Stocking Your At-Home Art Supplies: Affordable and Versatile Art Making Materials for Kiddos 18 months to 8 years


The back to school shopping season is upon us all. While you’re out browsing the aisles, look for these affordable and versatile supplies that can be used all year long to encourage creativity and exploration through age-appropriate art making. I teach art for kiddos from 18 months through early elementary. These are my art supply recommendations to have on hand for anytime art making at home.

Must Have Art Supplies 


  • Card-stock – I use card-stock in all my teaching because its a little bit sturdier than drawing or copy paper, it holds up better during the art making process, and finished projects look nicer. Pick up a pack of 250 sheets for less than $15 at your local office supply store or online. 
  • Construction Paper – Look for bright colors. For extra fun, add in patterned papers from the scrapbook aisle. 
  • Poster-board – Grab a few poster boards for less than a dollar each and keep them on-hand for art making on a larger scale. Much like card-stock, poster-board holds up well and lends itself to attractive finished projects.  
  • Builder’s/Contractor’s Paper – Look for rolls of builder’s paper at the hardware store. For around $10 you’ll have paper big enough to cover a wall or the floor and get kids drawing in a really BIG way. 
  • Tracing Paper – Great for layering, make stacked drawings and paintings, and of course, use for tracing. 

Drawing Materials

  • Colored Pencils – Any brand will do, older kids may like more expensive, artist quality pencils that create a richer, creamer line. 
  • Markers – Great for mixed media projects, hold onto dry markers – more on that below…
  • Crayons – Crayons show up great under liquid watercolors, make sure you have a black and white crayon in the box for layering and resist pieces. Crayons made specifically to be used with construction paper are even better. Hold onto old crayons and search for creative uses online, there are many!
  • Oil Pastels – Up the drawing game with an inexpensive set of children’s oil pastels – crayon’s softer, brighter, more sophisticated sister.


  • Tempera Paint – Look for washable tempera paint in basic colors. 
  • Liquid Watercolors – If you haven’t tried liquid watercolors, you’re in for a treat. This is my go to paint for little artists. Search online for hundreds of project ideas. 
  • Paint Brushes -Somewhat unnecessary as there are so many other things to paint with (see below), but it doesn’t hurt to have a few paintbrushes on hand. 

Other Necessities

  • Wiggle Eyes – Add these to almost anything to immediately level up the cuteness and fun. 
  • Classroom Glue – Get a BIG bottle – go for the gallon jug. 
  • Glue Sticks – Easier for the youngest kiddos to use, especially when making collages.  
  • Scissors – Get a nice pair of adult scissors for yourself and kid-proof scissors for little hands. 
  • Hole Punch – A single hole punch comes in handy more often than you’d expect. 
  • Exacto Knife – For adult use only, makes cutting out interesting shapes and letters much easier. 

Add-Ons for Extra Fun

  • Craft Sticks – Again, many ideas online, great for making stick puppets and as handles for frozen paint popsicles (for painting with, not eating). 
  • Glitter Glue – The glitter is already mixed in with the glue, no mess, no spills. Genius. 
  • Watercolor Pencils and Watercolor Crayons – Draw with watercolor pencils and crayons, then paint over them with water to see the colors blend and spread. 
  • Colorful Feathers and Pompoms
  • Stamps and Ink Pads
  • Clear Contact Paper –  Arrange almost anything between two sheets for see-through “windows.”
  • Yarn, Sting, and Ribbons

Things You Didn’t Realize Belong in Your Art Supply Drawer

  • Tissue Paper and Crate Paper
  • Dish Sponges – Use to paint with, or as a temporary stamp pad when filled with paint. 
  • Masking Tape
  • Cotton Balls – Clip between close-pins to create disposable paint brushes. 
  • Straws – Many uses, including blowing liquid watercolors across a page. 
  • Plastic Utensils – Use to create interesting textures in painting. 
  • Styrofoam Plates – For one easy project with foam plates, carve into the back, paint over the design, then press onto paper to create a print. 
  • Balloons – Blow up and dip in paint then press to paper, combine colors for an extra fun effect. 
  • Ice-cube Trays – Fill with paint, add craft sticks, freeze overnight, then paint away. 

Things to Re-purpose (aka dig out of the recycling bin/trash can)

  •  Spray Bottles – Fill with dried out old markers and water, let sit for a week, then spray. 
  • Bubble-wrap – Use to paint/print interesting textures and dots. 
  • Plastic Lids – Fill with liquid glue and add liquid watercolors to make sun-catchers or arrange lids in a colorful mosaic. 
  • Plastic Baggies – Put paper and paint inside and seal shut for no-mess art making. 
  • Search online for material specific projects, for example, a search for “egg carton art” led me to a fun flower mobile project I did with my son to make mother’s day gifts. Save Egg Cartons, Magazines, Jars, Paper Milk Cartons, Plastic Soda Bottles, Paper Towel Rolls, Paper bags and almost anything else from the recycle bin and search accordingly.  

What are your favorite at-home art supplies for kiddos? Comment below with ideas for supplies and art projects to share with other moms. 




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Heather is a museum educator and art teacher in Oklahoma City. She designs and leads gallery experiences for visitors of all ages at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and teaches art for toddlers and preschoolers at a local day school and at the Belle Isle Library. She has one son, Roger (3) and an aging dog, Amica (15). Her husband Jared is completing a pediatric anesthesiology fellowship at OUHSC. When not balancing the demands of three part time gigs, writing, parenting, and housekeeping, Heather spends what little free time is left maxing out her library card, trying new recipes, gardening, art-making, traveling, listening to NPR, watching movies, and making the long drive back to Texas to see friends and family.


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