Friday, June 11, 2010

* Making Art At Home: My Favorite Art Supplies for Preschoolers

As the mama of a preschooler, and the teacher of a series of art camps for preschoolers, I'm writing this post today to share some of my favorite Top 12
Arts and Crafts Materials for Preschoolers (ages 3-5) 

If you missed my first post about my 
I still use all of those materials with my toddlers but I add some new ones to the mix.

1. Drawing Materials/Tools 
2. Lots of Paper

Colored pencils, 
Crayola Twistables 
(no sharp points and you don't have to sharpen them!),
 Washable Markers.

For paper, 
I like a big package of cheap office copy paper,
recycled papers pilfered from my husband's office (the backs of faxes, etc.)
Colored Construction Paper in various colors. 

This is the age where they progress from scribbles to recognizable shapes
like big circles with arms and legs (potato people) 
They love to "write" and copy everything they see mom and dad and older siblings doing. 
A lot of this "work" will end up in recycling. 
They also love their own names and learn to recognize their letters.

Kids this age also love Magna Doodles they're great for impulsive scribbling and writing.

3. Play-Dough

Still great for building small muscles in hands and fingers. Great for imaginative play.
I like to make my own with Kool-Aid - it's non toxic and smells great. 

4. Collage Materials

Kids this age love to glue things together.
By cutting and tearing pictures out  then gluing them down to pieces of construction paper, etc.
You can cut out shapes for them or help them with scissors.  
Both of my girls learned how to cut with  scissors safely in the 3-4 year old age range.

Washable School Glue (white or clear - I like Elmer's brand) 
I stock up when it's cheap and on sale in September -- 
I'm the lady in line buying 10 bottles  to get through the year. 
The check out people always ask if I'm a teacher, um...yeah... kind of. 

Glue Stick (again, I go with cheap and washable)
I like the ones that go on purple then dry clear. 

Tissue Paper
Aluminum Foil
Magazines and Catalogs
(think seed and flower catalogs, etc.) 
Old Calendars (animals are popular)
Scrapbook Paper Scraps
Newspaper Words
Colored Envelopes and 
Greeting Cards

One of our favorite collage projects is making a paper doll house.
I draw a big house shape on a piece of large paper (from my big drawing pad)
think triangle roof and big square and rectangle rooms.
Then, the girls cut out pictures of magazine furniture, lamps, rugs, kitchens 
and "furnish" and "decorate" the house together. 

5. Re-Cycling
You'd be amazed how many great art supplies are just waiting for you in your re-cycling bin
to create musical instruments, sculptures, collages, etc.

Aluminum Foil
Cardboard Scraps
Toilet Paper Tubes 
Paper Towel Tubes 
Plastic Bottle Caps 
Cereal Box Cardboard
Magazines and Catalogs
Aluminum Pie Plates/Pans

Remember our Inventions Box

6. Watercolor Paints

I love this simple first painting medium  for young children.
They get immediate results, it's easy to clean up. It's Beautiful!

Do yourself and your child a favor....
PLEASE Get some heavy/sturdy but cheap student-quality watercolor paper
because there is nothing more frustrating  than painting on thin paper that rips when your child
uses too much water (which they will until you show them how to wipe their brush on the edge of the water dish) and painting on thin copy paper is just awful-the colors puddle up and bleed into each other
and not in a good way. It just sits on top of the paper instead of soaking in.  

For my own kids, we use: Crayola Brand Watercolors
(don't buy Rose Art - they're awful)

DIXON Semi-Moist Brilliant and Non Toxic Watercolors
Talens Opaque Watercolors from Holland
I also love Liquid Watercolors from Discount School Supply.

If Mommy Wants to get Fancy:  I use Yarka St. Petersburg Watercolors
and Pelikan Transparent Watercolors) for myself.

7. Pipe Cleaners (aka chenille stems)
Great for stringing cereal like Cheerios and Froot Loops and Beads!

8. Dot Paints
These come in different brands like Do-A-Dot
We love the metallic shimmery ones!
Great for painting everything from paper, to cardboard and Seashells!
Discount School Supply has great prices on Dabber Dot Markers
and Do-A-Dot Markers!
Or....make your own with Discount School Supply's Bingo Bottle Refillable Markers

9. Sandpaper

I know, right?! 
I love sandpaper for Toddler Projects. (I get mine in 12 packs from the Dollar Tree)
It's great to draw on with pencil, paint with Dot Paints, Color with crayons, Color with Oil Pastels. 

