I have opinions on art classes and little people. (I talk more about them here.) They definitely have a place in a child’s art experiences but they are not the be all end all. Kids can have an amazing art education right in their own home. With just a few basic art supplies and their art education becomes a part of everyday life; not something on Tuesdays from 2-4.
Your goal may not be to raise a child that grows up to become an artist in the sense that they make their living from creating art. But I think we can all agree that raising a kid who is a creative thinker, a problem solver, and an appreciator of others is an awesome goal. Making art, looking at art, and talking about art is a step in that direction. So easy.
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Raising an artist…
Art can be accessible to kids everyday at the time of their choosing. Kids can create when the mood strikes, when inspiration arises, and as healthy way respond to big feelings. Isn’t that what art is really about?
Don’t be scared….
Art isn’t a formula and there is no “correct” answer. The lack of formula is what can make art scary to present to kids for a “non artist” mama. Don’t be scared. Just take the time to notice what interests your kids and let that lead the way.
Basic art supplies….
In my last post I talked about the basic art supplies to stock in your home. These ten basic art supplies cost a minimal amount and allow for a maximum of fun and self expression. These supplies are about the most bang for your buck and include things like quality brushes, markers, crayons, and such.
Inspiring art supplies….
This list goes a step further than the basic art supplies. I’ve included materials that don’t serve only a single purpose but can be used in a multitude of ways.
Art supplies that strike the balance between being of good quality and not too precious to use up are my favorites. Don’t be overwhelmed at this list. Invest in one or two new materials at a time and really give your child a chance to explore them before moving on.
In my post about stocking basic art supplies I stated that those basic art supplies are the ones that are always available. They don’t need to ask me for permission; they are freely available. You may or may not choose to do that with the following supplies. It probably depends a bit on the ages of your child an also the gusto with which they attack their art. (I.E. how quick they burn through supplies.) One of my kids is free to use all of my grown up supplies at any time. Two of my kids need a few limits lest my supplies all be gone in a day! You will know what works for your family!
Chalk pastels are like the grown up cousin of the box of pastel colored chalk you used to use on the chalkboard at school. The chalk itself is softer and smoother than regular chalk, and crazy vibrant. These colors look amazing on both colored and black paper.
Chalk pastels layer, smear, and blend; a great tool for learning about coloring mixing and blending. Plus, they’re relatively cheap. This Mungyo set of 64 colors is less than ten dollars and will last for ages!
For younger kids a good, basic pencil is fine. As kids get older and their skill increases or they want to experiment with different drawing techniques a set of artist’s graphite pencils is a great place for a tiny investment. This set of 12 pencils by Derwent gives a variety of hardness allowing for detailed drawing or a smudgy, soft look.
Drawing and sketching are one of the easiest ways to encourage your child; just a sketchbook and pencils can provide hours of self expression.
If your child enjoys using cake watercolors these liquid watercolors should be the next thing on your list to buy. They come in tiny one ounce bottles. Your gonna’ be disappointed when you open the box; these bottles are tiny. Don’t be. We’ve had this Sargent Art Watercolor Magic set for almost a year and half and still have some left. (And I would venture to say we make more art than your average household!)
Liquid watercolors are essentially super concentrated pigment. You can dilute them as needed by adding water. You can use them for anything you would use regular dry watercolors for; they are just a bit more vibrant. There are also tons of techniques that are unique to these liquid colors; totally worth looking into!
This gauze impregnated with plaster can bring your child’s three dimensional ideas to reality. And it’s easy, so easy. If you remember doing paper mache as a kid using newspaper strips and paste; this is not the same.
The gauze has plaster in it already. All you do is dip a small strip in water and lay it on top of your armature. We like to use crumpled up bags or old paper and tape them into the shape we like to get the armature. Then cover it with Rigid Wrap, piece by piece. Within minutes it dries and hardens into a smooth, white layer that’s ready to be finished in any way you choose.
I used to buy this stuff at our local craft store and was quite stingy with it because of the cost. I now buy it by the 5 pound box which is so much more economical. Five pounds is a lot of this stuff. It will last a while. Yay!
