I’m a firm believer that art can be made of anything and done by anyone, but there are certain materials that are great to have on hand if you’re starting to do art with your children.
I have an exciting announcement at the end of this post – but first, here are my Top 10 Art Essentials for Little Artists! I’ve provided both homemade or frugal options along with store-bought items so no matter what your budget, you can get started exploring art with your little artist!
Next week, I will be sharing an amazing collection of homemade art supplies, but I wanted to start out with a core group of basic materials you’re going to want to have on hand for exploring art with your child. All of these materials can be used in a multitude of ways.
While most options have a frugal or homemade option, there are a couple of materials where there is a little less wiggle room (#8). You can definitely
10 Essential Art Supplies for Kids
Specifically, you want black, white, red, yellow, and blue paints. Ideally, you want tempera paints, finger paints, and watercolours.
You can make your own watercolour and finger paints, and if you can buy tempera powder to mix your own paint for a fraction of the cost of replacing bottles – just be warned, I’ve never found a washable powder-based tempera.
2. Material to Paint On
You can go for easel paper, real canvases, or a pad of heavy “watercolour” paper. I am not a fan of construction paper for painting. While it’s affordable, I don’t find that paint dries nicely on it – cardstock is a nicer, still affordable alternative.
Or, you can repurpose cardboard from cereal boxes, paint on stained clothing headed for the garbage bin, etc. You can even paint on play dough or mirrors!
3. Material to Draw On
Construction paper is okay for this, but I would still opt for cardstock if given a choice. A large roll of easel paper serves dual purpose between painting and drawing, and I think it’s wonderful for children to have a blank notebook to draw in, too.
But kids don’t need “fresh” paper to draw on – coffee filters, paper that one side has already been used, used wrapping paper – the sky’s the limit!
You can find cheap paint brushes, but I think it’s best to buy one or two good-quality ones than deal with the issues cheap paint brushes can present – the brush head “shedding” or falling off, cheap paint on the handle flaking off with use, etc.
You don’t need to buy artist-quality brushes from a art supply shop, we’ve had success with these ones and brushes on sale at teacher’s stores, and I also grabbed a giant variety pack of brushes at Michael’s for about $8, but I would avoid dollar store packs.
While we use crayons often, they don’t make it into my top 10. Markers are more versatile and give children more control over their art. We have scented markers (which we used to make our Munsch-inspired Body Outlines), permanent markers, fabric markers, window markeres… but really, you just need to have a pack of basic washable markers in each colour of the rainbow.
I much prefer oil pastels to crayons, they are so much easier to control and use for kids and they always result in prettier results. However, they are considerably more messy than crayons! You can buy materials that fall somewhere in the middle of the two.
We bought two really good quality pastels in Ella’s favourite colours, and then a larger (cheaper) set with more colour options. There is a slight difference in terms of smoothness and vibrancy.
7. Clay and/or Play Dough
Sculpting is too often ignored as a basic art activity that all children should enjoy, moving art from the 2-dimensional to 3-dimensions!
For a cheaper option to purchasing clay from an artist supply, you can try to contact your closest potter’s union and request their “leftover silt.”
(While we have a great set of affordable clay tools, you can also just use a butter knife or popsicle sticks when you’re getting started.)
Safety scissors have come a long way since I was a kid! There is a learning curve with scissors, and specifically-made toddler scissors can help children learn the mechanics of scissors before they move on to proper, preschool safety scissors.
I love providing a few different options: white or clear school glue (which you can also use to make slime), tape – especially washi tape, and hot glue. (Ella uses a cool touch hot glue gun – you can see her carefully at work on our Homemade Jet Pack and Mermaid Tiara crafts.)
If you just want one option, stick with either school glue or a glue stick.
10. “Protective measures”
For us, this includes plastic kitchen trays for doing the art activities on (they double as a safe place to “store” an activity if you don’t finish it in one go, and a great drying space that can be moved into a more convenient spot in the house), art smocks or “messy art clothes,” and plastic tablecloths to protect the table and make for an easier clean up.
Of course, you can use a repurposed baking sheet or piece of smooth wood shelving to replace the kitchen tray, an old “adult-sized” t-shirt for the art smocks, and flyers or newspaper for the table covering.
Are you ready for the exciting announcement?
I’ve been trying to figure out a structured way to bring Ella’s love of art into our routine – because if it’s not structured, I can be pretty quick to fall off track.
In a couple of weeks, we are going to be starting a weekly Montessori-Inspired series called Little Artists – and we’ll also have a “main hub” where all of the posts and ideas are located so you don’t have to worry if you miss a week.
We’re going to go through the basics – colour families, perspective, proportions, etc, and then get into some fun artistic experiments and art history activities, from cave drawings to Warhol-inspired prints.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for activities or concepts you would like to see discussed!
Check out these other Montessori Fine Arts Ideas from my fellow Montessori Bloggers:
Montessori Art Inspired by Nature (Free Printables) Natural Beach Living
5 Great Ancient Civilizations: Art & Architecture (Activities & Free Printables) | The Natural Homeschool
Art Postcards: Montessori Art Appreciation for a Variety of Ages Living Montessori Now
Our Montessori Art Environment | Planting Peas
DIY Art Cards for Montessori Learning The Kavanaugh Report
Montessori Art Appreciation for Toddlers Mama’s Happy Hive
Explore Writing Materials with Kids | Child Led Life
Preparing Children for Their First Fine Arts Experience Every Star is Different
Our Montessori Art Program Grace and Green Pastures