Finger painting with your baby is super fun (and messy), but you definitely don’t want to use just any old paint. After all, babies love to stick their fingers (and everything else) in their mouth. The same goes for play dough, crayons, glitter, sidewalk chalk and so on. To keep your baby safe, and the environment free of microplastics, here are some of the best eco-friendly kids art supplies that aren’t choc a block with toxic chemicals.
Table of Contents
- What to watch out for when choosing art supplies for kids
- The best non-toxic kids art supplies: our top picks
- Eco-kids Finger Paint
- Ecopiggy EarthPaint Non-Toxic Children’s Face Paint
- Honeysticks Natural Watercolor Paints
- Terra Thread Organic Cotton Pencil Case
- Nielsen Bainbridge EcoCare Frames
- Ecopiggy Eco Glitter
- Once-kids Playhard Heroes Wooden Action Figure DIY Coloring Kit – 2pc
- IDEA Collective Monarch Butterfly Wooden Maker Kit
- Eco-kids Extra Large Beeswax Crayons
- Eco-kids eco-crayon Beeswax Crayon Sticks
- Honeysticks Original Beeswax Crayons 12pk
- Honeysticks Bath Beeswax Crayons
- HoneysticksToddler’s First Coloring Book
- Fabriano Eco White Drawing Paper And Pads
- Eco-kids Hop Scotch Sidewalk Chalk
- Mountain Mist® Eco-Friendly™ White PLA Fiberfill
- Eco-Kids eco-dough (3 pk)
- Eco-Kids Grey Scale eco-dough (3pk)
- Sprout Plantable Colored Pencils – 8pk
- Onyx and Green Recycled Newspaper Colored Pencils – 24pk
- Onyx and Green Recycled Rubber Erasers – 3pk
- Final thoughts
Before the recommendations, I offer a few thoughts on what to watch out for in kids’ art supplies, plus a bonus item to help you recycle your old art supplies!
Best non-toxic face paint
What to watch out for when choosing art supplies for kids
Kids art supplies might not seem like the most obvious place to up your eco-game, but these small things can make a big difference. All that glitter, glue, paper, paint, and dough really starts to add up over the years, especially when you think of all the packaging it comes in.
Plastics in art supplies
Plastic is the biggest issue with most kids arts and crafts materials. Products come swathed in plastic packaging and often contain plastics themselves. Think of acrylic paints, plastic paintbrushes, plastic marker pens and pencil cases, and petroleum-based crayons. All of these are made with fossil fuels and few are recyclable.
Most plastic art supplies get dumped up in landfills, where they slowly break down into toxic chemicals and harmful microplastics. These pollute wastewater and injure or kill wildlife. Glitter, especially, is a horrible source of microplastics that can slowly fill up the digestive system of birds, causing them to starve to death.
Skip the plastic and go for biodegradable art supplies made with water-based pigments, recycled paper and card, sustainably sourced wood, and polylactic acid fiberfill or other corn-based polymers. And, where you can, choose companies that minimize packaging, offer reusable, recyclable, and recycled packaging, and ship plastic-free, ideally from somewhere close to where you live.
Other things to watch out for
Kids’ art supplies are also riddled with potentially harmful chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde-based glues, and potentially harmful pigments.
Products that are plastic-free are typically free of phthalates. That’s because manufacturers use phthalates to make plastics flexible. Without plastics, there’s no need for phthalates – a win-win! Parabens, meanwhile, are typically used as preservatives, so look for products that are free from these and make sure to store them safely.
Food dyes and pigments
As for ‘food grade’ dyes and pigments, these are a little trickier. Saying something is food-grade makes it sound safe, but the reality is that many pigments are approved as food colorings in the U.S. despite being linked to adverse health effects (watch out for ‘lakes’ and FD&C colors in particular).
Obviously, face paints and finger paints are not intended to be consumed, but all bets are off when you’re dealing with small children. Fingers, paintbrushes, and so forth often end up in kids’ mouths. Reduce the risk by only having truly safe, naturally pigmented, non-toxic paint supplies involved during art time.
