Don’t Eat the Paint: Art Safety with Young Children

April 3, 2018

Creating art and doing crafts with our children or students can be such a fun and enriching process but we must keep in mind that sometimes the materials we use can pose a safety hazard to young children.  Children want to see, touch, smell, and taste many of the things in their environment and the same thing holds true for art supplies.  This is completely normal for them as they learn through their senses and they are naturally curious.  So, when we plan, we must ask ourselves is this product sensory safe?  Here are a few tips to plan a safe art project:

  • Plan ahead, gather all supplies needed, and be aware that you must never leave them alone during an art activity. Stepping out of the classroom for just a minute is not an option.
  • After gathering your supplies be sure to read all of the labels on these materials. Something that we assume to be safe for young children may be a risk for chemical burns, an eye irritant, or poisonous.  We must assume that almost everything may make its way to a child’s mouth.
  • Instruct them on safe art techniques before beginning the activity. An example of this might be showing them the proper way to use scissors and teaching them scissor safety.
  • Do art activities in a well-ventilated room or outside if possible. If the room is not well ventilated, consider turning on a small fan.
  • Use protective equipment such as smocks, gloves, or goggles. Paints can splash and goggles can help prevent eyes from possible irritants. Plus, the children will look and feel like a scientist!
  • Try to choose products that are natural or food based. There are so many options for paints and dyes that can be made from real food.  Example:  Instead of making traditional play dough, consider making the peanut butter based version.  You will still need to keep in mind the food allergies of the children in your group.

Above all, think about every component of an art activity and the potential hazards in that activity. If you are in doubt, talk it over with another teacher as two heads are often better than one.  Art should be fun but also safe for all involved.

From the desk of Shani Snell, Early Childhood Education Department Head.