I am so happy to share this beginners list of art supplies for all of the self proclaimed “non crafty moms” out there. I’ve had so many moms ask me where to start, what to buy and how to do get crafty with their kids. I’ve also heard so many moms say they want to do more arts and crafts with their kids but feel overwhelmed about all the different supplies and how to handle the mess. This art supply list is meant to help navigate the world of simple arts and crafts with your child in a step by step, unintimidating way. At least, that is my intention. After a few baby steps you’ll be feeling like a “crafty mom” in no time.
CONFESSION – I have no idea how to cook. Nada. Start sharing a recipe with me and my eyes start to glaze over and a humming sound goes off in my head. We all have our strengths. Mine is crafts. I come from a looong line of artsy fartsy crafters and it’s just something that comes naturally to me. So let me help you and in turn, help your kids. And maybe you can tell me how to boil rice. Not kidding, I mess it up every time…every time!
So, if you walk into a craft supply store or look on pinterest and start to get hives, this list is for you.
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Everything here is great for ages 2 and up with the exception of number 6. I’ve also included links to different activities with each material, not to freak you out or say you have to do this, but just maybe to inspire you a little and give you ideas. Remember, baby steps.
1. Watercolor Paper
watercolor paper – Using quality paper is a great place to start. It doesn’t mean you can’t use paper from your printer, it just means that if you’re looking for a place to start when it comes to paper, this is a good one. If you’re going to pick one nice pad, I’d go with thick, 140 lb watercolor paper. Lots of times parents buy watercolor sets for their kids and neglect getting the right paper to go with it and then end up wondering why the paint isn’t coming out so great. It’s because of the paper. This is the kind watercolor paper I recommend, though there are lots of similar brands. I like the way this paper peels easily away from the pad. Kid Made Modern also offers an inexpensive watercolor pad that’s great if you have a Target near you.
What you can do with it – You don’t have to use watercolor paper with watercolors, though it’s great for that. You can also use it for drawing, collage, painting, etc.
Something Simple – Make vertical lines with a ruler on a piece of watercolor paper and paint or color in each one a different color. If you’re child is too young for that, just putting out the paper for drawing is a great start. Do you have some colored chalk laying around? Try some chalk on the paper.
watercolor set – This is my favorite watercolor set. Artist’s Loft makes a similar one that I love at Michaels if you have one near you. I love using watercolors with kids of all ages. Both my daughter’s, ages 2 and 3 use them at least once a week. The colors are beautiful. They are easy to use by adding water to your brush from a nearby cup and applying it to the paint. The set is inexpensive and the mess is minimal. It really lasts too.
What you can do with it – Paint on your new watercolor paper, paint on a piece of wood, paint on a recycled paper bag from the super market
Something Simple – If you have watercolor paper, then for sure give that a try. If you don’t, save a few envelopes from your mail. Have your child paint them over a few pieces of newspaper. They can paint the newspaper too.
*Note* Liquid watercolors are a favorite of mine that I often reference on my blog. They are a little more advanced however, and I wouldn’t recommend them necessarily if you’re just starting out. They are really cool though for when you and your child are ready!
3. My Favorite Tempera Paint Set
My favorite paint set – If I could recommend one paint set to any parent, it’s this one. I LOVE this set. I think the price is fair and it’s lasts and lasts and lasts. The neon colors are amazing and the mess is way more manageable than regular squeeze tempera paints. You just add water as you go. I teach kids to dip their paint brush in water and move it around and around in the color they want so that the paint really drenches their brush. Once you get the hang of it, the colors are amazingly bright and exciting.
What you can do with it – Paint a piece of your new water color paper, paint on a piece of wood, paint on a recycled bag, paint on envelopes, paint a box, paint a catalog from the mail, paint a phonebook, paint recycled egg carton
Something Simple – Make light lines all over your new water color paper with a pencil. Have your child find the lines by tracing over them with different colors from your new paint set. Depending on how old they are, you can show them how to add a border to their art by painting along the edges. My girls love a good border. They can also write their name in pencil and then trace over with paint.
soft chalk pastels – Pastels are the perfect coloring material for small hands and the outcome is gorgeous pretty much every time. The trick to soft chalk pastels is rubbing them flat on their sides along the paper, going right to left or up and down while applying pressure. They work like any marker or drawing utensil at the tip, but putting them on their side makes the colors come alive on the paper. Kids can have fun blowing away the excess chalk they make from rubbing. They can also blend two colors together with their fingers creating a new color or just smudge the colors together. You can use watercolor paper with pastels but construction paper in any color, especially black, works really well. It doesn’t have the grainy texture the watercolor paper may have. I like this brand of construction paper and recommend the multipack. It’s good quality and doesn’t rip easily like other brands.
What you can do with it – Pastels work great on paper of all kinds, rocks, slate, cardboard and recycled paper bags. Try any of these surfaces.