Cut it out into Starfish shapes,
Glue Beach Collage Scenes on Sandpaper, create cool textured drawings
(not to mention Montessori inspired Sandpaper Letters!)

10. Washable Tempera Paint

We use Crayola brand and whatever's on sale at the store -- 
I like to splurge on a couple of "Glitter" paints to add some bling.
Discount School Supply (I know, I love them!) also has great Washable Tempera Paints
I love these No-Spill Paint Cups from Discount School Supply.
(photo from Discount School Supply website)

11. An Easel
Having a place to stand and paint is really nice at this age.
Both of my girls LOVE painting at our little Ikea easel. 

12. A Smock
So mamas don't freak out  about messy projects.
Some kids won't relax and get to work unless they're wearing one. 
My favorite store bought (vinyl = waterproof!) ones, pictured below come from 

Or, you can just make your own out of a dish towel!

Other things you can do with this age if you have a child who really enjoys art
and is getting a bit more "sophisticated" with their work
is to help them work on techniques to improve the outcome of their projects.
You can help them improve some basic  life-long art and creating skills like:

* Proper Cutting and Scissor Holding Technique
(hold scissors with thumb on top,
carry scissors in one hand with blades in your fist,
walk don't run with scissors,
hold the paper you are cutting in one hand and turn the paper with that hand as you cut)

* Gluing without using TOO Much Glue.
Dot, Dot, Not a Lot !
is what I always told my students instead of Puddle Puddle Plop...
that will end up with messy, drippy projects.

* Color Mixing
Primary colors Red, Blue, Yellow
and Secondary Colors Orange, Green, Purple
Add White to make it lighter (tint).
Add Black to make it darker (shade).

* Rinse out your Paint Brush When you Change Colors
If you're using Watercolor or Washable Paint,
show your child how to rinse their paint brush in water
and wipe off the excess water 
on the edge of the water dish (or on a towel or rung out damp sponge)
before dipping into a new color. (their art teachers will thank you!)

You can also help them be more successful by putting
a brush in each container of paint
(one brush per color) if they're working at an easel
to prevent a muddy mess. They'll still mix some but it's MUCH better
than dipping a big drippy brush into the container
and turning all of the white pink, or the yellow green, etc.

You can also try more "sophisticated" materials that might not be used (traditionally)
with a child this age like Oil Pastels (with supervision!) 
or basic stitching/embroidery for a child who is really drawn to art.
Happy Creating!

Next up....
My Favorite Art Supplies for
 School Age Children. 

Pink and Green Mama, MaryLea


Cheryl said...

I'm loving this series of posts. More ideas to stimulate my lot. I hadn't thought of sandpaper, except as the sandpaper letters. I am definitely using the "dot, dot not a lot" from now on.

I agree about encouraging proper scissor holding. I would add that if they are struggling with cutting, check they have the right scissors.I have one left hander and she struggles if someone gives her right-handed scissors. Disappointing results upset her and put her off trying.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Just adding on, I purchase tempera & liquid water colors through Discount School Supplies (the same company my preschool uses) they accept personal accounts, high quality & reasonably priced.
I LOVE liquid water colors. So many fun things you can do!!! Hope you don't mind me adding that shopping tip! Love your site! Tracy

Kim Reese said...

I'm so glad Entertaining Mom suggested you to me. Now, can you help me let go of my "messy" fear? I love for the kids to be creative, but the messes can be overwhelming. Little ones are 5, 3and 17 months and their older brother is 10.

twolittleseeds said...

This is so brilliant xxx

Andréann said...

great post again!
I'll try to find an easel for my daugther's 2nd bday... I'm sure she'll adore it :D

Teacher Tom said...

Holy cow, you put a ton of work into this post! Thanks you!

I particularly like your glue purchasing anecdote. I start the school year buying 6 gallons of the stuff (and sometimes we have to re-order) so I know what you mean.

