The Toxic Truth Behind Children's Non-Toxic Art & Craft Supplies | | Do you know the truth about "non-toxic" labels on kids art and craft supplies?

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Parents of toddlers know that having art and craft supplies available are a must. Not only are they a fun way to keep children entertained and busy, but they provide much needed creative and developmental stimulation as well.

To those of us who’ve come round to doing things a bit more naturally, the problem isn’t with arts and crafts in general. The problem is with many of the products our children use for arts and crafts. Sure almost all products created for children say “non-toxic”, but what does that really mean? If it says “non-toxic” does that mean we as parents don’t need to worry about it at all? If so, why do the products recommend calling poison control if the product is ingested?

For older children who know not to paint themselves with markers and not to eat the glue, this may not be as much of a concern, but with young children who are curious about everything, this can be a real concern for parents.

Today I want to talk briefly about the concern that many natural parents have when it comes to their small children using non-toxic arts and craft supplies as well as what you can do if you want to make your child’s supplies a bit safer.

What Does “Non-Toxic” Mean?

When you see craft supplies that say “non-toxic” on the label it means that the product isn’t going to be toxic to your child’s body if they inhale it, if it gets on their skin, or if they ingest some of it. It doesn’t mean they won’t get sick… it just means that it won’t poison them. I mean, how would you feel if you ate a tube of glue? Your stomach probably wouldn’t feel to great. You may feel nauseous. You may get a head ache. You may even get some diarrhea. But, you won’t die. It may be taxing to your body and some of your organs, but it won’t overload them and cause any major or permanent damage.

This may be reassuring to most parents, and in many ways it’s reassuring to me as well. I’m grateful my kids have something semi-safe to play with, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to worry or keep an eye on them when they’re using them.

We all know that there are chemicals and ingredients used in art and craft supplies that we don’t really like. Things that we don’t really want being absorbed into our children’s skin or going into their mouths. Like I said before, older children are at an age where they would rather use their supplies on paper than rub them all over their skin, but little ones aren’t there. They want to taste and feel everything. That’s natural. They’re curious. Plus, they’re messy which means accidents are bound to happen.

What About Poison Control?

Another big concern when it comes to “non-toxic” art and craft supplies is the poison control label. This article on Art Supplies and Poison Control by states that, “In 2009, the nation’s 57 poison control centers received more than 35,000 calls about exposures to art products; of these, more than 26,000 calls concerned children younger than 6.” This is 2013. I’m curious if these numbers have changed for the better or for the worse.

Many parents wonder that if the product is “non-toxic” then why does it need that warning label?

The reason is because the products are not poisonous in small amounts, but some could be in large amounts. Some products contain chemicals, alcohols, pigments, and more that can in fact poison a small child if ingested in large amounts.

So does that mean that non-toxic isn’t really… non-toxic?

The Reality Of It All

All of my children are currently under the age of 6. I don’t know about you, but I I’m a busy mama with a lot to do. Sometimes it’s nice to set all the kids at the table and give them some craft supplies to play with while I make lunch in the next room. But even though I’m right beside of them where I can see them and check on them often, I still don’t feel comfortable with the risk that could be involved in using certain crafting supplies. Kids are kids. There is a chance that they’ll ingest them, and that means that there’s a chance that their bodies could be harmed. My job is to keep them safe. So either I stay right with them when they’re using these “non-toxic” art and craft products or I find something else that truly is non-toxic for them to use.

Another Safer Option

Thankfully there are safer options out there. Google is awesome for finding recipes for homemade art and craft supplies that you can make with your kids. This post on 35 Homemade Art Materials Kids Can Make by is my absolute favorite! This way, not only do you know what goes into your craft supplies, but you can change up the ingredients you don’t like for ones you do.

For example… if you’d rather not use cornstarch you can use arrowroot powder. If you’d rather not use pigments or dyes you can use powdered herbs and food. There are lots of options!

If you don’t have time to make your own art and craft supplies, you can always go for more eco-friendly options like Clementine Art Natural Glue, Glob All Natural Paint Kits, International Arrivals Natural Beeswax Crayons, Eco Kids Natural Plant Dye Modeling Dough, Edible Veggie Sidewalk Chalk, and more!  These may not all be totally edible like the majority of homemade craft supplies, but they can be better than the store-bought art and craft products.

What are your thoughts on common “non-toxic” art and craft supplies for children, and what are you doing about it?