help green your craft supplies. It’s a huge undertaking, but like greening your bathroom or kitchen, I recommend starting with baby steps and incorporating these changes when you’re looking to replenish art supplies. Look for crafts with No-VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) which are the chemicals that produce off-gassing vapors. Packaging is a great way to improve your craft supplies and look for supplies marked ‘non-toxic’, made with soy or beeswax, PVC-free and phthalate-free. I’ll have more recommendations coming in August because once again I’ll be putting together my own school supply boxes for my children with an effort to create kits that are more sustainable and chemical free. Stay tuned and please share your experiences with sourcing better quality craft supplies.

Related Posts:

Wildlife Pencils Produced from Recycled Newspapers

Clementine Art – Naturally Artistic


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3 Responses to Heathly Crafting with Children

  1. suzanne July 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    And through the magic of Twitter we have a play clay solution! Thanks to http://www.mama-ks.com/ for letting us know about their great gluten-free play clay.

  2. Emmie July 30, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    Do you have any recommendations on scissors for elementary aged kids? I’ve seen some with recycled materials, but they also have some sort of anti-microbial protection. Is that really “protection” or is it some other form of toxic chemical or plastic our kids are coming into contact with? Thanks for sharing your efforts to provide a healthier environment for families.

  3. Sayed August 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    While looking for green, chemical-free toys for my baby, I found this Ontario-based website/shop: http://www.babynaturopathics.com
    They have many safe products and toys including art and crafts supplies. As with most green/safe products, the ones they sell are a bit pricey, but well worth the money.

    BTW, your site is very informative. I ‘found it’ a few months ago and ever since I always look stuff up here before buying anything for my kid. Great work!

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