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The GFCf Experience Back to School Guide: Part II - Art Class

Posted Aug 16 2011 12:59pm
In Part I of this series I talked about the obvious - school lunches and snacks. Here, in Part II, I talk about the insidious - school art.

My rude GFCF awakening when it comes to school art occured when my oldest was four years old. It was an IEP meeting, and the teachers were showing me some of her work. One of her art projects was a design made by gluing pretzel sticks to some construction paper. When I asked why pretzels were used, since they knew she was GFCF, they replied that it was ok because she wasn't eating them.

It never occured to them that my daughter, like many young children, like to put their fingers in her mouth. And after touching pretzels and getting some of the crumbs on her hands, well...

This is not the only instance of food being used as part of art projects. Every year, at least one of my children makes a "gingerbread house" around Christmastime. They do this by gluing graham crackers around a (cleaned) single-serving milk carton and then decorating with different candies. Not exactly a GFCF paradise.

I'll talk more about the use of food in art later, but first, let's look at the more common way gluten and casein may make their way into school art - through art supplies.

All About the D'oh

How do you keep Kindergartners and 1st graders occupied at school? Give them some Play D'oh! At least, that's what they do at my children's school. Play Doh is the teachers best friend. At the beginning of the day, during art time, at open houses, etc. Play Doh seems to be the craft of choice to keep children occupied. What's not to like about Play D'oh!

Well, Play D'oh is not gluten free. It's made with wheat flour.

Fortunately, there are a couple of options. Crayola Model Magic is GFCF and can be used in place of Play Doh (be careful...Crayola dough is NOT GFCF...make sure you get the right product!). Moon Dough is also GFCF, and a company called Colorations markets a GF dough (another company, Lakeshore, has discontinuted their GF dough line).

Or, have some fun and make your own Play Doh! It's easy! Here is the recipe
GFCF Playdough Recipe
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tsp. cooking oil
food coloring

Place all the ingredients in a pot and cook on low heat, constantly stirring, until a ball is formed. Remove from heat. When cool, pat until smooth. Store in a plastic bag.

Note that doughs made by common art suppliers Ross and Rose Art are NOT GFCF.

But Silly Putty is GFCF...

A Sticky Situation

Now that we've tackled Play Doh, let's look at another sticky product - glue. There are some glues that can be made from wheat flour (the simplest glue recipes are just a mixture of flour and water). But fortunately, the most common glue products available - Elmer's glue and glue sticks - are GFCF. Ross glue products are also GFCF.

There are other adhesives that are used in art class as well, like stickers and tape. All have the potential to contain gluten, but there are some that are certified gluten free
  • 3M brand tapes, including Post-It notes and Scotch tape
  • RoseArt brand stickers
  • Sandylion brand stickers
  • Smilemakers brand stickers

Paints for the Little Picassos

On our school supply list every year we are asked to buy paints. For the most part, paints are gluten free, EXCEPT for finger paints manufactured by Elmers and Ross.

Companies with acceptable paints include
  • Crayola - all paints (including the finger paints)
  • Palmer (all paints)
  • Prang (all paints)
  • Ross (EXCEPT finger paints)
  • Elmers (EXCEPT finger paints)

Mark(er) it Down

Of course, what would art class be without pencils, pens, markers, and crayons? Fortunately, pretty much all common brands are GFCF, so draw away!!!

Paper Mache

I can remember doing paper mache when I was in school in the 1970s. But I had never included it before in this list, simply because my kids have not done it in school. Nonetheless, paper mache usually uses some sort of wallpaper paste, which contains gluten. And given how messy it is, it would be easy to get that paste all over you and inadvertantly ingest it.

Fortunately, Alison at Sure Foods Living published a recipe a few years ago to make your own paper mache paste - mix 2 parts GF white glue with one part warm water. Then dip your paper pieces in this. Alison also mentions a company called Claycrete that sells a recycled newspaper product you just mix with water and mix like clay.

Food Art

One time, I saw an art museum display which was an entire living room suite made from cheese puffs. The flies loved it...

Seriously, food is commonly used in school art projects, whether it be milk cartons to be used as bases for gingerbread houses (not to mention the gingerbread), or macaroni to make necklaces, or even pretzels used as tree limbs. So how does one get around these obstacles in a GFCF manner?

  • Milk Cartons. You need to make sure the cartons are thoroughly rinsed before use. Even better: provide a carton from home that had your favorite GFCF substitute (like soy milk). I am not sure if you can purchase unused milk cartons - does anyone know?
  • Macaroni. Corn or rice macaroni is (at least here in Missoula) readily available, even in regular supermarkets.
  • Pretzels. You could substitute Glutino pretzel sticks, but that's costly. Alternatively, slice carrots into little sticks and use them instead. It gives the little masterpiece a terrific splash of color.

As for the Gingerbread house, please check out Karen at Only Sometimes Clever's Gingerbread cookie recipe. She made a GFCF gingerbread house using this recipe that won first prize in a local competition a few years ago!

If All Else Fails

So what if there is no way around your child using a GFCF product in art class? Here are two suggestions
  1. Wear gloves. A set of latex or rubber gloves will allow the child to do the art project without having the GFCF product touch them.
  2. Participate! If you know your child is going to be doing a special art project at school involving a GFCF item, ask if you can come in and help. I did this when my daughter made a gingerbread house and we had a great time building it together.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do, though, is communicate, and communications will be the subject of Part III of this series.

As always, thanks for reading!

I would like to acknowledge Bec at Mainely Musings ; she has a terrific post listing many GFCF art supplies, and where I found much of my information. Please visit her post here for a complete list.

Do you have a special hint or tip for having a GFCF school year? I would love to hear about it! Please leave a comment to this or any of the posts in this series.


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