Essential Art Supplies for Kids

Updated on April 29, 2016

Art Supplies


Arts and Crafts Supplies

Children are naturally interested in expressing themselves through art. Some kids show definite preferences, say, to fingerpainting over drawing with crayons, but ideally, every child should have a variety of creative art supplies. Whether you craft together on a specific project, or have unstructured art time, here are some essential supplies for you to explore with your child.

Beeswax Crayon Recipe


1 part beeswax (by weight)
1 part Ivory soap (by weight)
Red, Blue, Yellow, White and Black powdered Tempera paint colors

Other Materials Needed:

Paper cups for mixing, about 1 cup volume each
4-C Pyrex measuring cup
Wooden spoon
Very small paper cups, or other crayon mold
Pam cooking spray


  1. Grate or finely chop beeswax.
  2. Grate or finely chop Ivory soap
  3. Place grated beeswax and ivory soap in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave at 10 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until hot and completely melted.
  4. Remove measuring cup from microwave oven.
  5. Divide hot beeswax and soap mixture into equal parts. For example, if you plan to make 4 colors of crayons, divide mixture into 4 separate large-size paper mixing cups.
  6. Mix tempera color into each mixing cup to make desired color crayons. Tip: Start with 1/2 teaspoon color powder per mixing cup. Add additional until you get the color you want.
  7. Spray small paper cups or crayon mold with cooking spray. Wipe out excess. Poor about 1/2" to 1" hot beeswax mixture into molds.
  8. Allow crayons to dry completely before taking them out of molds. Use and enjoy!

Kids Crayons

For Toddlers to Elementary School Children

The go-to art supply for young children is the colorful box of crayons. Parents love them too, because they are inexpensive, fun, and can be shared by several kids on a play-date. They are also great for crafting, since the wax can be melted (with adult supervision) into different combinations and shapes. Crayons also lend themselves to other interesting craft projects. Try making a pencil cup, using an upcycled can or jar, with crayons glued to the outside.

As an alternative for toddlers, who might have difficulty grasping traditionally sized crayons are non-toxic oil pastels; Pentel makes a nice-sized box. These are messy, but the colors are rich, the medium invites exploration, and toddlers seem to love them.

For Elementary School Kids to Tweens

Beeswax crayons are a nice upgrade from the standard Crayola or Rose Art crayon. The colors are smooth and bright, somewhat transparent, and can be blended for nice effect. Beeswax crayons can be found at well-stocked art supply stores or online. If you're an especially crafty adult, you can even make your own.

For Middle Schoolers to Teens

Fine art materials should be part of the artistic tween or teen art supply box. Try Conte crayons in black, white, and sanguine. Use them on Canson drawing papers that come in different colors. They are harder than oil pastels, but can be blended.

Other fine art options include water soluable crayons, like Lyra Aquacolor crayons. These are creamy crayons that can be blended. Or use a wet brush over top to make watercolor effects.

What's Your Favorite Crayon Color?

What Color Crayon is Your Favorite?

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Colored Drawing Pencils

For Toddlers to Elementary School Children

Good quality colored drawing pencils by Crayola are universally embraced by school children. The pigments are bright and non-toxic, important considerations for parents and caregivers. Look for variations, like erasable colored pencils, metallic colors, and multicultural tones.

For Elementary School Children to Tweens

Kids that are ready to transition to a higher quality drawing pencil may like Derwent or similar brands directed to the needs of art students and studio artists. These types of pencils distinguish themselves from the more scholastic drawing pencils by their smoother and softer texture, suitable for blending, and truer colors.

For Middle Schoolers to Teens

Fine art sketching pencils like Conte come in black, white and sanguine. They blend well and work well in a nice artist's sketchbook. Another fine art option is oil-based sketching pencils, like Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils. These come in a range of colors, are blendable, and lay down smoothly on sketch paper.

A Word About Markers

Kids of all ages love markers. They are easy for very young children to use and they come in a wide range of colors. For toddlers and elementary school children, look for washable markers, twistable markers that won't lose their caps, and neon colors. Older kids may venture into permanent color markers including Sharpies, acrylic markers, chalk markers and more. Chalk markers are especially useful for decorating canvas shoes.

Watercolor Pan Set

Even young children find watercolor pan sets easy to use.
Even young children find watercolor pan sets easy to use. | Source

Paints for Kids

For Toddlers to Elementary School Children

  • Fingerpaints - Though messy, fingerpaints really are a must for very young children. Fingerpainting is a tactile experience, and one of the first and best ways a young child has to explore the arts.
  • Tempera paints - These are non-toxic, usually bright paints that are child appropriate. They do not have the longest shelf-life however, and will spoil, so you need to check them before each use. Dick Blick makes a very high quality tempera paint that is smooth and reliable, and that can be thinned without color loss. Prang also makes a good quality tempera paint.

For Elementary School Children to Tweens

School children should be exposed to many different types of paint mediums, including tempera, acrylics and watercolor.

