Eco-friendly and Budget-friendly Arts & Crafts Supplies

Kids love to cut, glue, draw and make things. Unfortunately, the less expensive conventional arts and crafts products often contain ingredients that are unsafe for small children. For example, finger paints may contain toxic heavy metals and developmental toxicants. Not very kid-friendly!

Make It Yourself

As is often the case, if you are on a limited budget but want to avoid toxic ingredients, your best option is to make it yourself. Luckily, many of kids' favorite materials are super easy and inexpensive to make. Here are a few recipes to get you started (click on link to source for additional instructions and photos):

  • Bubble solution:  Combine 1 cup water, 4 T dishwashing liquid, 2 T light corn syrup or glycerin (optional)
  • No bake play dough (from Super Baby Food): Mix 2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup salt. Slowly mix in 1 cup hot water (with natural coloring in it if desired) and 1 t oil (optional) while stirring. Knead and add in flour until desired consistency. Store in an airtight container.
  • Sidewalk paint (from Parsimonious Princess): Combine 1/4 cup corn starch and 1/4 cup cold water with a few drops food coloring and stir. Add paint brushes and sidewalk!
  • Homemade glue (from The Creative Family): Combine a 3:1 ratio of flour and sugar in a saucepan. Slowly add cold water until a paste forms. Stir over heat until it thickens. Add 1 t white vinegar. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge. Use at room temperature.
  • Fingerpaint (from Green Sisterhood): Combine 1/2 cup cornstarch, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 cups cold water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring until thick about 10 min. Allow to cool and add natural coloring. Use right away.

For additional arts and crafts recipes, check out this comprehensive collection by Planet Pals and Eco-novice's Pinterest board DIY: Arts and Crafts Supplies.


Another money-saving eco-friendly strategy is to use materials from the recycling bin and trash instead of new materials for your crafting creations. Do not allow your children to reuse materials known to contain toxins, however, such as styrofoam packaging or dryer lint. Paper products are usually a safe choice and there are endless possibilities to be had just from reuse of everyday paper products such as:

For a long time, my son's favorite activity was to make collages of cars he cut out from magazines. We also used old magazines and catalogs I hadn't gotten around to canceling to create collages of objects that began with a certain letter. Almost anything in my recycling bin is fair game for my kids to color on, cut up, glue or tape together.

Use Natural Materials

Nature is another fabulous source of free materials. Collecting objects in nature has the added bonus of getting your kids outside and learning about their environment. Our go-to nature project is one of the simplest: nature collages, which are a fun way to record and remember the changing seasons.

Objects found during our walk, ready to make into a nature collage!

Need some additional ideas for projects using natural objects? Here are a few books where you might find inspiration (many of these books also feature projects using recycled materials):

And then there's always Pinterest. I've been collecting ideas for nature crafts here.

Buying Arts and Crafts Materials: What to Look For, What to Avoid

Of course there are some arts and crafts supplies you will probably want to buy. I won't be making our own colored pencils or markers anytime soon. Luckily, there are lots of eco-friendly and non-toxic arts and crafts products on the market now. An easy way to find such products is to shop with green businesses such as MightyNest or Abe's Market, which both have a great selection of arts and crafts products. When using conventional arts and crafts supplies, be sure to avoid the most hazardous products. Click here to learn more about what to look for and what to avoid when purchasing arts and crafts materials.

Related Posts and Links

Choosing Arts & Crafts Materials that Are Safe for Kids (Eco-novice)


  1. My children are older now and have moved on to driving lessons and the like. But we too made most of our craft materials. Making them was half the fun.

  2. This was really thorough. I think the possibilities are endless for what blogs like these could cover.

    This summer was particularly insightful to me, having done weekly arts and crafts workshops at the farmers market. The community really grasped onto it and the kids loved it. Some of the parents gave me some awesome ideas and I just KNEW I would have to blog about them.

  3. P.S. The idea for sidewalk paint and finger paint is a pretty good idea.


Have something to say? Please leave a comment!
I read all comments and try to respond to questions in a timely manner.
Comments are now moderated due to spam overload and have to be approved (by me) - so don't worry if your comment does not appear immediately after you publish it.


© 2008-2020 Eco-novice: Going Green Gradually All Rights Reserved

Copyright © Eco-novice | Powered by Blogger

Design by Anders Noren | Blogger Theme by