Stocking Stuffers: Eco Art Supplies

All natural eco finger paints

Are you looking for small gifts that you know your child will use? Try eco-art supplies made from botanical ingredients.

Every year I struggle to convince my in-laws not to give my children tiny, throwaway plastic toys in stockings or advent calendars. It’s a losing game. I can request that they not give the children toys that will be thrown away after the children are bored with them, which is immediately, but that hasn’t worked yet. Instead, I am very careful to keep my own small gifts useful, exciting, and fun. These art supplies are stocking stuffers or advent gifts you can feel good about.

We are constantly on the lookout for more natural toys that encourage open-ended, creative play. We’re really happy with our new art supplies from Glob and eco-kids.


Glob botanically crafted paint powders are made from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices with all natural ingredients and organic extracts. Just add water—more water for a thin paint like watercolours and less water for thicker paint like tempera or finger paints. These paints smell delicious. Set of 4 colors in jars or a sample packet of red (that’s pomegranate!). Made in California, USA.

Glob natural paint for children in 4 vibrant colours


eco-kids is a family business making art supplies with natural ingredients like earth clay, cornstarch, flour, spinach, red cabbage, purple sweet potato, carrots, blue gardenia, red grapeseed, and annatto seed. You know these supplies are safe for your child, and they are also such a pleasure to work with. The gentle aromas awaken the senses. Try bags of paint powder, jars of dough, or rock-shaped crayons, all in beautifully vibrant colors. Made in USA.

Eco finger paints for children

eco dough play clay for children

All natural crayons made in USA

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Back to School Supply Lists

Recycled newspaper pencils for school supplies

For the past month, every store I’ve been in that sells any kind of school supplies has a prominent display of supply lists for every grade. I would just think this is another marketing opportunity for the stores themselves, but my friends tell me that they have surprisingly long school supply lists from their children’s schools.

The school supply list has become ubiquitous in August.

I love school supplies. I love office supply stores. I loved going to work with my mother as a child and raiding the office supply closet. I loved having access to the supply closet at every job I’ve ever had. I just love the smell of newly sharpened pencils. School supplies are definitely a big thing for me.

I was curious how much school supply lists can vary. Since my children are homeschooled, we’re basic pencil and notebook people with a side of glue stick. We bought a few things recently, but we haven’t put too much thought into whether we have every little item. I wondered, though, what I might be in for if I had to send my children back to school next week.

So, I surveyed store lists, which I conclude are way overloaded. Skip those. And, I surveyed elementary school supply lists across Canada and the U.S. I’ve listed a few below.

The Basics

You could probably guess most of the basic supplies. Some of the lists were very specific by brand and type—ONLY glue sticks or absolutely NO glue sticks, for example.

  • Backpack
  • Ballpoint pens
  • Binders and folders
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Construction paper
  • Crayons
  • Dry erase markers
  • Glue or glue sticks
  • Lunch Box
  • Pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Wide-ruled paper

The Surprises

The biggest surprise to me was cleaning supplies—a lot of them. A New York Times article this month on the evolution of school supply lists mentions a school that asked students to bring garbage bags and cleaning spray. The reason is not mysterious. School budgets have been cut, and schools are no longer able to provide some of the basics. What parents aren’t (and sometimes ARE) paying in taxes is covered directly through the school supply lists.

  • Boxes of antiseptic wipes or baby wipes
  • Boxes of plastic zippered bags
  • Boxes of tissues
  • Braided rug
  • Camp pillow and bath towel
  • Checks to the school for magazine subscriptions
  • Copy paper
  • Paint shirt
  • Rolls of paper towels

Green Your School Supply List

It’s tough to know how to send a lower impact version of zipper plastic bags and antiseptic wipes when schools are specific down to brand. The best chance environmentally conscience parents have is probably working with the teacher, school, or district—whoever generates the school supply list—to come up with options.