Melodie said...

Awesome post! Like a checklist. I'm happy to say I have all the above except catalogues. I just don't use them so they are never around but I love catalogue crafts. Must try harder to find some!

TMCPhoto said...

In addition to watercolours and tempera paints I also include student grade, chromacryl paints. I take a small squirt of paint and mix it up with some acrylic medium, about 1 part paint to 2 parts medium. The colours become more transparent but they also last so much longer because they've been diluted down.

obviously preschoolers painting with acrylics are doing so under supervision.

pink and green mama MaryLea said...


If I had your "glue center" I would have to buy 6+ gallons a year too!! I've actually been considering ordering it by the gallon like I did when I was teaching full time....

- MaryLea

pink and green mama MaryLea said...


You should be able to get some catalogs/magazines to craft with if you ask around check Freecycle, put out the word to neighbors, or visit a local doctor's office to see if you can use their magazines when they're done (although those might have cooties!) ; )


pink and green mama MaryLea said...


I'm a lefty so I completely get the scissors frustration thing. I prefer scissors that work with either hand but I've also learned to adapt (as I have with EVERYthing else in my life) as a lefty living in a right-handed world. I do get a wicked callous/blister on my left thumb if I use right-handed scissors for a prolonged cutting project!


pink and green mama MaryLea said...


I love Discount School Supply too -- that's where I get my liquid watercolors and other goodies.

- MaryLea

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

TMC Photo -

I let my girls paint with non-toxic acrylic paint but would love to try adding the acrylic gel medium -- genius!! It never even occured to me. Thank you!!


Michelle said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Your lovely comments made me smile, thank you! I love your blog and added it to my Google Reader. I teach Art to our homeschool co-op and always love inspiration! Have a great day!

jenny said...

MaryLea I just wanted to say congratulations on these wonderful posts - so much information and so thorough! I'm really enjoying them and they are giving me inspiration for preschool.

Jaimie said...

I'm LOVING these art supplies posts! Keep them coming!

takenbylovely said...

"When you use Elmer's glue, just a little dab'll do." I am 26 and still remember my Kindergarten art teacher saying that!

Twig and Toadstool said...

Another fantastic post!! We're big time crafters over here at the Toadstool, but my girls have a big age gap, 7 & 1.5 yrs...I'm having to go back to the beginning with Matilda...she's already demanding that we include her in our craft time, and you know, when you are out of the toddler stage, you just forget! These posts are going to be a great resource for me!
with thanks
Maureen xo

Teacher Tom said...

Oh, I wanted to add my "secret" source for free dotters.

In Seattle (and I suspect other big cities) we have a monthly AIDS fundraiser called "Gay Bingo." These events are a blast, the money goes for a good cause, and everyone just leaves their bingo card dotters on the tables at the end of the event. About once a year, I give one of my school's families the "assignment" to attend Gay Bingo for the express purpose of scavenging the dotters at the end of the evening. The organizers are thrilled because otherwise they just get thrown out. The last time I did it, the "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" helped me gather them.

I suppose this could work an any bingo fundraiser, but this one is particularly fun.

pink and green mama MaryLea said...


L-O-V-E the gay bingo suggestion!!!
I almost peed my pants laughing when I read the name "Our Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence"! My hubby is a fan too! : )


Theresa said...

I loved all of these posts. A lot of these things we have, but I got some really great ideas. I don't even teach art, but I'm still that crazy lady in line who buys 10 bottles of glue and 15 boxes of crayons, glue sticks, etc. when the school supplies go on sale. I get this wierd kind of joy/high out of buying school supplies. My five year old goes through a pack of copy paper in about 2 months tops, so we are always buying that too

Sunshine Mama said...

Loving these series. Simply brilliant and lets not forget to mention SO inspiring!!! Thank you for going through the trouble of writing (and photographing) such detailed posts!


teachmama said...

I want to hug you for this incredible, beautiful post and everything else cool that you do and share on this blog.

Seriously, you are forever going to be one of my top 5 favorite teacher-mama's in the whole wide world.

Love, love, love this.

Blog Archive

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...