Green Arts and Crafts for Baby
Can an orange crayon be green? It can if it is made from natural ingredients like soy or beeswax instead of petroleum. The same goes for that red marker or rainbow watercolor paints.
In addition to their contribution to global warming, traditional art supplies also contain a slew of dubious chemicals and solvents. Nontoxic art supplies are not only better for the planet, they're also better for your family's health as they don't off-gas noxious chemicals.
The good news is that there are green options available for just about any color of your budding Picasso's palette. Here's how to find eco-friendly art supplies.
Raid the Pantry
Some of the best art supplies are recycled materials from your own kitchen. With a few swipes of glue, an egg carton can be transformed into a caterpillar, a soda bottle can be turned in to a birdfeeder or a boat, and an empty paper towel tube can become a telescope or a flute.
Children don't need a lot of toys to have fun. More often than not, they will simply want to play with you. Playing with your baby teaches her that she is loved, important, and fun to be around. It builds the self-esteem and self-confidence that your baby will to continue building loving and supportive relationships throughout her life.
It is easy to go to a big box craft store and end up spending a fortune on new supplies to nurture your child's creativity, but it is not necessary or eco-friendly. Teach your kids reduce, reuse, recycle by buying less, using what you already have at home in new and creative ways, and putting unused items in their proper place at the end of their lifecycle.
Seal the Deal
The Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) is an international organization that works to promote nontoxic art and creative materials for children and adults. The group evaluates art supplies and products, conducting extensive toxicological tests to determine toxicity. Look for the ACMI seal (www.acminet.org) on everything from paints to crayons to glue to ensure that your baby's art supplies are nontoxic and safe.
Your baby's doodles and scribbles will look just as good on recycled paper as they would on a clean sheet. Keep a special box in your office or kitchen to hold used paper, envelopes, and cardboard that can be used again as art supplies. When you need to buy new, look for 100 percent postconsumer waste paper, and teach your children to use it sparingly.
Cannot find eco-friendly art supplies in your area? Make your own instead! Check out the Green Parent (www.thegreenparent.com) for video demonstrations on making your own recycled paper, organic play dough, recycled crayons, or eco-friendly finger paints.
There is literally no end to the number of craft projects you can try with your baby. More often than not, if you simply set out a few materials, your baby's natural creativity and curiosity will kick in and get her going. If you need a little inspiration, learn how to make twig baskets, clay pots, potato stamps, and dozens of other eco-friendly projects from the book Nature's Art Box by Laura C. Martin. Online, check out Kinderart (www.kinderart.com) or Kaboose (www.kaboose.com).
Touch and Feel
You don't need a houseful of toys to entertain your baby. More often than not, she will delight in exploring the touch and feel of common items around your home. Make up a small batch of spaghetti, allow it to cool, and let your baby play with it. She'll love the way it wiggles and slide through her fingers. Toss the spaghetti on the compost pile when finished. Or make up a batch of slippery silk, also known as gloop, by mixing corn flour with a little water and letting her squish it through her fingers.
Another idea is to make your baby a treasure basket containing everyday touchy-feely objects, such as a brush, a piece of bark, sea shells, crinkly paper, sponges, or fine-grade sandpaper.