Below is a simple version of what I am calling my “Back-To-School Shopping Guide”. These recommendations are based on what I what I feel are safer choices for children to use, and what I personally buy for my own family.
I may not have tested each of the exact products listed (using XRF technology), but I in each case I have likely tested many products by the same company, or interchangeably-similar products, and consistently found them to be safe (from the perspective of any heavy metals-toxicity).
As a result there may be entire categories of items here that you are looking for but do not see, because either I do not recommend them, have not tested them, or have not used them personally and so cannot evaluate them or make a recommendation for that category of item (“children’s magic markers”, for example). There are also brands that (usually as a political stand) I recommend avoiding entirely (like Crayola) so you won’t see any of their products listed here.
Also please realize that my children are older now (in 2019 they are 11, 14, 17 and 23!), and thus many of my own personal family’s purchase/use recommendations these days skew towards things that may be more appropriate for older children (please always follow the age guidelines on the product packaging in this regard). Ok – I think that’s it for the disclaimers, so without further ado…
[Note a brief description of my experience with the item or reason for choosing the item is below the item’s photo. The item’s photo is linked to the Amazon affiliate link* for that product. I also plan on updating this post over the course of the month of August as I receive feedback from my readers.]
Lead Safe Mama’s Back To School Shopping Guide!
#LeadSafeTip: Don’t buy painted metal thumbtacks, or thumbtacks with any sort of painted design; they are more likely to test positive for Lead.
#LeadSafeTip: In my experience, any brand of construction paper these days should be toxicant-free, and I don’t have a concern for construction paper as a product in general. Vinyl (or vinyl-coated) craft “papers” and sheeting can have Lead, so please do avoid those.
#LeadSafeTip: Buy food-grade “butcher” paper in the largest roll size/quantity you can afford! You will thank me later. The paper linked above is uncoated and untreated. We actually have never had to purchase this ourselves, as people often gift us rolls they have left over (after their children are grown)! You too may also want to look in “Buy Nothing” groups or places like “freecycle” if you don’t currently have some of this in your home! In the past I have also personally purchased smaller rolls of paper from Ikea (for use with their easels) and those might be appropriate for smaller kids, but even small kids LOVE giant rolls of paper.
#LeadSafeTip: If you are buying spiral bound notebooks, please buy only high-quality, brand name notebooks that are (preferably) not decorated in bright colors and do not have brightly-painted spirals. Spirals notebooks have been recalled in the past for Lead paint hazard violations (where the metal spiral was painted with brightly colored Lead paint.)
#LeadSafeTip: I bought this dual-temp hot melt glue gun for my kids after doing a bunch of research. As with most things, buy high-quality, brand names with good reviews. The potential Lead concern with an item like this (from any brand) could be any painted logos or decorations on the item. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the company/brand, the less likely it will be to have any Lead-painted components (there is, unfortunately, still the occasional exception; following my blog can help you to keep track of those!). Most newly-manufactured plastic items are not painted with Lead paint, however.
#LeadSafeTip: Items like these (when used as intended) are an appropriate tool for protecting little fingers from being burned by hot glue. I have this exact item (purchased earlier this year) and while I do not have ANY concern for Lead in an item like this it is possible that they may test positive for Cadmium at trace levels (levels that are considered safe by all current international and national U.S. standards.) Given the item is not intended for feeding (like a baby bottle nipple) and not intended for internal use (like a menstrual cup) I really don’t have any concern for trace Cadmium in a silicone item like this. HOWEVER this may be a concern if you have a child with pica, a child who might be inclined to pop one of these into their mouth to chew on (instead of using it as intended.) Stand by for a blog post with the XRF test results for these finger protectors.
#LeadSafeTip: I have no concern whatsoever for Lead to be present in erasers. To be extra sure that you have a lead-free product you can stick with name brands (without printed words on them) and also consider buying Japanese products. There are so many fun decorative collectable Japanese erasers – many of which are also puzzles! – and I love buying those for my kids to encourage creative learning and play, but they don’t always make the best functional pencil erasers.
#LeadSafeTip: Modern pencil cores have always been made out of graphite, despite them being called “pencil leads.” Most name-brand modern pencils should be Lead-free, in 2019. The concern for any Lead in modern pencils is the potential for Lead to be found in any exterior painted decorative elements of the pencil. Because of this, is important to buy brand-name, high-quality products. That said, it is rarer to find pencils with decorative elements that are painted these days, so it has become less of a concern. [Decorative pencils these days are more likely coated in a pre-printed decorative paper that is usually glued to the pencil, and those paper coatings are also generally Lead-free.] Takeaway: avoid colorfully-painted, off-brand (or no-brand) pencils.
I have used the workbooks below with my children for about 8 years, now. We have been in and out of school so much [with both their health issues and Lead paint and water contamination discoveries in the schools, as well as issues with the schools refusing to provide free and appropriate education for our children], that I have relied on regular workbook exercises with my kids to maintain and develop basic skills and knowledge. This brand of workbooks is fun and engaging and I often incentivize (read: bribe) the children with rewards for completing a certain number of pages. Charlie just got a new Grade 5 one and now that they have become a “constant” in our house (and he knows what to expect), he is actually excited to start working on it! I also give my kids some kind of bonus reward when they complete a full workbook!
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.