I like working on a heavy paper. I know this paper is labeled specifically “watercolor paper,” but I am saying it can be used for more than that. This paper is 90 pounds and it has some tooth which means that it is thicker paper and not completely smooth. It “holds on” to whatever medium is put on top of it.
Your child doesn’t need a special paper for every medium they use. Buy one quality paper like this and use it for watercolors, liquid watercolors, and pastels.
Polymer modeling clay…
Polymer clay is a smooth pliable clay that stays workable indefinitely, until being “fired” in an oven. What I like about this is it is one more way for kids to experience three dimensional art. It’s clay that doesn’t need an giant, expensive kiln.
Polymer clay comes in many different formulations and colors with an unlimited amount of tools, molds, etc. A good basic clay in a variety of colors is a good place to start. You don’t need anything fancy until you know what you’re going to do with it and which qualities you love and don’t love.
One thing to keep in mind with polymer clay is the amount of time it is baked is based on the thickness of the piece per 1/4″ thickness. So this is a medium that works best on a small scale. Think jewelry, bead making, tiny figures, and other small figures!
Acrylic paints are like grown up tempera paints. They are permanent; in fact we use sometimes use them as fabric paint. When my kids were little they painted in their undies when they used acrylics. (Sigh.) Now that they’re older they just know acrylic paints get a bit of respect.
Acrylic paint is thicker than tempera. It can be smeared, thinned, poured, scraped, the possibilities are endless. For kid’s purposes you can use acrylic paint for pretty much anything you would oil paint for, but without turpentine.
My kids are younger so we tend to use craft acrylics a lot. They are super inexpensive and endlessly colorful which is a great combination in my book! (This 18 color set for as many dollars will last a long time and provide a nice color pallet.) I like using art supplies that aren’t too precious so I don’t have to be stingy with them. It’s a quality/ quantity balance thing.
If your kids are a bit older or more interested in working on a canvas Liquitex makes an excellent tube acrylic. This 48 tube set provides a great selection. These are thicker and much more like oil paints than the craft acrylic above. Both are permanent.
Wire is one of those ambiguous supplies I like to keep on hand. It’s not for a specific “lesson” but I’m pretty sure we will need it for something; something really, really good. Wire can definitely be a “found object,” meaning it can come in the form of old coat hangers or deconstructed machines. A perk of buying wire meant for crafting is you know that is safe to be handled by children; meaning it is free of lead and other harmful chemicals!
If you’re going to purchase wire there are two kinds I would recommend. Armature wire is soft and pliable so it will bend without breaking. It’s great for creating an “armature ” or a base for a sculpture that might later be covered in plaster wrap or polymer clay.
Craft wire is a smaller gauge and comes in pretty colors. It is appropriate for smaller scale sculptures and jewelry making; making it a perfect combo with the polymer clay.
If you visit the Kitchen Table Classroom often at all you know printmaking is my very favorite process to share with kids. You can use so many household items for printmaking but investing in a few printmaking staples is an awesome idea.
I’m not a huge fan of art making “kits.” Often the contents are not a high quality or they contain pieces you don’t really need or use. But this little printmaking kit by Speedball has everything you need for multiple printmaking experiences. A carving tool and easily carve-able piece of linoleum is an easy do it yourself kind of introduction to reduction printing.
And when the linoleum is used up the printmaking ink and a brayer can be used for tons more projects- like this one!
Can tape count as an art supply? It can in my book because we go through a lot of tape in my household in for the sake of art making. When my kids were little it was Scotch tape. They would sit at the counter and tape the heck out of stuff.
Now it’s washi tape for eight year old. She has a little dowel rod dispenser on which multiple colors and patterns are neatly lined up. These little paper tapes come in every color and pattern and are perfect for journaling, scrapbooking, and a million crafts. Making stuff doesn’t have to be “high brow” to be worthwhile!
And then there’s duct tape. We use rolls of this stuff, both the standard shiny grey and the crazy tie die, camo, and other pretty offerings. From wallets to slingshots to art on a canvas this stuff has it’s place.
Don’t be afraid to let your kids use supplies in ways in which they were not intended. That’s the fun of being an artist.. (Wink wink.)
Share what art supplies are your favorite.
And if you’re just getting started be sure to check out my post about how to stock an art supply cabinet with the proper basic supplies!
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