Making Space for Kids’ Art

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Kids Art Spaces Mosaic

I was making this as a handout for my art class, but decided to post it here instead and share it with you all, too. I believe it's important to set aside a space in your home for your children to create art and to explore with art materials, even if it's just some markers and a pad of paper left out on a table. Free access to art materials allows children to scribble and create whenever the mood strikes, making it a part of their everyday life.

Here are six ideas for creating a dedicated art space for your kids:

  • An art table or desk: Equip it with paper and drawing materials, adding other materials and tools as appropriate. Perhaps use a marker holder (made with plaster of paris) to keep the markers handy and make it easy to keep the caps on. You can also buy a ready-made marker stand. A nearby shelf or drawer can hold more art supplies.
  • An easel: Leave an easel set up with paper and drawing or painting materials (this Melissa and Doug easel is the one we have and love). If the reverse has a chalkboard, equip it with chalk and an eraser. Remember to change it up so it doesn't just become a piece of furniture (and ignored). You can read my post, here, about keeping it interesting.
  • A painting space: Having a dedicated space for painting is ideal. You can use a space that you don't mind getting messy such as a room with a cement floor, the kitchen, the porch, outdoors, the garage, or the basement. Spread a drop cloth or newspapers to catch the paint drips if you like (I don't, and just enjoy the paint splattered studio floor). You can leave out paper, paint, and brushes or, if your child is very young, leave the painting space set up and just bring out the paint itself when your child is ready to paint. If a dedicated painting space is out of the question, then be open to setting up to paint periodically whether in the kitchen, outside, or in the bathtub. Here's a post about finding a space for messy art.
  • Consider an outdoor art space, especially in the warm weather months. You can set up an easel outside or bring out a table and chair. The bonus with being outside is that you'll probably be less concerned about the mess factor.
  • Portable art: equip a box, basket, or bag with a pad of paper, some drawing materials, stickers, etc. Keep the basket within reach so your child can grab it and work whenever and wherever she likes-whether at the kitchen table, the floor, or in the car.
  • An art studio: Okay, so I know that I'm lucky to have a room dedicated to art, but it's not like our house is huge (1,300 square feet). I've just made art a priority in our house. If you do have an extra room, consider making it a space for art, crafts, creativity, learning, and exploring. It's wonderful to be able to leave out an art project that is in progress, to have a space that is A-Okay for getting messy, to be surrounded by art materials, and to have a place for drying (and displaying) art.

The art materials you choose to equip your child's art space with will depend on his age, developmental stage, personality, preferences, and your own comfort level. For example, for a one or two year old you might place out paper, crayons, markers, stickers, and chalk for them to use whenever they like.

For toddlers, you might place glue, paints, and some collage materials (especially potential choking hazards) high up to be used only under closer supervision. As your child gets older, you'll place more and more within reach to be used freely and he will become more involved in choosing his own preferred art materials.

Possible art materials for your child's art space:

Remember that a dedicated art space doesn't mean a static art space. Change out the materials occasionally, add new materials, move things around, set out an interesting project, etc to encourage continued interest in the art materials and the art space. Any other ideas?

By the way, here's a post about art spaces around our house and a tour of our home.

Does your child have an art space? What is it like?

Note: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and place a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the sales price and will send you virtual hugs.

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  1. says

    This is really important – I’m finding it more and more so as Esme gets older. We have a kitchenette in our house next to the bedroom (midnight snack, anyone?) that I’m using as the art room – it’s tiled so writing on the walls is OK in that room (though I haven’t figured out how to get marks off the grout yet – I’ll do that when we move out). And I can shut the door with all the materials inside so the rest of the house doesn’t get ‘trashed’ when I’m not watching. I’ve been thinking I’d use a bathroom if I didn’t have the kitchenette – since those are often tiled.
    Thanks for sharing your list of supplies – gives me some ideas.
    And I just tried the tissue paper suncatchers yesterday for the first time – Esme had a blast! We struggled with watercolors, too – she hasn’t got the “water – paint – paper” steps downpat yet.

  2. says

    Our dedicated art space is the kitchen table. The kids can access their art supplies whenever they want for the most part. They each have a basket with their favorite art stuff. The markers and crayons are shared in large containers. I’ve found too that bringing out new art supplies REALLY helps.

