Both children and adults enjoy creative art activities. When engaging in an art activity, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to insure the fun you are experiencing is also safe.

First, art supplies can contain toxic ingredients that pose a risk to the person using the materials. For example, lead, asbestos, and organic solvents may be added to enhance color, preserve the product, or to improve application. In sensitive individuals, some of these ingredients may trigger asthma, nausea, headaches, or allergic reactions.

Next, it is important to purchase non-toxic supplies. Keep in mind that young children are more likely to have intense tactile experiences with art materials. That is, more contact with skin, hair, mouth, and eyes will occur as young children explore and create with materials. With a bit of diligence and investigative work on the adult’s part, the risk of a fun activity turning into a medical emergency can be avoided. Adult supervision is always recommended when young children use art supplies.

Hazards to consider:

  • Inhalation—Keep work areas ventilated.
  • Ingestion—Young children regularly put their hands into their mouths.
  • Skin contact—Be mindful that some supplies can irritate the skin and should be washed off immediately after use.

Checklist for safe and fun experience:

  • Use only non-toxic art supplies approved by the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI).
  • Read labels and identify precautions.
  • Do not allow food or drink while using art materials.
  • Wear smocks and wash hands thoroughly after each activity.
  • Adult supervision is imperative when young children are using household supplies (i.e., liquid starch, shaving cream, etc.) for art projects.
  • If paper mache is the activity, use a flour and water mixture rather than instant paper mache.
  • Use water soluble felt tip markers, rather than permanent markers or scented markers which can be hazardous if inhaled or ingested.

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