Where to Find Gluten-Free Craft Supplies

If your child has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you need to worry about more than food — you also need to worry whether her craft supplies contain gluten.

Unfortunately, gluten is a very versatile protein, and many craft products aimed at children contain it. Play-Doh — which is made of wheat flour, water, and food coloring — is one of these craft products, but others include paints and paper mache.

Fortunately for those of us who follow the gluten-free diet, there are gluten-free options on the market for almost any project. Here's a rundown of what supplies you need to watch out for, and what's available in gluten-free form.


Play Dough and Modeling Clay

Little girl playing with he play dough
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Practically every child has played with Play-Doh at some point. The problem is, little gluten-free kids, tend not to wash their hands afterward, and even older children might wind up with a little bit under their fingernails.

You never should allow a gluten-free child to play with the brand-name version, regardless of how careful you think they can be. Instead, offer them the chance to play with safe modeling clay. Possible brands include:

You also can make your own homemade playdough using gluten-free flours and other ingredients.


Finger Paints

A child's hands finger painting on drawing paper
Vladimir Godnik / Getty Images

Children who fingerpaint frequently get more paint on themselves than on the paper, which is why these paints must be non-toxic. Unfortunately for those of us who have a problem with gluten, wheat is considered a non-toxic substance ... and some fingerpaints contain it as an ingredient. Elmer's Finger Paints, for example, contain both wheat and oats.

Therefore, when your budding artist wants to create a masterpiece with his bare hands, make sure to supply one of these fingerpaints:


Paper Mache

A parent and their child making a paper mache ball
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If you ever made paper mache piñatas or other creations (in your pre-gluten-free days, of course), you know what ingredients typically are used: wheat flour and water. Even if you could keep your child's hands away from her face while working on the craft project, she'll still get sick from inhaling airborne gluten.

Luckily, at least one company — AMACO — makes a gluten-free Claycrete paper mache mix that's made entirely of pure white paper pulp. The mix dries harder and whiter than wheat-based paper mache and will adhere to most materials, including metal, glass, wood, and paper.

If you want to make your own gluten-free paper mache mix, you can do so with a gluten-free glue (see below) and water: mix about one part water to two or three parts glue until you have the consistency you need.


Glue and Craft Paste

A girl glueing a craft project
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Despite the scary-sounding name, glue almost always is gluten-free these days. Gluten-free glue options include:

  • All Elmer's glue products, including Elmer's white glue and glue sticks
  • Colorations Washable School Glue, Colorations glitter glue and Colorations glue sticks (both purple and premium)

Craft paste, on the other hand, may contain wheat flour as an ingredient (just as wallpaper paste does). For a gluten-free alternative to craft paste (which is valued for its slow drying time and its flexibility after drying), try Elmer's Craft Bond Tacky Glue.


Markers, Crayons, and Pencils

Two children drawing with markers

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

For the most part, you don't need to worry about markers, crayons, and pencils — any you purchase are highly likely to be gluten-free.

Crayola states that all its drawing materials — including that rainbow of Crayola crayons — are gluten-free. Colorations' variety of different markers and pencils also are safe, as are Elmer's Painters paint markers and 3D Paint Pens.

Overall, when shopping for gluten-free craft and school supplies, you'll be better off sticking with name-brand products that disclose their gluten status (such as Crayola and Elmer's), rather than saving a little money with an off-brand or store brand. Good luck, and happy crafting!

By Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.