6 Essentials for a Toddler or Preschooler’s Art Station

posted: 02/12/16
by: Blythe Copeland

Inspire your little one's creativity with a fully-stocked art station that rivals anything you'll find at daycare -- without devoting an entire room of your home to messy projects. From the classics (crayons, markers, pencils) to the extras that take a simple craft to the next level (pom poms, paint, wiggle eyes), here are six essentials for the artistic toddler.

1. Crayons, Markers and Pencils

The classics are classics for a reason: You can't go wrong with crayons, markers, and colored pencils -- especially if you choose washable versions to prevent an ink-on-the-couch catastrophe. These basic art supplies will take your kids from toddlerhood all the way through elementary school as they learn to color inside the lines, control their coloring pressure, and develop their fine motor skills. Start with thicker crayons that are easier for little hands to hold and work up to more fragile pencils and thinner crayons.

2. Paints and Fun Brushes

We're not suggesting you give your 18 month old a jar of paint and leave him unattended, but even the youngest kids can start working with fingerpaints and bathtub paints before they're ready for brushes. (Again -- washable and nontoxic are key features here, since, trust us, paint is going to end up everywhere.) Once your kids are ready to use brushes, look for a set of bristle brushes in a few different sizes, and pair it with sponge brushes and sponge rollers to create a variety of patterns and shapes. Another good investment: A cheap, washable smock.

3. Tissue Paper and Contact Paper

Nearly every season comes with its own suggestions for tissue paper crafts that look like stained glass, from ornaments at Christmas and mittens in February to kites in July and leaves in September. A pack of tissue paper will give your kids endless opportunities to practice ripping or cutting small pieces that they can use for collage crafts on construction paper or paper plates, and a roll of clear contact paper -- while probably something you'll want to keep out of reach -- acts as a sticky surface for crafts, murals, pom pom art, and matching activities.

4. Pom Poms, Googley Eyes, Popsicle Sticks, and Yarn

Take any art project to the next level by including some fun additions in your art set -- think google eyes, pom poms, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, yarn, and glue. Your kids' creativity will come up with plenty of ways to use these items, but if you need guidance: Try pom poms and googley eyes attached to popsicle sticks to make caterpillars; yarn wrapped around popsicle sticks to make ornaments; pipe cleaners bent into sunglasses, princess crowns, or flowers; beads strung on yarn to make necklaces or bracelets; or pom poms used to make flowers, small characters, or letters.

5. Tape and Stickers

Don't underestimate how much fun your kids can have with patterned Washi tape and inexpensive stickers. A few rolls of tape can turn your kids' paintings into mixed media collages, helping them improve their fine motor skills while experimenting with texture, color, and pattern. And as any parent who's ever had a child find a book of postage stamps will tell you, peeling and sticking can entertain little ones almost too well.

6. A Proper Space

Whether you set up your art station in the family room, home office, or kitchen, you'll need a few common elements. Make sure the table you're using and floor around it are easy to clean --have you ever tried getting glitter out of carpet? -- and that your kids have space to spread out for bigger projects. Put together a small art caddy that they can access on their own and keep it filled with the items you don't mind them having without supervision -- like crayons and colored pencils -- but pair it with out-of-reach storage for stamps, paints, stickers, and anything else you don't want to end up on the furniture. Small bins and baskets help you keep supplies separate and make it easier for little ones to put items back where they belong.