As for formaldehyde-based glues, these should definitely be avoided as formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and even a little can be toxic for small children. Most ‘school glue’ is made with a base of vinyl acetate chemically reacted to form polyvinyl acetate (PVA). Other glues tend to be based on epoxy and polyurethane, all of which are fossil fuel derivatives. While PVA does seem to be broken down in the environment by various organisms, its manufacture is far from eco-friendly, and it certainly isn’t safe for consumers.
Unfortunately, even the so-called eco-friendly glue alternatives contain harmful chemicals, including the Onyx and Green plant-based glue, which contains an aquatic toxicant and known respiratory and skin irritant and allergen.
The best I’ve found is Elmer’s Earth Friendly School Glue, although even that seems to have been discontinued recently. In the UK, the UHU range is a much better option, with recycled plastic packaging and a much smaller footprint as determined by a robust lifecycle analysis.
There’s also a glue brand called Coccoina that has been producing natural, traditional glue in Italy since 1927. This glue is made from potato starch and almond essence and smells like marzipan! It contains no toxic chemicals, is degradable and is even made in a factory that is environmentally friendly. Alas, again, Coccoina isn’t available in the U.S.
The best non-toxic kids art supplies: our top picks
Highlights: Non-toxic, eco-friendly finger paints made with naturally-derived fruit and veggie pigments, potatoes, rice, and beans!
Finger painting doesn’t get more eco-friendly and non-toxic than this! The Eco-Kids Finger Paint set includes four powders pigmented with fruit and vegetable extracts. Add water to turn into a smooth liquid paint and then use with fingers or paintbrushes.
These paint powders get their vibrant colors from curcumin, red cabbage, annatto, purple sweet potato, and other fruits and veggies. They are suitable for ages 3 years and older. Mix up only what you need each time, or store unused liquid paint in the fridge for up to a couple of days.
The paints are made in the U.S. and are totally biodegradable. They come in recyclable packaging made with FSC certified paper printed with soy inks in a wind-powered factory.
For busy little artists, check out the Eco-Kids All the Coloring Busy Box featuring hopscotch chalk, finger paint, and colored pencils (view here).
Highlights: Available in a 4-pack or 6-pack, this paraben-free, eco-friendly, non-toxic, organic face paint is perfect for earth-conscious kids.
Ecopiggy’s Non-Toxic Children’s Face Paint comprises distilled water, natural clay and mineral pigments, organic castor seed oil, certified organic beeswax, certified organic and Fair Trade shea butter, cetearyl alcohol from vegetable oils, carrageenan seaweed, olive mulse oil, and 1% Optiphen (a formaldehyde-free and paraben-free preservative.
You can easily wash off the paint with water, making this a great fit for everyday use as well as for Halloween and kids’ parties. ASTM certified, Ecopiggy paint is free of nanoparticles, heavy metals, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and petroleum-based pigments.
The 6-pack includes semi-opaque pots of red, yellow, green, blue, black, and white. The 4-pack includes red, yellow, blue, and white, so you can mix your own colors from the base colors.
Ecopiggy makes its products in the U.S. and packages these paints in a cardboard box containing individual plastic pots. The 6-pack includes three makeup applicators made from corn resin, and the 4-pack comes with a bamboo paintbrush. The product is shipped plastic-free using recycled and recyclable materials.
Highlights: Handmade in New Zealand, these non-toxic, eco-friendly, bright watercolor paints come with a wooden paintbrush in a metal tin.
Honeysticks Natural Watercolor Paints come in 8 vibrant colors: yellow, red, pink, purple, green, blue, brown, and orange. They are made using food-grade ingredients and are ideal for coloring books, art paper, and more. The water-based paint discs even come with their own paintbrush made with natural wood and bristles.
Honeysticks makes these paints in New Zealand. The formula comprises cellulose, dextrose, food-grade pigments, silica, magnesium stearate, and gum arabic. The paints comply with CE, ASTM, and Graphic Materials Group Standard ANZ and contain no paraffin wax, fragrances, fillers, or allergens including milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soy.