You can find green school supplies as more retailers stock recycled and reusable products. If you have some flexibility, you can substitute cloth handkerchiefs for paper tissues, recycled pencils for new-wood pencils, and refillable pencils for throwaway pens.

Back Pack
Dabbawalla Insulated School Backpack

A lot of parents like the Dabbawalla backpack because it is insulated. If your child’s lunch box is not insulated, this is another layer to help keep food cool or warm.

Lunch Box
Goodbyn Lunch Boxes

We covered waste-free lunch boxes last week, since a lot of schools are moving toward waste-free lunches.

Hand Purifier
Clean George Hand Purifier

If you have to provide hand sanitizer, you may as well choose a natural option like Clean George’s Hand Purifier with Tea Tree Oil.

Stockmar Wax Crayons

Beeswax crayons are non-toxic because you know that crayon is going in the child’s mouth.

Clementine Art Natural Markers for Children

Natural markers have no petroleum binding agents and only food-derived colors.

Clementine Art Natural Glue

Traditional glue contains animal and petroleum products, but natural glue uses bio-polymer adhesives.

Colored Pencils
EarthZone colored pencils

EarthZone pencils use 100% post-consumer recycled newspapers and white glue rather than new wood to make their hard bodies.

EarthZone recycled newspaper pencils

EarthZone pencils last up to 3 times as long as wood pencils.

An Unscientific Sampling of Elementary School Supply Lists

I chose only elementary school lists, focusing on Kindergarten when there was a grade-by-grade list.

Central Queens Elementary on Prince Edwards Island

Ottawa-Carleton School District in Ottawa, Ontario

St Frances School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Adams School in Janesville, Wisconsin

Bentonville Public Schools in Bentonville, Arkansas

Briar Elementary School in Fremont, California

Westgate Elementary in Falls Church, Virginia

It’s a Toy If He Says It Is

This acorn is a natural toyMy son has pockets full of garbage. He keeps important broken pieces of electronics, pieces of paper, rocks, sticks, string, and so on—along with whistle, golf pencil, compass, play person, ball, and wallet chained to his belt. At least a couple of times a day, he empties his pockets and examines his stuff. He plays with it, incorporates it into a town or school or camp or island or other creation he’s made. Then, the stuff all goes back in his pockets, though it might be different stuff in than came out.

I love that he has such a clear desire to carry his stuff and that his stuff involves so much that is just incomprehensible to others as toys.

But, these are his toys. A rock or a piece of string is as much a toy for him as a ball or a pencil. He gathers toys from the recycling, from the garden, from the garbage, and from interesting mysterious bits that accumulate in the bottom of toy boxes. Anything works as a toy if it intrigues him.

As I was reading through The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, from the Baby by Nature store, I love the emphasis on natural materials. Author Amanda Blake Soule definitely endorses the anything goes approach to toys.

Among her suggestions are Toys from Natural Materials

  • from trees – found sticks and pieces of wood as wooden blocks
  • from scraps – a basket of fabric scraps of any size or color (I keep special threads for my children as well. Glowing thread was a big hit this week and has already been incorporated into a special birthday gift from one child to the other.)
  • from fibers – yarn and string (though be sure to supervise young children)
  • from outdoor collections - rocks, pinecones, and shells

She also suggests Natural Art Supplies

  • from the pantry - “beyond the pasta necklace” to seeds and grains of a variety of colors and textures
  • from nature – rock, leaves, nuts, bark
  • from the garbage – calendars for collage, newspapers for papier-mache, old electronics (like my son loves so much!)
  • from thrift shop – dishes, fabrics, or anything that catches their imagination

Recipe for Natural Glue

Combine a 3:1 ratio of flour and sugar in a saucepan. Slowly add cold water until a paste forms. Stir over heat until the mixture thickens. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. This glue will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Allow the glue to warm to room temperature before using it. ~“Alternative Art Materials,” page 39

Image © Melissa Dockstader |