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Written by: Eco-Healthy Child Care®

It’s important for children to participate in arts and crafts. It allows them an opportunity to express their creativity and use their imagination. Whether it’s finger painting or drawing a picture, children feel proud knowing that they have created something. As a parent, I love it when my 2.5 year old daughter is creative.  We show our appreciation by placing her creations on our fridge. But I also make sure that whatever she is using to be creative is also safe.  It’s essential that parents and child care providers take the time to choose art supplies that are healthy and free of chemicals that may cause harm. Some art supplies contain toxic ingredients that when used or stored in play areas create a risk to the health and well being of children. Lead, asbestos and organic solvents are sometimes used to enhance pigmentation, preserve art products, and to improve application. These toxic ingredients can trigger asthma, allergies, headaches and nausea, especially in poorly vented areas. Children are uniquely vulnerable; and it vital to purchase and use supplies that are certified as non-toxic.

As the National Director of the Eco-Healthy Child Care® program, I have these recommendations for safer arts and crafts:

  • Use only non-toxic art supplies approved by the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). Look for ACMI non-toxic seal “AP” at
  • Read labels and identify precautions
  • Do not allow children to eat or drink while using art and crafts materials
  • Ensure children wear protective smocks
  • Wash their hands thoroughly immediately after use
  • Provide adult supervision
  • Products to avoid
  • Solvent-based products (markers, oil-based paints and cements) which can be extremely flammable and release toxic vapors
  • Products that contain lead
  • Permanent felt tip markers or scented markers
  • Products that are not in the original container or without proper labeling (including donated items)
  • Products that can be inhaled or get into children’s eyes, such as: clay in dry form, powered paints, wheat paste, and aerosols (spray paint, hair spray)

EHCC helps early childhood learning environments to be as healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals. Click here to learn more about toxic ingredients that can be found in art supplies and products to avoid.