Be it crayons, pencils, felt pens, play dough, paints or scissors it is very essential to select those that not only fit in your budget, but more importantly are child friendly and safe. Young children are susceptible to toxins in paints or lead poisoning through cheap paints and plastics. This can lead to allergies, asthma, and severe problems like attention disorders and behavioral issues due to high content of lead.
While selecting crayons-
- For very young toddlers select those that are thick and round and fit in the palm as young toddlers use the ‘Palmer’ grip to hold a crayon.
- Then the child can progress to thick crayons, also called Jumbo crayons.
- As the child slowly masters the skill of colouring you can now give 3 sided crayons, so that it automatically teaches the child the right way to hold the crayon and this will later help him in holding a pencil.
- Crayons should be such that they do not break easily, as this can be frustrating for the child.
- Children tend to put everything in their mouth and may even bite it and swallow, so always select crayons made from food grade colours and avoid those made from textile dyes, as they are dangerous for children if swallowed.
- The wrapper should be of the same colour as the tip as this helps your child select the colour all by himself and hence develops independence and self esteem.
- After colouring, the colour should not stain the other pages.
- When colouring, the child should be able to get an even flow and not a patchy print.
While selecting scissors-
As a pre-writing activity, it is very important to give your children cutting exercises with the help of scissors, as the same three fingers that are used in holding a pencil are used for holding the scissors, hence this helps develop them a habit of holding the pencil correctly.
- The concept of using scissors is to develop the ‘writing fingers’ (thumb, fore finger and middle finger), so the finger hold should be such that they can comfortably accommodate the thumb on one side and both the fore and middle finger on the other.
- It should be sharp enough for cutting and blunt enough not to hurt the child.
- Try rubbing the blades on your palms to check if they hurt.
- It should not twist or get stuck while using, as this frustrates the child.
While selecting a felt pen-
- Do not go on the size or thickness of the pen, check the length of the inside ink holder.
- It should use food grade ink, so that it is safe even if children put it in their mouth.
- The cap should be ventilated as this will help the child breathe in case he swallows it.
- The tip should be comfortable – not too short or too thin.
- The ink should be such that it can be washed off easily from the child’s hands.
While choosing pencils-
- Check the cantering of the lead – it should be exactly in the centre or else the pencil point will keep breaking while writing and while sharpening.
- Avoid those pencils where the back of the pencil is covered with paint. The back of the pencil should be showing the lead point.
- Go more for utility rather than its colour or price.
- Safe lead or non-lead pencils are the best.
While choosing an eraser-
- Avoid those with aromas as many kids may be allergic to them. Some cheap varieties have strong aromas.
- ‘Dust free’ erasers are best for young kids.
- Ensure that the eraser does not smudge or leave dark marks every time the child uses it.
- The eraser should be the right size for young fingers to hold and move.
- The eraser quality should be such that with the slightest of movement across the paper it should be able to erase, so that kids do not need to put pressure.
While choosing play dough/clay-
- The play clay should be soft and malleable for young fingers.
- It should not have any sticky oil on its surface.
- When kids use it there should be no residue on their fingers.
- It should not stain or bleed colours.
- It should be soft so that it does not crack or dry up when stored.
- It should be high graded clay, so that it does not catch fungus when stored.
- It should be non-toxic for kids. Check for lead content.
While choosing paints-
- Avoid paints that give a strong chemical smell.
- Paints that leave stains on the fingers are of low grade quality. It’s best to avoid them.
- Buy larger containers so that it lasts longer.
- Paints should be non-toxic and check for lead content.
Let us keep the above points in mind and keep our schools and children safe.
Author: Dr. Swati Popat Vats
Advisory Board member of Canvas International