  • Watercolors - School-aged children usually find that watercolor paints in pans, as opposed to tubes or sticks, are the easiest to use. Prang makes a good student quality pan set, though the colors are not as vibrant. Look for non-toxic paints in this group.
  • Acrylics - Dick Blick and Liquitex make good student quality acrylic paint that comes in tubes or tubs. The colors are very vibrant and lightfast. Acrylics will be colorfast in clothing, so students will need to wear appropriate painting clothes or coverings when working with acrylics. Golden also makes a high quality artist's acrylic suitable for outdoor murals.

For Middle Schoolers to Teens

  • Tempera paints, watercolors, and acrylics - still apply to this age group. There are additional options to consider, however, including the use of latex indoor house paint mixed with acrylic gel. This is an inexpensive option for the student artist.
  • Acrylic markers - are another option. DecoColor makes a nice acrylic paint marker that is colorfast on fabrics, making this a nice way to decorate shoes and clothing, or for mixed-media work.
  • Oil paint - Teens who are interested in oil paints should be aware that some oil paints contain toxic ingredients, like heavy metals. Parents should investigate thoroughly and ask the opinion of art teachers before making the investment.

Art Brush Assortment

Good quality art brushes need not be expensive. Look for "student quality" brushes, or economical brush sets.
Good quality art brushes need not be expensive. Look for "student quality" brushes, or economical brush sets. | Source

Best Art Brushes for Kids

Young children may be tough on good art brushes, yet a case can be made for getting good quality brushes for them. A well-made brush will last a long time, it will not shed hairs onto a child's precious artwork and cause frustration, and it will instill a sense of value in the process of making art. Buy what is both affordable and of good quality. Princeton makes a good set in their RealValue line of art brushes, as does Loew-Cornell.

Teen artists may have definite preferences for one brush brand or type over another. Try a variety of hair and synthetic student or studio quality brushes, purchased individually.

Color Glue Recipe


Elmer's White Glue
Food coloring, liquid
Wooden skewer
Mixing container, such as a large paper cup


  1. Remove glue top, pour glue into mixing container
  2. Add 1-5 drops of food coloring
  3. Stir well with wooden skewer
  4. Carefully pour mixed glue back into glue bottle.

Additional Art Supplies


Sometimes kids need to get their hands onto some good, sticky glue. And as long as you keep the mess in one place, glue need not be a scary proposition. Some types of glue to consider include:

  • Glitter glue - One of the least messy ways to work with glitter.
  • Aleene's Original Sticky Glue - A good basic sticky glue, one of the best for crafting.
  • Elmer's Glue - A not-too-sticky glue, but gets the job done. Also comes in color, or make your own colorful glue by adding food coloring.
  • Glue dots - Best for special applications. Young children may find glue dots to be too frustrating.
  • Glue stick - A parent's best friend. One of the least messy forms of glue around.


No art supply kit for kids would be complete without tape. Both transparent tape and masking tape are good for hours of fun. Some types of tape to consider include:

  • Duck Tape - Duck is a brand of duct tape that comes in colors and can be used in crafting
  • Artist Tape - comes in colors, is repositionable, and usually acid free. Fun for crafting
  • Fabric or Craft Tape - comes in different patterns, often used in scrapbooking.


A regular, child-safe pair of scissors are a useful art tool. Blunt-tipped scissors work well.

Scrapbooking scissors that cut a fancy design can turn a plain piece of paper into a work of art. Consider getting a set of paper crafting scissors with kid-friendly designs.

Paint palette

  • Plastic palette - look for inexpensive plastic palettes with shallow to deep wells for general painting needs.
  • Paper palette - try using Reynold's freezer paper with plastic side up as a paint palette. It comes in economical rolls from the grocery store, and can be taped down to a table. Not for younger children, but works well for tweens and teens.

Do-it-yourself Drawing Board

Make your own drawing board with foam core board and Bulldog clips. Lightweight and economical.
Make your own drawing board with foam core board and Bulldog clips. Lightweight and economical. | Source

Make Your Own Drawing Board


  • 1 - Foam core board that is about the same width as your drawing paper, and about 2" taller on top and bottom.
  • 4 - 3" Bulldog clips, or 4 extra-large binder clips


  1. Place drawing paper on top of foam core board
  2. Clip drawing paper to board on the left and right sides of the board.
  3. For painting, tape canvas paper or watercolor paper on all sides to the board.

Art Paper

For all ages, one of the least expensive paper sources is the recycle bin. The clean backsides of printer paper, wrapping paper, cardboard, etc all make for a great art surface. Other substrates or papers include:

Kraft paper - rolls of brown or white kraft paper makes a great substrate, and it's relatively cheap. The paper can be cut to size from the roll. Attach the paper to a drawing board for stability. (See directions for making your own drawing board.)

Sketch or drawing paper - look for pads of paper in various sizes. Canson and Strathmore both make good fine art papers.

Gesso'd Canvas, paper, rolls, or boards - Canvas is appropriate for acrylics, but charcoal and soft pencil also works. If working with canvas paper from a tablet, anchor the canvas paper to a drawing board by taping the canvas paper all around with artist tape.


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    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      7 years ago from America's Finest City

      Thanks Genna!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What a wonderful hub...very comprehensive and informative. It is so important to encourage our children to be creative through art. Voted up and sharing. :-)


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