By Alexandra Zissu, Editorial Director

Another academic year is here and with it comes the need to makes sure our schools are as healthy as they can be. One of the most overlooked safety areas is the classroom art supply cabinet. Conventional arts and crafts supplies can expose students to toxic fumes, unsafe chemicals, and other hazards.

Here’s a quick guide to what hides inside your child’s classroom art supply cabinet:

Remember that even the safest art supplies are less safe when commonsense precautions are ignored. These include keeping classrooms ventilated, forbidding eating and drinking during craft time, avoiding skin painting, using smocks, washing hands when done, and providing adult supervision. Teachers should also use caution when accepting donated supplies, which can lack instructions, contain unknown chemicals, and/or release toxins when used.

But how do real-life parents protect their children from toxic arts and crafts?

Healthy Child Parent Ambassador Alysia Reiner is particularly fond of using what she already has in the house. This includes recycling paper and making her own dough (to play with, to make ornaments with, even to eat!). She also makes paper dolls and paper doll clothes out of fashion magazines and catalogs. She notes that eco-glues, pencils, paints, and clay make “fantastic, affordable treats for birthday goody bags.”

Jennifer of Happy Tot Mom, who is also a fan of making her own play dough, reminds us not to forget the smocks and containers we use for art supply storage. “Choose PVC free options to avoid phthalates.” She’s also a fan of making her own face paint. “In 2009, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 10 face paints and found lead in all 10!  Even paint labeled as “non-toxic” and “hypoallergenic” contained lead.” Excellent advice.