As moms of wee ones these days, many of us are reading food labels for artificial ingredients and scanning for little glyphs stating “gluten free”, “lead safe” or “phthalate free”, the list goes on…

It is pertinent to be aware that harsh ingredients may potentially enter the body through the skin and lungs via arts and crafts supplies. For example, chalk dust may enter in through the lungs, as well as paints and other touchables through the skin. And void of keeping our keiki in a plastic bubble (BPA free of course) or becoming so hung up on avoiding every little iota of petrochemical possible that the stress it causes is more harmful than the toxins themselves, still we can take measures to minimize contact with hazardous ingredients.

Skin, being the largest organ of the body, is absorbent like a sponge. Some of that face and body paint (no matter how adorable) goes in through the pores and capillaries and into the blood stream. So use discernment when choosing art mediums.

Natural plant and mineral based supplies are wonderful (but may not be in everyone’s budget) while tempra paints are a good choice, as they do not contain heavy metals such as cadmium and lead in their pigments. If possible, choose “washable” mediums as they are water soluble and may be less harsh than other options. You can find washable crayons, markers, watercolors and even sidewalk chalk these days.

Also, look for the symbol “AP Certified”. This is given to art supplies that pass third party testing for toxicity done by ACMI (Arts and Creative Materials Institute). Just saying “nontoxic” on the label unfortunately does not ensure purity. But, if you want to be SURE what is in your children’s art supplies, make them yourself! Below are a few ideas for homemade goodies, just in time for stuffing stockings and holiday gifts.

Homemade Play Dough
2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
Up to 1.5 cups boiling water (adding a bit at a time until it feels the right consistency)
Natural food coloring (optional)
Sparkles (optional)
Mix flour, salt, oil and cream of tartar in large bowl. Add food coloring to boiling water. Then add water to the bowl. Stir until it is a sticky combined dough. Let cool enough to take out with hands. Add sparkles here. Knead until stickiness is gone.

Chalk/Sidewalk Chalk
1 cup Plaster of Paris
1/2 cup cold water
Powdered tempra paint (optional)
Combine ingredients. (More paint= more intense color) Pour ingredients into a candy or popsicle molds. Let dry and enjoy!

Finger Paint
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 cups water
Natural food coloring
Boil water and cornstarch until thickened. Add natural food coloring and store in sealable jars.

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