  3. says

    Hi Jean :) What a great post!
    My daughter has an art space in her room and loves it! She spends lots of time there and enjoys sharing the space with her brother.
    A couple of things we especially like in our art nook are beads and textured papers. Blessings! Q

  4. says

    I am a wife, a mom, and professional artist and art teacher. I teach homeschoolers from 4th-12th grade. I have a closet at the church where we meet, but when it comes to having an office I have all that at home. I have to blend all my “artistic” roles in one office. My husband and I bought a $35 hutch from Lowes when we were first married that has served us in many capacities in the past 9years, now it is painted and has several red dish pans and other larger plastic bins to hold different catagories of stuff. I have a bin for kids craft stuff for my 5 and 3 yr old, I have three bins for my personal paints, a paper bin, a lesson plan bin, a heavy tools bin (like staple gun and canvas stretcher), I have a double drawer thingy that holds used photo graphs and stencils, and another for scraps of good paper (scrapbooking and watercolor swatches). The room we use is actually the Master Bedroom. The closet hold things that I need to keep away from little fingers but I don’t want to be out of my reach–like rolls of paper. I’ve also pulled the bookcase a little out from the wall and that keeps a storage area for large sheets of paper, cardboard and paintings I’m storing.
    We’ve squeezed as much space out of that room as possible and I’m glad to have done it. I know where everything is, so when I have an art show I can find my professional stuff, and when I have to teach Sunday school I know where the sticky foam letters are too. It also helps me see what is NOT getting used so I can bless someone with things to give away.
    Thanks for posting this list. May I use it to inspire my already diligent homeschooling parents to help their children have a good art space at home? I esp like your “portable” option as many of my students share rooms with a couple siblings.

  5. says

    Ugh. I just wrote a long comment with replies to each of you and somehow it didn’t go through! How frustrating. Anyway, thank you so much for your comments. Jane – we have the same issue when we use the dry watercolor cakes, so often use liquid watercolors or the watercolor tubes which I then dilute with water. Eliminating that extra step seems to help with this age. Katiek – yes, you’re welcome to use this list with your homeschooling parents/students. Just please let them know where it came from.

  6. says

    My son has a draw with all the paper in and pencil cases with crayons/pens/pencils and a table where he can work, he can get what he wants out when he wants. I always have a variety of paper for him to use too. We also have an ‘art shelf’ with the painting equipment, he can reach all this but he knows to ask if he wants to paint so we can set it up together, we don’t have anywhere we can leave everything set out. Outside he has a big blackboard and a tub of chalks plus a couple of big brushes, I think enjoys painting the board with water as much as he likes drawing on it.

  7. says

    As you know, I’ve written about his before too. We used to have our art space in the garage (and lined the walls with used canvases we took off the university art department’s hands – the kids just painted over and over them) Our art space now is a converted back porch and also doubles as our laundry room. This little drop down table has been a wonderful addition. And we have 4 places in the house where art materials are readily available depending on what we have noticed getting done in different rooms. Of course, that seems to always be changing and we rearrange pretty regularly (usually with the season).

  8. cygnetsmall says

    I like hearing all of these art space ideas. We have a tiny house for 4 of us and any ideas for keeping art materials out but not ALL over the place are really great. We have a table on our screened in porch and also one in the middle of the living room with paper and crayons. May not be especially aesthetically pleasing but it certainly pleases my little girl. We may have to get out some paint too — though I must admit, I do worry about it in the carpet.

  9. says

    I so enjoy reading your art blog and love your creative ideas and brilliant photographs. Thank you for all of your hard work. You are making a difference.
    When my daughters were toddlers I used to do as you suggested, leave supplies in different areas around the house for them to “stumble” upon at their own pace. I did this with toys, like lining the stairs with all the green stuffed animals while they were napping. Or I put out supplies in different ways. i.e. popsicle sticks, twigs and flower petals, with a container of glue to spark their imagination. Now at 6 8, when the kids find art supplies put together in a new way they get intrigued. Much more than walking to the pantry and taking out a box of beads. It creates a sense of opportunity, a fresh perspective.

  10. says

  11. bronius says

    Regarding the outdoor art space: My mother brought or helped bring Montessori to our community in the 70s, and one thing that stands out about the area outside the schoolhouse was the 4 plywood boards connected by 4 posts at the corners (makes a solid fence, effectively) comprising a huge art wall for all the kids to gather ’round. She taped to the walls large sheets of butcher paper, and the kids would go at it with paints, chalks, whatever was the medium that day. Really effective and completely free (as in spirit, not as in cost).

  12. newbie says

    Hi I’m new to your blog and totally loving it. I have a 4.5 year old and a 2 year old. I’m really curious how parents make art and craft equipment readily available but at the same time balance out the mess factor from having a younger toddler around? I feel bad that my older son is missing out on spontaneous art time but if allowed to do as he wishes when he wishes (which is perfectly fine), it ends up in fights when the younger sister wants to ‘get involved’, or a terrible mess if she gets hold of the glue or markers or glitter. You also mentioned that the most of the enjoyment they get from craft is the experience with the different material. At what age/stage do you cross over from permitting to restricting when it comes to say PVA glue and paint and where it should/should not go.

  13. Jacquelin says

    I LOVE those bird posters! Where are they from! I am setting up a brand new Reggio inspired classroom and I must have them!