This product ships plastic-free in recycled packaging.
Highlights: Made by a B Corp, using GOTS certified organic cotton in a Fair Trade factory, this is as eco-friendly and awesome as a pencil case gets!
Available in 10 colors, the organic cotton pencil case from Terra Thread is perfect for matching with your kid’s favorite backpack. Made in India in a Fair Trade certified factory, by a B Corporation and carbon-neutral company, this pencil case can hold all your pens, pencils, highlighters, and more.
Terra Threads makes the pencil cases with 14-ounce heavy-duty GOTS certified organic cotton. The case features a YKK lead-free metal long-tail zipper and an inside pocket to keep things organized. The case measures 7 x 4 x 3 inches and is sturdy and simple, with a minimalist design that’s great for kids old and young. You can even machine wash and dry (on low) the pencil case to keep it looking pristine for years of use.
The pencil case ships plastic-free using repurposed and recyclable materials. Terra Thread also donates 10 meals to kids and families in need for every pencil case sold, thanks to the company’s partnership with Feeding America.
Highlights: Eco-friendly picture frames made with sustainable wood alternatives and reclaimed plantation woods with water-based finishes.
Need to showcase your kid’s best artwork? Check out these eco-friendly frames from Nielsen Bainbridge. EcoCare Frames are made with bamboo or rubberwood that is sustainably sourced or reclaimed. This means that the frames don’t actively contribute to deforestation.
EcoCare finishes the frames with water-based stains and no harmful chemicals. The recycled 4-ply white core mats are totally biodegradable and the backing board is made from recycled wood pulp. EcoCare even uses packaging made from recycled paper and you can recycle the glass if the frame breaks.
There is zero plastic in these frames, which are available in two larger sizes for the wall and three smaller tabletop sizes.
Highlights: Ultra-fine, cosmetic grade eco-friendly glitter made with responsibly sourced biodegradable plant-based materials and packaged plastic-free!
Available in gold, silver, and turquoise, this eco-friendly glitter is plastic-free, plant-based, and super sparkly. Made with cellulose derived from hardwoods (mainly eucalyptus), this glitter has a natural coating and is totally biodegradable and compostable. Ecopiggy sources the materials sustainably from responsibly managed and certified plantations adhering to PEFC™ standards.
The glitter is free of nuts, dairy, gluten, animal products, and GMOs and is aluminum- and plastic-free. It is also ultra-fine and certified cosmetic grade, meaning it’s safe to use on the face and body, including around the lips. Dab or dust the glitter onto wet face paint or aloe vera gel applied to the body and… hello, mermaid costume!
The eco glitter is made in the UK and packaged plastic-free in the U.S. using recycled and recyclable materials. The glitter comes in a cute recyclable 2-ounce aluminum tin that you can reuse to store treasures even after the glitter is gone.
The company is based in Oregon and makes non-toxic eco-friendly products that are fun and safe for kids (and adults).
Highlights: DIY kit includes 10 colored pencils and plastic-free action figures made with FSC certified wood. Color and customize these articulated heroes made by a women-owned business that donates to environmental charities.
This delightful kit provides hours of fun. It includes two wooden action figures made with sustainably harvested FSC certified wood, plus 10 colored pencils, so your kid can create their own superhero. The figures have articulated joints connected with elastic and metal, so once the decorating is done, play can commence!
The figures measure 7.25 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches, making these a great fit for most dollhouses, cars, and other paraphernalia. The Playhard action figure kit comes in a laser engraved wooden storage box with a chalkboard painted interior. The company has all its products tested for safety in a third-party, certified lab. They are all CPSIA, ASTM, EN71 and CE Compliant. The figures are suitable for kids over 3 years of age as they have some small parts and potential choking hazards.
ONCE-KIDS is a women-owned business that contributes 1% of sales to Trash Free Seas Alliance® to help clean up plastic from oceans and waterways. The business name is an acronym: Organic, Natural, Charitable, and Environmentally-friendly.
Highlights: Sustainably sourced butterfly maker kit with plywood puzzle pieces, markers, and milkweed seeds.
