What’s your favorite art material?

Share & Comment


I'm taking care of a sick baby once again, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet today. Will you share your favorite children's art material? And if you can't keep it to one, that's fine. I know I can't! But if I had to say TWO favorite art materials, I'd probably say oil pastels and liquid watercolors. So, now, you're turn. What are your favorites?

Also, has anyone used these bingo bottles? They look like they might be great for toddler art, but I'm just wondering if they worth the price?

Share & Comment
Subscribe to The Artful Parent newsletter


  1. says

    i made homemade dot painters ask your floral dept for the water vessels fill it with water and some liquid watercolor and voila! they don’t leak and work great.
    ok onto fave materials wow i know i can’t keep this down to 1 or 2:)
    liquid watercolors
    bio color paint
    activity paint
    silky sticks and
    (all from discount school supply!)
    hope baby gets better soon!

  2. [email protected] says

    construction paper—-the good kind!!

  3. says

    I have those bingo bottles from oriental trading, I bought them maybe 6 years ago and they were cheap and I filled them with my own paint because they were sold as empty bottles. I think the Do-A-Dot ones work a bit better though because there is more surface area (bigger and better dots) but not every color is 100% washable in my experience.

  4. Barbara Zaborowski says

    My favorite is the “beautiful stuff” we have in our art center, the cast-offs, the craft materials, the “junk”, the things people bring us, asking “Do you have a use for this?” I always answer “No, I don’t; but the kids will.” I love it that I don’t have to come up with a craft to make; I just put it out and the kids create beautiful things. BTW, the book “Beautiful Stuff” is wonderful for inspiring teachers and parents.

  5. says

    I agree with Julia- Berol Prismacolor pencils. But I am really falling in love with everything that can be done with wool roving and beeswax (perhaps that’s more crafty, though). I still have my huge set from when I used to draw in high school and they still work great! We have used the do-a-dots and toddlers have a blast with them…however; Asher puts everything in his mouth and so he has bitten off all of the foamy stuff.

  6. says

    We just used those same bingo bottles the other day. They were smaller than expected, and the tips are a bit difficult to change once you get them filled, BUT – the Dudimus loves painting with them, for some reason, he thinks they’re pretty cool. I’d recommend a thick paint for them, like tempera – I tried one with liquid watercolor and it let the paint out very fast – quite messy.

  7. says

    As you well know, I share your love of DSS’s liquid watercolors for their versatility and their gorgeous, vibrant, luminous colors. As for the bingo bottles, some of the kids really love them, but I would echo WITH EMPHASIS the comment about them being difficult to refill because removing the sponge tips is prohibitively difficult. Any fingernails you may or may not have, will be destroyed in the process.

  8. says

    I would have to say sketchbooks. My son loves all kinds of art, but the book full of empty pages is full of possibilities. A sketch book comes with us almost everywhere we go. Plus, it keeps the art contained and safe.

  9. says

    I have two different answers here. My fav art material for Pari would be water colour and poster colours.
    But, Pari seem to be perpetually in love with card paper, scissors and glue! She loves poster colours too.
    Take care of your girl and yourself.

  10. says

    I got the Do A Dots and Roller Paint from Lakeshore on sale (and a coupon). They are the same basic product and I love them! They are fun for “coloring” an area in a different way. See by blog for examples: cowsgomooandducksgoquack.blogpsot.com BTW, I have heard you can use roll on deoderant bottles too…”Teacher Tom” on is blog talks about that I believe. Good luck! =) BTW, I am totally with you on the liquid watercolors.

  11. says

    Lakeshorelearning.com Sign up for their email ads and you get coupons ALL THE TIME for online products if there isn’t a store near you (probably dangerous if there is…)!

  12. says

    Staples has good stuff…and sometimes Costco. By good, I mean bold colors that don’t look like they’ve been sitting in the sun.

  13. says

    They are those little thin containers floral shops will put on the bottom of a rose or some other large flower to keep it water and nutrient rich. Think a long thin bullet filled with water and plant food (though much neater!)

  14. says

    I LOVE this idea! I was at bit of a loss on how to practice the letter “C” again today with my son. I can tell he is getting bored, but he will love this. You saved the day, thank you!

  15. Lisa says

    We don’t have kids yet, but when I was really little I remember cutting out pictures from magazines which started with each letter of the alphabet and pasting them to construction paper. I remember LOVING this project- I think we worked on it the entire year before kindergarten while my little sister and the babysitting kids were taking a nap. So I would say- safety scissors and glue.

