I’ve been an arts and crafts teacher for a loooong time. Over the years I’ve come across art supplies that I love and art supplies that I don’t love all that much. Parents ask me all the time for my very favorite art supplies for kids, so I thought I’d do a mega round up of my favorite art supplies for summer. I’ve included my favorite must have art supplies, as well as a few random supplies I like to keep around for an art filled summer. Please consider this a jumping off point. I’ve collected these supplies over a long period of time, not in one go. I’ve added some links to things we’ve done with a lot of these products to give you ideas. You can see how we organize our art supplies here. I hope this helps to bring tons of art into the lives of your children this summer!! They’ll thank you for it!!!
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1. liquid watercolors – I love liquid watercolors! There are so many things you can do with them. The colors are crazy vibrant. They are great for toddlers to adults. We’ve used them with spray bottles, paint brushes, sponges and droppers. They are great for dying your own wood beads and making gorgeous spring flowers. I have these liquid watercolors and I’ve used these. I really like both.
2. Sculpey – If you are a steady Meri Cherry fan, you know I am madly in love with Sculpey. Yes, it’s true, it’s a love affair. I’ve made an entire Alien Army from Sculpey including an Alien Army queen, as well as countless seven layer cakes and dreidel necklaces and sculpey finger puppets. I can’t get enough of the stuff. If you have kids 5 and up, this is the best art supply ever! Trust me on this one.
3. Watercolor Paper – This is a must have on my list. The bigger the paper the better. You can always cut it down. We’ve used watercolor paper for all kinds of collage, Spring flowers and family bonding. Michael’s has really big pads. If you want to order one online, this watercolor pad is great. Discount School Supply has an awesome stack of 50 you can get and the price is great. We love this watercolor set to go with it, but there are tons of uses for this kind of paper. I’ll be sharing a bunch soon.
4. super cool paper – This is one of my favorite mediums to draw and paint on. It’s great for bicolors (see above) tempera paints, glitter glue and sharpies. It’s a super cheap version of plexiglass, which we also love, but is a bit more expensive. You can do some many activities with this supercool paper. I will be sharing a bunch shortly!4.
5. paint dots – Paint Dots have been around forever for good reason. They are a great no mess way to paint. Both my girls love them. I like the fluorescent paint dots especially, but all the colors are great. We made our own stickers with Paint Dots, and they are great for art play dates.
6. duct tape, washi tape or masking Tape – I am a tape addict. I just think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and you can do a million things with it. Washi tape and masking tape are easy for little hands to rip. It used to be that you had to order washi tape off Etsy, which I love and have done many times, but now it’s gone main stream and you can find it at Target or on Amazon (washi tape). The quality isn’t always as great, but for little ones I think that’s ok, plus it’s a lot cheaper. If your kids are older, 6 and up, duct tape is awesome. We’ve used washi tape to create washi tape blocks, heart stickers, gift wrapping, resist art and raceways for toddlers. We’ve used duct tape for sensory boxes, waterbeds, Henry the Hobby Horse, and this awesome duct tape boat.
7. Sharpies – Sharpies are a classic favorite. Yes, they are permanent, so you have to be careful, but, the colors are awesome. You can get a full color package of Sharpies here. Kids love using them and there are so many fun things to do with them. One of our favorite invitations to play is sharpies on tinfoil. They are great on this super cool paper too. You can put them over a picture of your family and your child can color them. It’s really fun.
8. Nancy Bottles – Ok, I’m kind of obsessed with Nancy Bottles. I don’t know where they got their name but they rule, so I’m going with it. Nancy bottles can be found at Discount School Supply. An identical looking paint bottle is available on Amazon, though I haven’t tried them yet. They look good though. We put bicolors and tempera paints in them and my girls squeeze away. They are perfect for little hands and allow you to limit the amount of paint used.
9. Paint Rollers – We love paint rollers and use them all the time. Evolving canvas process art is probably our all time favorite art activity. I’ve invested in a few ink rollers that are a little costly, but worth it because they are durable, easy to clean and can be used by the kids and the adults. I also really love these textured palm rollers from Discount School Supply. We’ve used rollers on our toddler built box city, canvas art and color mixing activity.
10. Tempera Paints or BioColor Paints – Tempera paints are terrific for kids of all ages. We use ours all the time. Ikea just came out with an awesome set of squeezy paints that I love. The colors are so vibrant and the bottles are a good size for the price. I like these washable tempera paints a lot. I have these too. If you want a small set to try out this small tempera paint set is good. Michael’s has small sets too that are great. I don’t really see much difference in any of them. To me, I go for anything on Amazon Prime so I can have it the next day. BioColors are exclusive to Discount School Supply I think. I haven’t seen them anywhere else. They are a slightly more sophisticated paint that is able to do a lot of really neat things, like resist color, turn into puddy or plastic or puffy paint. If you are looking for some new adventures in paint, I highly recommend biocolors. We have done a few experiments, like these stencil canvases and I am really into them.
11. White Glue, Glue Sticks or Glitter Glue – Glitter glue is something you can buy as is, or make your own by adding a little paint or food coloring and glitter to a bottle of white glue. I’ve used these glitter glue bottles and my girls love them. We also love glue sticks. We use them on paper all the time and even tried them for a woodworking activity. They were great. It’s important to buy the kind that says permanent, not washable, because those totally stink. We like these Glue Sticks. You can’t go wrong with Elmer’s white glue either. Don’t underestimate the power of Elmer’s glue, a piece of paper and some pom poms or popsicle sticks. Squeezing is great for strengthening muscle development in small hands and kids seriously love it. We had so much fun mixing glue and play dough here.
12. Glue Gun – I know glue guns bring up a lot of feelings from some moms, especially when using them with young children. I am of the camp that well supervised and well trained children can 100% use glue guns safely and effectively, so I am all for it. In fact, I am waaaay for it. I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to make these crayon sculptures. They are so cool.
1. Birdies – Artificial birds are so much fun! We paint them, stick them in clay, put them in sensory bins and give them baths. Imaginative play is so important for young children. These sweet little birds can be found at Michaels, often in the discount bin, and on Amazon. (click here to buy Artificial birds) We love ours.
2. Ice Tea Dispenser – Seriously, this tea dispenser rocks. I put colored water in it, add some buckets and spoons and my kids are busy for hours. They love turning the spout on and off. They don’t love taking turns all that much but that’s a different story. We used it to make Nature Soup at play group and the kids loved it!
3. Food Coloring – I go through food coloring at a seriously abnormal pace. We can’t get enough of the stuff. We make yogurt paint with it, shaving cream paint and color a whole lot of water with it. If you have little kids, food coloring is your new best friend. It doesn’t stain your skin. I promise. It does at first, but after a bath you’re all good.
4. Liquid Droppers – Liquid droppers are super cheap and super fun, one of my favorite combos. We use these with liquid watercolors, science water play, salt painting, and even in the bath. These make a great addition to any water table on a hot summer day.
5. Insulation – I know. It’s really random but insulation from Home Depot has kind of changed our lives. We bought two huge panels last summer and they are still in great shape. We’ve used them as a mock ice skating rink, a tee pee floor and our new fav, an outdoor painting wall. Insulation comes in all sizes. The shiny foil makes it really attractive to paint on and the paint rinses right off. I highly recommend you give it a try this summer!
So that’s it. I hope this is everything you need for an art filled summer. Oh, and one last thing, when you’re working outside, keep a bucket of water around if you can. It makes your life way easier for cleaning and washing hands, plus little kids love to go back and forth from their art to the water bucket. Happy Summer!!!