Is teaching art at home intimidating? What if I told you that simply offering a selection of art supplies (and books, always books) to you kids and letting them explore was enough?
Although there is a time for formal art instruction I don’t feel childhood is that time. Childhood is the perfect time for kids to revel in the joy of making just for the sake of making. Allowing kids time and freedom to explore will naturally build their skills and confidence. Here are a few simple supplies you can keep handy to facilitate that joyful making, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist!
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I used to be the education coordinator at our local art center. Planning, scheduling, and teaching children’s classes & field trips was a dream job for me. I only had two kids at the time and my second son often came to classes with me. Six years later he still talks about things he learned and made there.
In most cases art classes are an awesome investment. But they are expensive. And in a family of six classes and activities outside the home can be overwhelming. There is no limit to the awesomeness I could sign my kids up for.
Vs. home exploration…
I’m a homeschool mom. My entire philosophy of how kids learn everything is built around the idea that kids learn best when they are exploring, trying, failing, and trying again. Learning can be messy and repetitive and I’m okay with that.
The thing about teaching art at home is you don’t need to be an expert. The most important thing about art at a young age is exploration; not instruction. Let them explore.
A little freedom will help a love of creating grow!
Free art supplies….
Whether you supplement art classes with more art at home or your child’s entire art education takes place at your kitchen table I’ve got some supplies that will allow your kiddos a maximum art experience on a minimum budget.
I call these our “free art supplies.” Yay, right? They’re not free, well, not free of cost anyways.
These are basic supplies, usually relatively inexpensive, with lots of uses that are always available for my kids to use at their own whim. I should say these art supplies are “freely available.”
I qualify the fact these are freely available at my house by saying I don’t really mind a mess for an arty cause. Your standards may be different than mine and that’s okay!
Also, from a very young age kids can be taught the proper use, care, and clean up of art supplies. I freely give my children art supplies not meant for kids. I’m not saying my kids have never used an art supply in a damaging way but 99.9% of the time they respect the materials and make awesomeness!
Cake watercolor paints…
Cake watercolor paints are an easy “first” kind of painting but they can be more sophisticated too, as kids skills improve. Watercolors are great as color washes, backgrounds for other types of art work, journaling, and create some really awesome textures.
Yes, I allow my kids to use Sharpie permanent markers from a ridiculously young age. They stay on the kitchen counter. I won’t say a child has never written on themselves, but no permanent property damage has ever taken place. I love that they make marks on everything. Drawing on top of other artwork, like paintings is a favorite at our house. Sharpies come in every color and metallics that make everything shiny and awesome.
Layering multiple media is a great way to add some sophistication to kid’s artwork. And, it’s just fun. Using grown up art supplies makes art feel more special.
Is it weird that I have a “favorite construction paper?” I’m thinking most people do not. This Tru Ray paper has my heart. It’s not crumbly or grainy like some construction paper. The colors are vibrant and true.
Again, it costs pennies more than the dollar store brand and the difference is so visible. Worth it.
Honestly, these may be my favorite medium to use with kids of all ages. They are crazy bright, minimally messy, and super versatile.
If you’ve got a kid with low muscle tone, poor pencil grip, or a short attention span for mark making; this is your tool. Because they are so soft they mark easily. Colors build and blend easily; almost like painting. Try this idea that uses oil pastels and the watercolors from number one!
And they are inexpensive so you can let your kid use them freely without breaking the bank. This Sakura set of 25 costs less than a cup of coffee.
This seems like a no brainer, right? Pencils make art. But cheap pencils are annoying. They break constantly. Mechanical pencils, which are my fave for school work, are not awesome for art work.
Ticondergoa pencils are straight up the best. They are worth a few extra pennies. As your kiddos get older there are all kinds of artist pencil sets that offer lead of different softness and therefore make different marks. But for the younger set a good, plain pencil is a great start!
Whether you’re using watercolor or tempera there is nothing that ruins the carefree joy of painting like picking dollar store paint brush bristles out of your artwork.
I am not a paint brush snob. For most purposes children do not need specialty brushes according to the paint being used. A good set of general use brushes will do fine and last for ages with decent care.
These are the quintessential kid’s art supply for a reason. The possibilities are endless and one set will last for ages. Don’t scrimp on off brands here. The difference is huge. Crayola crayons are hard to beat. Get all the colors.
Tempera paint cakes….
Until I was an art teacher I had never heard of tempera paint in cake form. They a little like watercolor in that they paint is in hard, dry cakes that require water to paint with, but that’s really where the similarities end. Tempera is brighter, and more opaque than watercolor paint.
Cheap tempera paint is horrible. It cracks and peels right off the page as it dries. This stuff will never do that. There is virtually no waste; no squirting out piles of color only to throw half of them away.
These Quartet Alphacolor tempera cakes are more expensive than watercolor cakes but they last forever. For home use I would say one set will last at least one school year, if not two.
Water based markers….
Good old fashioned washable markers have a place at your art table even if you love the above mentioned Sharpie markers as much as I do. Washable marker are great for adding large spaces of bright color. They’ve got crafty uses such as this color mixing process art.
Much like crayons markers are just good to have on hand. They’re cheap, fun, and bright; perfect kid material!
Have you ever erased a hole into your paper? What about painting so enthusiastically that the paper rips? It’s no good. Sometimes 20 pound copy paper will do. But most of the time a slightly heavier paper will result in less frustration.
Quality paper doesn’t need to be terribly expensive. Most artists sketchbooks are made with paper heavy enough to withstand markers and paint. I prefer to buy a ream of 60 pound paper. It’s cheaper and when materials seem less precious it’s easier to let our kids use them freely!
Check out these art supplies and share which materials are favorites in your home! Happy making!
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