  16. says

    here is my review of bio color the main thing that makes it so different it never blends with other colors really, just barely so it stays true to its color: http://lettersnumbersandbooksohmy.blogspot.com/2010/04/bio-color-paint.html
    water vessels is what my oldest calls them sorry about that. they are the little water containers that go on ech rose stem or flower stem when you buy a bunch of flowers, most will sell them to you for like 10 cents. I’m writing a post about them tonight I’ll send you a link if you want??

  17. says

    I bought the empty bingo bottles from discount school supply. I first used them with liquid watercolors but that didn’t work well because any squeezing just caused a puddle of paint. The tempera paints work well. They are tricky to pull off the tops to refill, but I used pliers which helped, and the tempera poured in nice and easy. I love them for my toddlers as there is no paint to spill or having to dip brushes into paints. And even if the lid gets left off they didn’t dry out.
    Our favorite art supplies, sorry more than one: dodades and bobbles for collages, liquid watercolors, and clay.

  18. misha says

    My personal favorite art material for kids is tempra cakes. But, like you I also love liquid watercolors!

  19. says

    I use the dot markers with a 2-3 year old class I teach. They are transparent enough to show mixing primary colors. Plus, they love banging the markers ont he paper. I used them on coffee filters and sprayed them with water and they bled nicely to make a tye-dye effect for butterfly wings. I also used the dot markers with 4-5 year olds, and used them to make our own pointellism paintings. Love them, and they last forever!

  20. says

    My favorite art material – colored masking tape! We always have a blast with it. (Of course we LOVE tempera paint, too.)
    We purchased an inexpensive set of dot painters (I’m not sure where) and our kids love to use them, too.

  21. says

    I bought Do-A-Dot markers for my kids when we were traveling and they fell in love with them! I never imagined how many ways they would invent to use them! I really find this is a great rainy day or sick child project as it can be “easy” if they want it to be.
    Favorite art material? If you asked the kids PAINT. It doesn’t matter if it’s water color, tempera, ink, etc. They always want to paint if they can!
    Mine? Paper or fabric. I like the feel of it, how it looks, the different textures snd weights and the ability to create so many different items out of it.
    You have inspired me to try liquid watercolors and I keep meaning to order some. Since I wrote paint for my kids, where do you recommend buying them?

  22. says

    Oh I’m so surprised you haven’t used bingo dotters/ do a dots yet! I got mine at a local teacher store, but have seen them at Micheal’s. We also like Rollitt’s (roll on paint). I also LOVE creamy crayons, liquid water color, glitter glue, and beads.

  23. Sandrala says

    Renee Ramsey – co-author of First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and and Twos introduced us to the bingo bottles, but until now I thought it was you. We went to a couple of her classes locally. It is true that the liquid watercolors really do come out too fast and that removing the tops to refill is a pain, although using scissor blades to carefully grip and pry off does work.
    The Do a Dots are superior. I have not tried to remove the caps to refill, but it looks like scissors would do the job.
    Either are really fun!
    And I think watered down tempera paint would work well like others have said.

  24. Jessica Peirce says

    The bingo bottles are a pain to refill! Once that lid is on it wants to stay on forever. We used them at the children’s art studio I used to work at, and they were great the first time we used them. If your child has a tendency to hit the table hard while making dots I would recommend something else. They ended up being decorations on the shelf rather than art supplies because after they were too hard for the children to use. You eventually had to squeeze really hard to get them started (I mean really hard). But we also had plenty of children using the supplies every day. Sorry for the rant, these bottles used to drive me crazy! Apparently they still do.

  25. says

    You mean for oil pastels? We haven’t been big on technique per se yet with the up to 5 age crowd (just draw with them!), but if you’re looking for technique tips for yourself or older kids, then perhaps your library has some books. Or maybe someone else has some book suggestions…

  26. says

    Where did you buy the do-a-dots? Daphne’s already stopped putting many things in her mouth, so she may be okay with them. They may not have worked with Maia, though, who put everything in her mouth until she was over two!

  27. says

    Hmmm. Maia often used to use her regular markers as dot markers, smashing them hard onto the paper repeatedly to create dots, which of course flattened the tips. So perhaps I ought to consider a set of these dot markers.

  28. says

    So this isn’t really an art supply, but one of my favorite art items we have ever gotten is the fairy design kit sold by Hearth Song. My six year old got if for her birthday and used it for literally eight hours the day should got it! And then she continued to use it for months and months afterwards almost every single day. So much fun!

