Amanda Barrow creator of Process of Play
Taste safe paint? There are many ways to make home-made, non-toxic paint, and this has been quite popular across early years settings and with parents at home alike. However, Amanda Barrow takes a critical look at this and explains why she doesn’t agree with taste safe paint.
Google ‘taste safe paint’ and you’ll get hundreds of results with simple steps of how to create taste safe paint for children. These recipes are simple: mix yoghurt and food colouring to create ‘paint’. Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I don’t believe this is a sensible idea. The concept behind this is well–intentioned. If your child puts the paint in their mouth, it’s safe for them; it’s safe on their skin and easy to clean up. Using taste safe paint is not meant to encourage them to eat it. Regardless, let’s think of your reaction as a practitioner or parent/carer. If your children are painting with normal paint and they put a paint covered hand in their mouth, you’ll react. As practitioners, or parents/caregivers, this response is natural. You’ll then proceed to either verbally instruct them to take their hand out, or assist them in doing this and then explain why. You may then even stop the activity altogether, to try it again another day. This reaction teaches them that we don’t eat paint and paint is for the paper. We hope it teaches them it’s not safe for our bodies. It reiterates rules and guidelines of using art materials and what the intention is. However, if a child is painting with taste safe paint, and they put a brightly covered hand into their mouth, you may not react with the same vigour. You may not even react at all. What a confusing message this sends children. There is no consistency in behaviour around food versus art supplies and how to treat them. I have even read one well known art teacher’s perspective which in fact encouraged eating the paint as they created with it!
So let’s fast forward to the day when you use ‘normal’ paint in art activities. What may happen in this situation if children start to eat it? If you’ve previously used taste safe paint then your children may believe that having a taste of paint is ok. Your reaction? Panic, frustration, annoyance, concern. ‘What?!’ Your child may think, ‘I’ve eaten paint before, why am I not allowed to now?’. The potential confusion you are creating for the children in your care can be avoided. Let’s start early with respecting art materials, used for arts sake. Using simple verbal guidelines such as ‘the paint stays on the paper and the brush’, is best, and closely supervising art activities. Try to use positive instructions and support to guide children in using the materials appropriately.
‘Leave the yoghurt in the fridge and teach children to respect art materials instead’.
So how do you paint with your child if they are in this mouthing stage and you don’t want to introduce taste safe paint? Here’s a couple of options:
1. Try ‘clean painting’ activities where paint is added to a ziplock bag. Children can squish the paint and mix colours, but without the risk of ingesting the paint (bonus: this is also very clean!).
2. Use non-toxic water-based paint for children to explore. The non-toxic paint will give you peace of mind if they are tempted to put it in their mouths. Just remind them of what paint is used for, and where it goes. 3. Or you can wait… There are plenty of other creative activities and materials you can introduce to very young children besides paint. In turn, by waiting until they are past this stage, it will be less stress for you as practitioner or parent/carer. Watching children create and explore with art materials is brilliant. They learn and gain life skills and independence from art creation. Let’s make it easy on ourselves, but also our children. Let’s not confuse them with mixed messages of what art materials are, and how they should be respected.
Amanda Barrow is the creator of Process of Play, founded on the importance of process art for children, and helping parents to create independent learners creatively at home. eye
6 • eye • May 2022 • Volume 23 No 10