Thursday, July 11, 2013

Art Supplies and Your Little One

           This is a pretty common sight at our house- our Littles are natural born markers- they love to make art as well as crafts. Their favourite thing though is to be let loose on a random box of papers with some glue, scissors, paints and drawing materials. Conveniently this is the same thing that I like to do and so many afternoons- regardless of weather- can find us gathered outside at our table making some art work.

         Recently I was asked by a dear friend if I could go over the basics of what to look for when buying art supplies for children- not only our favourite products but health and safety concerns as well. This is a topic near and dear to my heart- after almost ten yeas working in an art supply store I have fielded pretty much every question and heard all sorts of insane ideas- and no I'm not being mean- folks it is always an insane idea to use oil based printing ink to make hand prints of your children's hands!

        Here is the skinny- your skin is your largest organ in or on your body- it is constantly breathing and absorbing things into your body. So what ever is on your skin will get absorbed into your body- seems pretty straight forward right? Children's skin is as we all know super sensitive- what this means is that is absorbs things more rapidly than tough old adult skin- including any paint that might come in contact with it.

      Paint and other art supplies have chemicals and pigments which give the paints colour- those pigments are often made of earth metals and chemicals made to mimic those metals- some toxic- cobalt (blue), Cadmium (red) and zinc white are examples of the toxic variety being heavy metals that will be absorbed through your skin and settle out into your liver just waiting dormantly to wreak havoc at any given time. Pretty scary stuff isn't it?

A few of our favourite things: Canson Multi Media sketch pad, Staedtler markers, Melissa & Doug crayons, Sakura chunky pastels, Lyra pencil crayons

         So what is a parent who wants to foster creativity in their little one to do? What paints can be trusted? Fear not- any good reputable art supply store will carry a line or two of paints that is suitable for kids- what you want to look for is on the back label (see image below) You can see two seals of approval the ACMI label identifies art supplies that are safe and certified via toxicological testing by a medical team to contain no materials that in large quantities would be harmful to people- mainly children or to cause any health problems. The CE is obviously the NON TOXIC certification- deeming this product very safe for children.

     Of course knowledge and proper use of products is what makes them really safe to use. Always practice safe studio practices even when working with non toxic materials- keep exposure to skin minimal and always avoid ingestion of any art material. Proper ventilation is always encouraged as is appropriate disposal of any left over paints.

More of our favourite things: Chromatemp tempra paint, Mamma's paint- Golden paints and Holbein gouche

        The difference between non toxic children's paints and actual artist's quality paints is staggering- you can see on the image below that this paint contains the warning that this product contains a chemical known to cause cancer. Most quality paints have to label their products as such if they wish to sell their product in California- the offending material here is most likely lead.

      Cheap paints that can be purchased at say a Dollar Store often do not carry such warnings but still contain the cancer causing pigments. This is why it is so important to use the proper art supplies for your child and not "cheap out"- what looks like a great deal could actually make them quite ill in the long run.

        Weather you are a parent or care giver everyone always has the best intentions but until your Littles are past the oral phase and can keep paint brushes, paint and messy hands out of their mouths always stick to non toxic paints. Once your budding artist has progressed to the point where more paint ends up on the paper than their bodies then you can start venturing into the world of student grade acrylics- trust me when I say trying to pick dried acrylic paint out of a toddler's hair is no picnic!

        People do not let your child use house paint, chalk paint, milk paint or any other paint intended for decorative purposes. Do not let your child use oil paints. Do not use artist quality acrylics, oil paints, printing inks, screen printing inks, fabric paint or ceramic glazes on your little one's hands- regardless of how cute the final project might be- do the research and find what the appropriate product is for the project you have in mind.

All the fun stuff in our art bin: wacky scissors, googly eyes, pom poms, popsicle sticks, essential Prag glue stick and a variety of awesome paint brushes!
           Obviously creativity and personal expression is very important to me- you can see tonnes of pictures of my Little's getting their craft on in my Instagram feed. Making art is a great thing to do as a family- even with non toxic products it is always recommended that really little one's be supervised- yes even with finger paints- they are made of petroleum products after all!

          I love the amazing art that children make- it is so open and free- fostering that passion is key to raising a creatively open family. I hope that the information I shared here today is helpful to people- I could go on and on and will in coming posts but this is a start. This Sunday July 14 at 2pm I am giving an artist talk at Opus Framing and Art Supplies on Granville Island- called Nature Camp and focusing on getting kids outside and observing nature this summer. If you are local I would love to see you! Plus it is free!

"All children are artists.The problem is how to remain an artist once we grows up"
Pablo Picasso

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