Whether you love arts and crafts like I/we do, or the idea of painting with kiddies gives you a slightly nervous feeling (the mess, the white walls), little peoples love of art is undeniable. Spending time with our kids exploring art is an inevitable part of the parenting journey and a great way to encourage creativity and self expression. Not only does it provide hours of entertainment, but there are incredible benefits for child development. Check out this post, 20 reasons why art is important for kids:
According to friends, I have an exceptionally high tolerance for mess, of the creative by-product variety, funny because all other messes drives me crazy. Hence it’s always been my home/basement which has hosted arts and crafts playdates and gatherings. Parents returning to their clean tidy homes while our basement is an inch deep in puffy paint, broken crayons, over-spilling water tables with glittery handprints up the stairs owing to an escapee before handwash time.
A jar of paint brushes is always next to our sink. Crayons roll on every surface. A layer of new creations drying on the side board, glue and stickers underfoot. It has been this way since Theo was old enough to smear finger paints.
I’ve always loved creativity, but since committing to a greener lifestyle i'm suddenly aware of how much garbage it produces. From the teeny tiny plastic bottles of dried up glue and glitter to the markers which may colour just a handful of pictures before the lid gets lost, dried and unusable, destined to spend 100 years in landfill. The products and indeed their packaging are equating to huge quantities of material heading to landfills or needing to be recycled.
Over the last year our family has worked hard to reduce the quantity of garbage produced, We bulk buy our dry foods, use material bags for all other foods, utilise capsule wardrobes, own minimal toys - but until recently our arts and crafts supplies have been my guilty secret. Oversized boxes and draws housed every variety of paint, glitter, pen, crayon and sticker imaginable. I feel more than a little guilty when I think about the quantity of arts- and crafts-based garbage we have produced during the last five years: my once weekly trips to the Dollarstore to top up on supplies a distant and regretful memory.
So is it possible to apply a zero waste attitude to kiddie arts and crafts supplies? The answer is absolutely, and here is how!
What to consider when it comes to giving your arts and crafts cupboard a green makeover.
Similar to adopting a zero waste philosophy to any aspect of your life, you have the choice whether to start fresh - out with the old and in with the new or to use up what you have and then replace when needed with more sustainable products. ( this is always our preferred option). A few things to consider in the equation of zero waste art supplies:
1. Life cycle of the product, packaging, health/toxicity of the product (super important if, like me, you have little people who like to cover their bodies in everything, and brushes, pens etc seem always to be in mouths.)
2. The energy consumption and transport impact (buying local helps to keep shipping costs to a minimal and reduces carbon footprint).
Following extensive research, there seem to be three options to produce zero or minimal waste:
1) Make products from scratch where possible, using natural, non-toxic ingredients.
2) Buying supplies in bulk direct from art stores, eg tablets of paint, coloured pencils etc (making wise product choices ).
3) Buy directly from earth-conscious companies who consider packaging and only use natural ingredients.
Here are some great companies and products who go the extra mile to be earth conscious. All sell a wide variety of products from paint, doughs, beeswax crayons, face paint etc.
Given a larger family budget, option number 3 is very appealing but honestly when I started looking at these products I found the cost to be prohibitive (for us at the moment). I know you can’t put a price on kids’ safety (we all want to ensure creative play is free from toxins with a focus on planet preservation) but I felt there had to be other more affordable options.
In the interest of frugality, I opted for a mix of 1 and 2.
Here are my top tips to work towards a zero waste arts and craft cupboard:
I feel like with so many conundrums in life, nature always has the answer. Using natural materials eliminates the need for plastic packaged goods and nature provides an abundance of amazing colours and textures. Collecting them with kids can also become part of the activity. Stones, twigs, shells, dried flowers, leaves, natural fibre string to name just a few, all are free, and can simply be returned to the garden or composted once the moment has passed.
So first let’s explore the make it yourself option. There are hundreds of inspired Pinterest posts and boards (check out my Pinterest board with all my favs) with easy recipes for paints etc, from make it yourself yogurt based, edible baby finger paint, to homemade sidewalk chalk, glue and playdoh recipes. All of which have ingredients that can be purchased from bulk stores.
I'll admit prior to writing this post I had never made paint using natural dyes, so before recommending it as a viable option we gave it a try. Here's a little peak at the process.
The kiddies enjoyed the whole process and were very excited that making paint from spinach and blueberries was actually possible, they peeled, blended and painted with glee. With 3 little helpers it was a messy old process but totally worth it.
So, making paint might not be your thing but homemade playdoh is very easy and quick to make and if stored in a mason jar can last for months. All ingredients can be found in bulk. This is my fav recipe:
How about dying pasta/rice with natural or store-bought food coloring ( here is how), endless sensory possibilities, all compostable.
Homemade glue, check out this great recipe, simple ingredients you will have at home and all available in bulk.
Paper mache is great way to recycle old news papers, the possibilities here are truly endless.
When your current supplies run out or need replacing here are some great zero waste options:
- Recycled paper. I managed to find some at my local art store that was even produced using windpower
- Tablets of non-toxic tempura paint available in bulk
- Wooden paint brushes
- Coloring pencils - wood free to reduce waste, just blocks of colour, available in bulk
- Wooden pencil highlighters
- Water pencils
- Wooden paintbrushes
- Stainless steel pencil sharpener/scizzors
- Bees wax crayons
- Charcoal - natural product
- Utilising slate boards with chalk rather than white boards requiring markers
- Using mason jars to store supplies
Obviously your choices need to be age appropriate, if your kiddie is still at the age where everything goes in their mouth, non-toxic choices are very important.
Fear not. If you’re not particularly arts and crafts minded, there are so many other ways to embrace creativity with your kiddies. Maybe cooking/baking is your thing. Maybe you to love garden. I’ve never met a kiddie yet who doesn’t love digging and planting.
Hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration. Would love to see pictures of you and your little people embracing zero waste arts and crafts, please share them with me on instagram #littlegreenlives.
Thanks for popping in