Raising An Artistic Child, Part 2: Kid-Friendly Art Supplies

By Gail A. Stivers in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

For the second article of this series, I am going to concentrate on the main supplies you should have ready for you artistic/creative child. (And if you missed it, here’s the first article, on creating a space for art.)

There’s no need for expensive studio supplies, especially at younger ages, so with an eye towards frugality, let’s get started:

Art supplies for pre-schoolers

For pre-schoolers, art supplies can be kept simple and few. I like to stock finger paints or tempera paints, mostly in primary colors—white, black, red, yellow and blue. This gives you the chance to show them how mixing two colors creates a third color (like blue and yellow making green).

Think about purchasing larger tubes paints and putting them into smaller containers to use. Dixie cups are perfect.

When it comes to brushes, just get the cheap watercolor brush sets found in any low price store. You can even check out auto stores, since they often have inexpensive brushes and sponge applicators.

Play-doh is a great art supply as well. With a pre-schooler, you don’t need the more expensive sculpting clay, especially since children will like the colors much better, and Play-doh is already made safe for young children who like to taste things occasionally.

One of the things that I love for children’s art projects are glue sticks—get several to a pack. Show your child the amount they need for each use. A glue stick will last a long time when used properly, and doesn’t lead to messes like other glues will.

Popsickle sticks are fun for crafts, too. You can either puchase in pack or keep the sticks from your treats. Paper plates are handy as well. Get the cheaper manilla pressed plates or a cheap pack of white plates.

For coloring, I’d recommend larger body crayons, because they are less breakable. Keep them all together in a box or baggy. The paper that you color on can be purchased in rolls of newsprint, which can then be cut into whatever size sheets you want.

At this age, cheap paper is perfectly fine. Don’t forget rounded scissors, too! And you can even re-use newspapers for things like potato-stamping.

Aprons will help diminish the mess somewhat—simple paper or plastic aprons are fine, or you can purchase some that are more washable. Be sure you still use older clothes underneath—or Dad’s old t-shirts.

Elementary school art supplies

Once your child reaches elementary school, he or she will probably be much more excited about art, because they now encounter art in the school setting, which means larger groups.

Stay with tempera paint, and add a simple watercolor set and a set of washable colored markers. Use these along with coloring books, and show them how to add color, staying close to the lines. Expression is great, but at this age they also need to know control. Now that they have more dexterity, you can add a larger variety of brushes, sponges, stamps, etc.

You can expand your paper collection as well, and I’d definitely recommend construction paper for making mosaics.

Other decorative items, such as glitter, pipe cleaners and feathers are always good. Keep a see-through box to hold buttons, beads and other pieces that would get embedded into carpets otherwise (digging through these treasures is part of the fun!) And show your child how to keep their eye out for interesting “found” materials from real life.

Art supplies for middle-schoolers

During the middle school years, your child should be using more mature material, but not yet studio materials. The art projects at school are becoming more refined and more extensive, and you can do the same at home.

Add simple acrylic paints to your supplies. If your child is showing more interest and capability, add a few colors other than just primary colors. At this point they shouldn’t need other textural media, but this is a good time to show them how flat and textural painting changes the look of a project.

Add charcoal to your child’s drawing materials. Show them how to take care in their hand placement, so their drawings don’t get smudgy. Look for better quality drawing pencils and colored pencils. Look for some quality papers such as textural papers, and experiment drawing on those. Use these papers for mosaic pieces or creating glass window effects, too.

This is a good age to introduce your child to the easel, especially a more inexpensive wood easel made for children. During the later pre/High School years, you can change to an adult easel or small drafting table if they prefer.

As they become more proficient, add canvas boards or small canvases.
With the added value of the canvas, teach them to have some kind of general plan that they can put on paper first. Be sure they understand that the finished product seldom looks just like the plan, just so they don’t torture our doubt themselves when it doesn’t turn out exactly as they envisioned.

Play-doh has probably lost its luster by this point, so I’d recommend switching to regular sculpting clay to keep your child interested in creating three-dimensional pieces. Throwing will probably be out of question (unless you have an area for that) but many wonderful things can be done using slab or coils. Even without a kiln, you can allow the clay to dry and harden, and make somewhat permanent pieces.

Finally, as your child enters high school you can start to increase the variety and scope of brushes. Add a fan brush, angle brush and some thinner line brushes. You might even want to show them how to use a sponge to create textural effects. Millions of brushes aren’t necessary, but giving them a few good brushes that they can, and will, use will give them the freedom to explore all of their creativity.

And remember, if you start early in showing your child how to care for their materials, it will continue thru adulthood. . . right along with their artistic tendencies.

For other articles by Gail, please visit her blog, Abstracted Perceptions.


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