  29. says

    I’m also a big fan of the liquid watercolor. I also like powdered tempera a lot. We mix our own, very thickly then use masonry tools to apply it to cardboard. Or we use salt shakers to sprinkle it on top water and float paper on it to take a print.
    I have some of those bingo bottles — they’re okay — but I won’t buy them again. Instead, I send one of my parents to “Gay Bingo” (a monthly AIDS fundraiser). Everyone buys these huge, wonderful bingo dotters, then just leaves them behind on the table at the end of the evening. The organizers let us fill up a grocery bag afterwards and we’re set for the school year.

  30. says

    The bingo bottles are on my wish list of things. I think even my school age child would get a kick out of them. I had planned on getting mine from Nasco (www.enasco.com) – they’re $11.95 for 12 2oz bottles. We have this thing with paint, though…liquid watercolor and tempera. It doesn’t seem like I can go wrong with paint!

  31. says

    We love our oil pastels! And water color paper is a must! We also use a large roll of brown paper pretty regularly (it’s all about BIG these days).
    But my 3 year old is really into glue and fabric right now too. I just pull a handful out of my remnant bin and snip it into small pieces. She uses basic school glue to create the most wonderful collages. Sometimes she asks for a particular outline to fill (a little girl just like her, a dinosaur, a flower, etc.), but most of the time a panel from an old cereal box is all it takes:)
    My just barely 1 year old loves our sidewalk chalk (imagine an entire patio covered in 1″ dash marks…adorable!) and I’m itching to get some great beeswax crayons, but I left mine behind in my classroom when I stopped teaching and haven’t managed to order any new ones yet.

  32. says

    Loved reading everyone’s comments – we’re on day one of school holidays here in Melbourne, so it will be a big two weeks of a messy kitchen table filled with constant works in progress. My 6yo son loves ‘construction’ materials – all the stuff that’s meant to go into the recycle bin but is turned into a piece of art first. My 4yo (plus 3 days!) daughter loves glue. My 15 month old son still loves putting anything and everything in his mouth, so homemade playdough is best for him at this stage. We all love watercolour paints – “it makes you feel like an artist!” We’ve also used the flower water vessels in the bath – great fun! They also make good monster fingers too!

  33. michele wiseman says

    Can someone give me project ideas for liquid watercolors? I purchased them and was looking for ideas. Thanks,

  34. Rachel says

    my boys grab for simple ole GLUE the most! for collages, building sculptures, just making big puddles, etc. lots o fun.

  35. says

    Modeling material has never needed much encouragement around here, whether it’s homemade playdough, real clay, beeswax, or that weird foam stuff that dries hard. P has always found it really therapeutic – if she’s emotionally overwrought the tactile experience of working with any of these materials is a great way to bring peace back.
    You’re so much better with kids and art than I am that I can’t imagine you need tips from me, but when we work with it together, I tend to make very simple and unimaginative solid shapes – balls, cubes, pyramids – just because that’s what my hands do at first. Pretty quickly, P usually commandeers my shapes and incorporates them into her own creations – often people. Usually she demands that I make more of whatever it is for her use!
    One night we had a fresh supply of clay and she got completely carried away, at bedtime of course, and made a big rocket complete with thrusters and windows, and a launch pad kind of thing for it to rest on. I was impressed! We hung on to that one until it crumbled.

  36. says

    Yes. Maia, too. I think if she were to answer this question she’d say glue, tape, and scissors. Oh and glitter. Actually she’d probably say glitter glue. I should just ask her. :)

  37. says

    Yes! You can do just about any regular watercolor activity with liquid watercolors. Here’s a round-up post I did of different watercolor activities (many of them done with liquid watercolors):
    Also, just type liquid watercolors or watercolors in the little lijit search button on the right hand toolbar and you’ll get all my old posts about them. Have fun!

  38. says

    We have clay and get it out sometimes, but I think my own hang ups about it get in the way. I’m not really sure the best way to use it or encourage Maia to use it. I bought a book (Children, Clay and Sculpture by Cathy Weisman Topal) that I need to read. Any quick tips?

  39. says

    I’ve been wondering about powdered tempera and have seen a few projects using it. I guess we’ll have to give it a try! I love the idea of using masonry tools to apply it to cardboard. And I’ve been wanting to try marbling with it…
    I wonder where the gay bingo folks get their dotters? Do you know?

  40. says

    We love our liquid watercolors too! But glue and random collage materials would be a close second.
    I’d love to get some oil pastels! We recently purchased some Silky Sticks from Discount School Supply, which are supposed to be part oil pastel, part watercolor….they’re pretty neat, but not much color selection available. I remember LOVING oil pastels in my junior high art class!

  41. Sandrala says

    with a little more googling it appears that biocolor paint can be used for more than what they call “stickers.” A few examples here http://lettersnumbersandbooksohmy.blogspot.com/2010/04/bio-color-paint.html
    And for marbelizing….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_A9EMA2AbU&feature=player_embedded
    And apparently it works for painting as well. I am still confused about the colors mixing or not mixing with each other????
    Now I just have to get some to try…..