Help your kid learn about migration and conservation with this Monarch Butterfly Wooden Maker Kit. The 16-piece puzzle comes together to make a 3D butterfly your kid will love. Decorate before assembly and have your own unique butterfly that measures 9.5 x 10.5 x 5 inches.
The kit also includes two water-based washable markers (you could also use plant-based paints with younger kids), an instructional booklet, an educational activity booklet to learn about the ecology of the Monarch butterfly, and a packet of Milkweed seeds. Follow the planting instructions and grow the Monarch’s favorite food to help sustain them on their journey.
This kit is made in the U.S. by IDEA Collective, using sustainably harvested birch plywood. The company prints the activity booklet on post-consumer recycled paper, and you can compost or recycle both the puzzle and booklets when you’re done.
IDEA Collective specializes in STEAM-based kits that help kids discover botany, biology, and ecology. All of the materials in the kit are water-based and heavy metal-free. The company also says they’re non-toxic, but I’d want to know more about the markers and plywood before saying the same.
If you like this one, check out the kit for the Spotted Lanternfly (view here), which also includes educational materials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).
Highlights: The perfect eco-friendly non-toxic crayon for little learning hands.
Move over Crayola, these ECO-KIDS Extra Large Beeswax Crayons are where coloring is at. Safe and eco-friendly, these chunky crayons are made in Portland, Maine, with beeswax, soy wax, stearic acid, and mineral pigments. They contain no petroleum, plastics, or heavy metals and come in a pack of 8 colors, so your little one can get creative.
The crayons are wrapped in compostable paper and packed in a cardboard box that can be recycled. Store the crayons somewhere dry and cool, so the wax doesn’t melt!
The crayons are manufactured to meet ASTM safety standards and the packaging is printed with soy inks on FSC certified paper in a factory powered by the wind.
Highlights: A great choice for bigger families with several small children, these eco-friendly, non-toxic crayons come in a pack of 5, 10, and 20!
Eco-Kids Beeswax Crayon Sticks are petroleum-free and made with natural ingredients. These include mineral pigments, beeswax, carnauba wax, and soy wax. The crayons are made in the U.S. and are packaged in FSC certified paper printed with soy inks in a wind-powered factory.
Available in a 5-pack, 10-pack, or 20-pack.
Highlights: Eco-friendly beeswax crayons offered in 12 different colors that are easier for little hands to hold.
Honeysticks are another great choice for kids as the crayons are a little chubbier than most crayons, making them easier for small hands to hold. The original Honeysticks come in a pack of 12 and are handmade in New Zealand using responsibly sourced beeswax, vegetable fats, minerals, and food-grade pigments.
Each Honeystick crayon measures 2.2 inches long and 0.8 inches thick. There are 12 colors in the pack: green, red, orange, dark blue, black, mustard, pink, brown, yellow, dark green, light blue, and purple.
The crayons are free from petroleum products and plastics, and adhere to CE, ASTM, and Graphic Materials Group Standard ANZ. Honeysticks are free from paraffin wax, fragrances, and fillers and are made with food-grade pigments. The crayons are also free from eight of the most common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. (Unlike Eco-Kids crayons, which contain soy wax.)
Honeysticks are packaged using recycled cardboard and are shipped plastic-free. Keep the crayons out of direct sunlight and store them somewhere dry and out of the reach of young children. If a white bloom develops on these crayons, don’t worry. This is a natural process where the softer oils in the beeswax rise to the outside surface of the crayon. If the blooming bothers you, use a soft cloth to wipe away the white residue.
A note on Honeysticks and toxicity
Honeysticks states that the crayons are non-toxic, but an independent researcher (view here) tested the original Honeysticks a few years ago and found that the pink and red Honeysticks contained trace amounts of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal. The company maintains that the crayons test negative for cadmium, though very low levels are very hard to detect, and levels would be inconsistent throughout the crayons anyway.
Given these potential concerns, consider diverting the red and pink crayons to adult-use only, before giving the rest to your kid. All in all, though, I’d say that these crayons are still far better than any petroleum-based crayon.
