September 29, 2009

Umbra Fisk: A Breath of Fresh Air. ~ via Diana Mercer

Parenting writers tend to give their readers what they want, namely activity suggestions that are easy, clean, skill-building, or cute. While I fully understand the penchant for this list of descriptors in the chaos of parenting, the process of making art for young children is about none of them.

I clapped with glee after reading Umbra’s advice column to a well-meaning auntie searching for healthy, natural art supplies for her niece. Ms. Fisk provides clear and informative answers about how to assess the safety of a variety of children’s art supplies, while gently reminding parents that art is supposed to be messy and if that’s a problem, get over it for the sake of growing creative minds everywhere! Her final, gentle reminder to take time to make unstructured art with your child (or alone) isn’t original, but is priceless.

Umbra on Children’s Art Supplies at Grist.com

Hey Umbra,

I’ve got a niece with a second birthday coming up and I’d like to get her a present that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer or TV. So, I thought, how about an art set? What better way to get those creative juices going at an early age than some finger paint and crayons? But crayons must have some crazy toxins in them, and what about finger paint … do I need to be concerned? I’ve heard about veggie paints, but don’t know where one can find them—or how to make them. Ideas please!

Sudha N.

Seattle, Wash.

Dearest Sudha,

Children’s art supplies are a fabulous gift idea, and if you follow a few simple guidelines, there’s little need for concern. The bigger problem with child art is that the freeform techniques of the toddler atelier may freak out neatnik parents and cause many opportunities for battles of the will. If your relations are fastidious, may I suggest including a smock in the kit? Perhaps a miniature dropcloth and several large sponges? Maybe a large fence, to create a hermetic seal around the art area? Plus a parenting book helpful in the toddler years—such as Becoming the Parent You Want To Be?…

…Your idea is a great one, and there’s no need for concern, just basic common sense. Don’t forget to spend time making art with your niece. Toddlers need companions to encourage, teach, and assist them. And people of all ages need some low-pressure art time.


For the entire Umbra response, please visit their website.

Diana Mercer is the Founder of Clementine Art, an all-natural producer of children’s art supplies. You can follow Clementine on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

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