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One of the things I miss most about working in a first grade classroom is the arts and crafts projects.  There’s nothing quite like a child’s piece of artwork to bring a smile to the face of a teacher or parent.  Whether we were celebrating a holiday like Halloween or Christmas or creating a memorable display for Veteran’s Day or President’s Day, arts and crafts creations were wildly popular with the kids.  We traced, colored, cut and glued our way through the entire school year and had a blast doing it!

Even at home, my kids were subjected to my penchant for art.  It didn’t matter to me what type of project we were doing, as long as we were doing it together.  I have so many happy memories (and I hope they do as well) of us making homemade Christmas stockings and ornaments, slippers, musical instruments, and “treasure” boxes.  My kids learned how to express their creative sides and began to understand what teamwork and true giving was all about.

But one of the things we need to always be aware of when we’re creating our masterpieces is the safety of the materials we’re using, especially if we’re working with children.  Do you remember those markers in school that had a different scent depending on the color?  You know the ones!  I bet you took a good sniff too.  We all did because we didn’t know any better!

And what about glue, rubber cement, or paint?  These are very toxic substances and can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system.  In fact, rubber cement must now carry a label that warns of its toxicity, due to an ingredient called hexane.  Prolonged exposure has been linked to birth defects and cancer.

And it’s not just inhalation or ingestion you have to worry about, but absorption as well.  That’s right – kids don’t always draw on the paper you give them.  Typically, they like to extend the masterpiece to include different parts of the body.  That means you have to be sure that the materials are non-toxic.

My friend Kristen is a young, green mom who shares my love for crafts and she is passing that love onto her 19 month old son, Hayden.  Kristen enjoys making homemade gifts (those are the best kind) for the same reasons I did when my children were little.  And you can see in the following pictures how much Hayden is enjoying it as well!

For Valentine’s Day, Kristen decided to create “Hayden’s Hugs” for friends and family members.  She put down recyclable cardboard for Hayden to use as a work surface and you can see he isn’t wearing anything but his diaper – which is a washable, cloth diaper by the way.

Hayden used safe, non-toxic finger paint to place his hand prints on recycled paper.  The paints even came in eco-friendly, recycled packaging.  Once the paint dried, the paper was laminated and the excess removed, showing only the hand prints.  A small hole was created in each laminated hand print, and the two were secured together with a red ribbon.

Now, when the recipient receives the Valentine, all they have to do is place the hands around them for a “hug”.  You can see that Hayden is pretty pleased with himself and we are too!  How adorable is that?

For a list of alternative arts and crafts supplies that are safe and non-toxic for children, please refer to the Safer Products page on the Washington Toxics Coalition website or visit the following link:

Here’s hoping that you and your kids have a safe and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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