Highlights: A huge hit at bathtime, these chunky beeswax crayons are eco-friendly, non-toxic, and easy(ish) to clean.
Bathtime is a great time to get messy with crayons, and then get clean again. Honeysticks make your bathtub and tiles the perfect canvas for these Bath Beeswax Crayons. The crayons are handmade in New Zealand using responsibly sourced beeswax, soy wax, vegetable oils, minerals, and food-grade pigments.
The chunky bath crayons measure 3.9 inches long and 0.8 inches thick. They’re easier to hold than regular crayons and won’t stain when used on tiles or tubs. There are seven colors in the pack: blue, maroon, green, orange, pink, yellow, and brown. Store the bath crayons out of direct sunlight in a safe, dry place away from children.
Honeysticks Bath Crayons come in a reusable metal tin with drainage holes, which helps to keep these crayons dry after use. The crayons are wrapped in stone paper, so you’ll have to trash this as it cannot be recycled. The product is shipped plastic-free in recycled packaging and is free from paraffin wax, fragrances, fillers, and most major allergens.
Highlights: The perfect first coloring book, made from 100% recycled paper with large pages and simple images to promote creativity and fine motor skills.
Give your budding Picasso the gift of this eco-friendly coloring book from Honeysticks. Handmade in New Zealand with 100% recycled paper, the Toddler’s First Coloring Book boasts 40 large pages for inexpert scribblers to get creative. The images include buildings, wildlife, and landscapes from across North America and the book measures 11.6 by 1.4 inches.
The coloring books ships plastic-free in packaging made from recycled content. Recycle the book when done or, better yet, reuse the pages as fun eco-friendly wrapping paper for gifts!
Highlights: Eco-friendly, acid-free, chlorine-free 100% recycled art paper in rolls, sheets, and pads, for drawing and sketching, made using hydro power!
Made from entirely from recycled post-consumer paper pulp, using 50% hydroelectric power, this acid-free drawing paper is pretty darn eco-friendly. The Eco White paper is also very white, unlike a lot of recycled paper that skews to grey. Happily, though, it isn’t bleached using chlorine, so you don’t need to worry about nasty chemical byproducts.
Eco White paper is FSC 100% certified recycled and the company estimates that a tree is saved for every 80 pads produced. This also saves 9,000 tons of CO2 annually and spares 14,000,000 m3 of methane.
The paper is available in two weights, one for sketching and one for drawing. It comes in pads, rolls, and sheets and can be used for graphite, colored, pencils, pastels, pens, and markers.
Highlights: Easy-to-hold egg-shaped sidewalk chalks.
Get your kids out in the fresh air and encourage their creativity with these Hop Scotch Sidewalk Chalks from Eco-Kids. The six egg-shaped chalks come in a fun repurposed egg box and are easier for little hands to hold. While not super bright, the pastel-colored chalks are pigmented enough to tell the colors apart and to create fun artwork.
The chalk is made with calcium carbonate and natural dyes and washes away with just water. A quick hose down or rain shower creates a fresh canvas every time. Unfortunately, the chalks don’t work all that well on a regular chalkboard, but the silver lining is that this will keep chalk-time (and associated mess) outside!
These sidewalk chalks are made in the U.S. according to ASTM safety standards and are shipped plastic-free. The FSC certified packaging is printed with soy inks in a factory powered by the wind.
Highlights: The best eco-friendly filling for projects like teddy bears, dolls, pillows, and more.
Looking to create your own eco-friendly teddy bear, doll, or other stuffed toy? Check out Ingeo™ fibers from Crafting for a Better Planet™. Better than the standard polyester fiberfill, this polylactic acid (PLA) stuffing is made from corn and is soft, durable, and not a source of microplastics. In fact, this stuff is biodegradable, hypoallergenic, machine washable, and the same white as regular polyester fiberfill.
I’m a huge fan of Ingeo, which has a significantly lower environmental footprint than virgin or even recycled plastic from fossil fuels. Not only does making Ingeo take a lot less energy compared to regular polyester and other plastics, the company making it also uses entirely renewable energy and is working on ways to cut the environmental impact even further.