  42. jwg says

    Bleeding tissue paper. Yes, I know it stains hands, but baking soda gets it out. Toddlers love to tear it, put it on a piece of paper, and spray it with water with a little vinegar in it, then peel off the paper. Older kids like to tear or cut it and layer it, brushing it with watered down glue. Wrap strips of it around easter eggs, wet it and wait a few minutes. Then peel off the paper. Use crumpled up pieces as daubers to paint with. Discount has the bleeding stuff. Some colors bleed more than others.

  43. Marcia says

    we have the do-a-dot from discount school supply.
    LOVE LOVE LOVE the liquid watercolors from them. Last forever.
    I prefer using beeswax crayons with the kids and mixing with water colors.
    We also enjoy the washable tempera from DSS.
    Ferby colored pencils are a hit here as well.
    (was I supposed to only pick two favorites…oh dear!)

  44. says

    I teach a comic class for kids and my favorite materials for that class are sharpies and post-its. I have them do a project where they make their comic panels on post-its and then they can re-arrange them.
    I also teach sewing to kids in the 8-12 age range and acrylic felt is the favorite kind of fabric.

  45. says

    this is such a great conversation. We love these big pencil crayons which can also be paints by stabilo: http://www.stabilo.com/pages-us/products/woody-3-in-1.php
    There brilliant for little hands and give such a strong colour. Only down side is that as you can add water on a brush to make it like paint when babies like mine put htem in their mouths, they paint those too! And then i guess i’d have to say paper, we cut it, tear it, stick it, fold it to make books, we have all sorts of colours and textures, i never throw a piece away practically. Maya would totally say glue and scissors though. She absolutely loves cutting and sticking, oh and stickers which I hate because they can be so wasteful but she loves, loves, loves.

  46. Etta says

    I purchased the Do-A-Lots from Amazon and have been pleased with their longevity (lots of great ideas for Do-A-Dot on the Confessions of a Homeschooler Blog). However, I saw Bingo markers at our local Dollar Tree the other day – not sure if they are any good.

  47. jwg says

    By the way, if you don’t mind the trouble of getting the balls out you can recycle roll-on deodorant bottles and use paint. It’s a pain to get the balls out, a nail file helps, but they work really well and are free.

  48. says

    I bought the empty bingo bottles from discount school supply and filled them with watered down tempera (cheaper than buying them filled). The kids like them, but they need to be pretty watery for little ones to squeeze. I haven’t yet tried to re-fill them, but I’m dreading getting those sponge caps off!
    The toddlers in my classes love clay! The best kind I’ve found so far is red throwing clay because it is really soft and pliable (I get mine from an art supply store for half the price of the one on Discount School supply). Mostly the kids like cutting it, poking it, squirting water onto it, and pressing things into it. As they experience it more, they are starting to pick it up and sculpt a little. It helps if I sit with them and model making different shapes like balls and worm shapes. Today I tried “dough presses” from Discount School Supply and the kids loved the spaghetti strands that came out! (you could also use a garlic press). Here are some pics:

  49. Jodie says

    I have to say I love the liquid water color paint you posted but I also love using floam and model magic clay with my class! They are both so user friendly and so many different things can be made with them. Honestly I would be hard pressed to find a art material that I don’t love using with the kids in my class :)

  50. Loni says

    I run a lot of toddler programs at a Children’s Museum. All my favorite products come from discount school supply. The teal liquid water colors is my favorite! In addition my toddlers love the bingo dotters. We get the colorations kind from discount school supplies. Worth the price! easy for crayon relief’s and other things. My under two’s really get into the dotting motion!

  51. amy says

    I haven’t used those particular ones but my daughter got a set of glitter scented ones for her 4th birthday and they still work and she is 5 and some months! They worked really well and if you forget to put the cap back on it wasn’t a problem. That was the thing i like about the bingo markers in general. I don’t know about the disc. school supply ones,,,,yet.

  52. says

    my favorite toddler material is contact paper!!!! have a box of collage material various textures, sizes, shapes and colors and stick away. Then put another piece on top and you have a glorious sun catcher.
    I do this all the time with all ages! (and it’s not messy)
    Although I love mess and could care less. (Some young children do not like mess on their hands so…)

  53. says

    Our favorite art material is prismacolors here. Thank you so much for your paper suggestions from DSS. I’m finally going to try these liquid watercolors (in basic colors), and am wondering… they carry both “purple” and “violet”. Which one do you buy?