Something Simple – Cut out four squares of different color construction paper and invite your child to try the pastels on each color, rubbing them on their side back and forth. Staple all the squares together for a little art book when you’re done. You can even make a cover by adding another square. Talk about which color background your child likes best and why. If you have an an old plastic photo album laying around you can try these mini art books!
Examples using Pastels – How to use Pastels
*Tip* It’s nice to cut construction paper into smaller sizes once in a while, just to give your child a new shape to work on. You can cut out circles, squares, triangles, rectangle strips, etc. They don’t have to be perfect. The idea is to just change things up.
*Since writing this I would definitely add oil pastels to this list. They are less messy and they work really well with watercolors. The watercolors just go right over them leaving the oil pastel in tact. Here’s an example.
masking tape and washi tape – Tape is a a great no mess, well, little mess, art supply for kids. We go through washi tape like chocolate chip cookies in my house. Very quickly. It’s great for cutting practice, fine motor development, sensory integration and having fun. For the little ones that aren’t using a scissor yet, you can rip a bunch of pieces off and place them on the edge of a table and they can grab them easily. For older kids, they can cut off their own pieces or rip them. This definitely takes some practice but is well worth the effort.
What you can do with it – Tape a recycled wine bottle or other drinking bottle, tape a cardboard heart shape, make a tape rainbow, make a tape collage for grandma or grandpa on your new paper pad.
Something Simple – Draw an oval on watercolor paper in pencil. Add little bits of tape for the hair, eyes, nose and mouth. You can do a self portrait looking in the mirror. Cut out the face when you’re done. You can tape a popsicle stick to the back and use it for a mask or just hang up the face on the wall using more tape.
6. Clay or Sculpey
Clay and/or sculpey – Ok, I know clay can be kind of intimidating. It was for me at first too. It’s also kind of a major commitment, especially since it tends to come in 25lb cases. Though there is tremendous value in exposing your kids to clay, I think a better baby step for self proclaimed “non crafty moms” is the mothership of all kid activities, sculpey. (I seriously need to be on Sculpeys payroll!) Sculpey is best for kids 5 and up. I’ve used it with four year olds before but unless you feel really comfortable with it, this one is for the older kids. Sculpey is a polymer clay that is soft until you bake it in the oven and then it’s permanently hard. Kids LOVE sculpey. The colors are amazing and the projects are limitless. It’s also the best gift item for birthday parties, especially if you live close to Michaels and use the half off coupon. When my kids start kindergarten I’m going to stock up on this stuff and just be ready every weekend for all the class birthdays.
What you can do with it – roll it, pat it and mark it with an awesome. I start by teaching the basic shapes – a ball (roll a small piece of clay in between your two palms or in between your palm and the table), a log (once you have a ball, roll it back and forth on the table until it forms a log,) a snake (keep rolling the log back and forth on the table or in between your hands until it gets skinny like a snake) and a pancake (flatten out a ball shape on the table with your thumb or your palm.) The kids can go go go from there.
Something Simple – Show your child how to roll balls about one inch in diameter and slide them onto a skewer. Slide them back and forth to loosen the hole and bake them in the oven. You’ve got yourself super cool handmade beads you can string for a necklace.
*Tip* If you’re feeling the sculpey idea, this craft machine is awesome to go with it. It flattens the sculpey making it really fun to stamp into with cookie cutters. Kids LOVE cranking it and it feels really professional to them. I highly recommend it. You’ll be the cool crafty mom for sure with this. You can see how we used it for necklaces here.
That’s it for supplies for now. This seems like a lot to get started and I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many choices. Now for the part I know is a big concern as well.
I know clean up is one of the number one deterrents from doing art with kids, which is one of the reasons I picked the supplies above. Watercolors and tempera cakes make a minimal mess, as do sculpey and tape. Real clay is more messy for sure, so maybe hold off on that one if you’re not into the mess. Pastels make a chalky mess, I can’t lie, but they are also really easy to clean up with just a wet rag, even on the walls.
My favorite Clean Up and Storage Tips
1. Trays are awesome for keeping things contained. We use trays all the time for different projects. They are also great for creating a designated space for each child. Everything stays on the tray, keeping the mess confined to one area, which is great.
2. Tarps, drop clothes, or plastic tablecloths are great to do art on. You can lay them on the floor and create or put them on a table or under a table to protect the floor. We use them all the time. And if all else fails, throw down a towel.
3. When you can, go outside. Taking art activities outside is a great way to relieve the mess stress.
4. For storage, an art cart is one of my favorite ways to store art supplies. You can read about them here on one of my favorite sites for kids. We are lucky to have a great outdoor storage space in sunny Southern California. I share tons of tips on storing art supplies here.
So what do you think? Did I keep my word? Unintimidating and step by step? I hope so! Just remember to take baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. Just try to have fun and please let me know if you have any questions at all! I’m happy to help.
Thanks for reading along everyone and you can do it! xo Meri