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By Gladys Jimenez
What better way for children to bring out their imagination and allow their creativity to surface than by creating art. Art of any type or medium allows kids to express their emotions, to learn and develop appreciation for art. It’s wonderful when their school provides art projects for them or when they are encouraged at home to express their creative side.
As adults we need to make sure that we provide for children a safe environment to do art. Many adults are unaware that certain arts and crafts materials can be dangerous to children’s health.
Long exposure to some type of paints, solvents, glue, and other craft materials can hurt our children’s health because they may contain substances that have been shown to cause tissue and organ damage, affect their mental state, make their allergies worse or cause other more serious side effects.
Some crayons, paints and inks may contain lead. Rubber cement, aerosol spray paints and fixatives, as permanent markers may contain solvents. Some arts and crafts materials may even contain other chemicals that children should avoid.
Since children’s bodies have not fully developed, they are more (than adults) susceptible to toxics. Most art materials are designed and tested for adults, so these materials have a more concentrated effect on children. Children with a curious nature may tend to use these art materials inappropriately by putting some materials in their mouth, inhale fumes from paint or spill them, increasing their exposure to these chemicals.
To help your children have a safe art experience, here are some things you can do:
1) Keep a telephone handy with the telephone number to your local Poison Control Center so you can call immediately in case a child swallows a product by accident. Keep the product close by for label information.
2) Examine the labels of all the materials you will use. Art materials that pose a chronic health hazard must have a warning label by law with a statement saying that it is inappropriate for children. Do not use these materials. Only use non-toxic products that have the statement: “Conforms to ASTM D-4236” which is required by the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act and are specifically designed for children.
3) Do not use old materials or materials that do not have a label on them. There used to be less strict laws before and you don’t know what they may contain.
4) Do not use any type of solvents with children.
5) Avoid paint powder mixes, which can get in the eyes or can be inhaled. Adults can prepare these ahead of time if you need to use them.
6) Adults should do any part that may require aerosol spray cans, air brushes, etc. outdoors.
7) If a child has an open cut or sore, make sure it’s well protected or change the art activity to something that may not irritate the cut or sore.
8) At all ages make sure children are supervised by an adult when doing art projects.
9) Do work in a ventilated area. If you can’t work outside, make sure windows are open and use a fan if available.
10) Always instruct children on the proper use of the art materials they will be using before they being their art project.
11) While working on a project, take time to put the lids back on paints, glues, solvents and other materials that came with a lid.
12) Do not eat, drink or snack while doing an art project.
13) Do not work near eating areas and do not use eating containers to mix paints or to store art materials.
14) With children under 6 years old, distribute small amounts of materials at a time. This will help them use the materials they have instead of wanting to play with the rest of the art materials.
15) Observe the child while working with art materials and see if there are any allergies or reactions to the materials, as some kids are sensitive to certain products.
16) If using markers stick with washable markers. If using crayons avoid the imported type as they may not have proper regulation standards.
17) When finished with the art project, clean the materials used completely, as well as the area you worked on right away.
18) Mop the floor to get rid of chemicals better.
19) Children should wash their hands thoroughly when finished with their art project.
20) Put away all materials that need supervision and carefully stored them away from children’s reach when not in use.
Taking these safety precautions can make your children’s art experience not only fun and rewarding but safe.
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