I wish more companies used this stuffing for eco-friendly dolls, bedding, dog beds, and even winter coats. If they did, we would have less plastic waste and the price would be cheaper. As it stands, the cost of Ingeo is still a bit prohibitive for most consumers.
Highlights: Eco-friendly, non-toxic play dough in three vibrant primary colors – mix to make purple, orange, and green!
Ditch the toxic play dough for this all-natural eco-dough made in the U.S.
The dough comprises non-GMO flour, salt, cream of tartar, soy oil, organic rosemary oil, vitamin E oil, water, citric acid, potassium sorbate, FDA-approved soy-based organic and inorganic pigments.
The dough has a light rosemary scent thanks to the essential oil, and if the dough dries out, give it a little refresher with a few drops of olive oil. Consult the handy instructional booklet to learn how to mix the three primary colors to create purple, orange, and green dough from the red, yellow, and blue.
Eco-dough comes in a plastic container that you can recycle or reuse for your own homemade dough. The product is shipped in recycled paperboard printed with vegetable-based inks.
Highlights: Highlight: Eco-friendly, non-toxic greyscale dough in a 3-pack for triple-toned fun.
Made in Portland, Maine, this eco-dough is non-toxic and perfect for budding greyscale artists. This pack contains three shades of light, medium, and darker grey tones.
Like its more colorful counterpart above, this dough comprises non-GMO flour, salt, cream of tartar, soy oil, organic rosemary oil, vitamin E oil, water, citric acid, potassium sorbate, FDA approved soy-based organic and inorganic pigments.
The dough comes in a recyclable plastic container and recycled cardboard packaging printed with soy inks in a factory powered by renewables. It adheres to ASTM safety standards
Highlights: Highlight: Cute plantable pencil crayons that sprout herbs, veggies, or flowers once you’re done!
Made from sustainably harvested FSC certified wood, natural clay, and graphite, these Plantable Colored Pencils from Sprout have a biodegradable stub that contains 10 non-GMO seeds. Plant the stub end once you’re done and see something grow!
The pencils themselves are non-toxic, lead-free, and biodegradable. They’re produced in Poland and the U.S. and certified to EN-71 standard as safe for children. The pencils ship in recyclable packaging and there are 8 colors in a pack. They ship unsharpened, so make sure to have a sharpener on hand to avoid frustration!
Highlights: A good option for budding writers and journalists, these colored pencils are made with recycled newspaper!
Read all about it! These pencils from Onyx and Green are made with recycled newspaper, so you can get a glimpse of a story on every one. The pack contains 24 colors and ships in plastic-free packaging made with recycled unbleached carton paper printed with soy inks.
The pencils aren’t all that robust, so are best for older kids who won’t just snap them in half accidentally. It’s also a bit difficult to see the colors as the ends are all the same and the body of the pencil is newspaper print.
Onyx and Green also make recycled paper products for schools and offices, using upcycled construction waste and low-impact sugarcane. The product line includes backpacks, pens, rubber bands, calculators, and more. I’d avoid their glue though as it contains chemicals that are very toxic to aquatic life and can cause contact allergies in humans (despite the non-toxic claims by the company).
Highlights: Better than most virgin synthetic rubber erasers, but still not perfect.
Onyx and Green’s recycled rubber erasers sound amazing until you look at the small print. These erasers are made with a mix of pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled rubber, which helps cut down on resource extraction but isn’t perfect.
Another downside is that the company wraps each eraser in its own paper and plastic sheath, which is totally unnecessary. The blister card is made with recycled cards though, and the whole thing ships plastic-free.
Hopefully, you’ve found this round-up of eco-friendly kids’ art supplies inspiring and are looking forward to many more years of fun arts and crafts with your little ones. If your kids are all grown up, though, and you’re looking to get rid of old art supplies, check out TerraCycle. This company offers a specific zero-waste box (view here) for all your pens, pencils, and markers. Just pop them in and send them off to be recycled!