What can you do if you want to encourage your children’s creativity and provide them with art supplies and art activities, but your budget is bare bones? When it’s a struggle to simply pay the bills and get food on the table, the idea of shelling out money for art supplies can be far fetched (yes, I’ve been there).
So, what to do?
You don’t want to ignore your children’s creative development. Not to mention the fact that art is a healthy and fun outlet for kids as well as an excellent way to develop fine motor skills.
Luckily there’s a lot you can do and have art-wise without much money.
I imagine those two previous posts about the best kids’ art materials and the best kids’ art tools are a bit daunting. But NO ONE needs all that. Few have all that. I’ve been blogging about children’s art for 6 years now; it is my passion as well as my vocation so my “art cupboard” is overly well-stocked, even I will admit. But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when I put off buying a couple of basic tempera colors for months because of the money.
So let’s sit down together and brainstorm ways to make kids’ art more affordable. We’ll talk about what you need, what you don’t, and what you can make do with. Don’t worry, there’s a lot you can do on a limited budget!
What kids art supplies do you really need?
Something to draw and paint on. It can be paper, cardboard, a chalkboard, rocks, wood, posterboard, windows, a wall of the house, sand, your body, whatever. Anything goes, really. Paper would be good, though. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Copy paper is fine. As is repurposed, recycle-bin paper and paper bags from the store. Cardboard is pretty good, too. Both the corrugated stuff and the thin cereal box cardboard.
Something to draw with. A pencil is enough! A pen from your desk works fine. But color is good, too. Oil pastels are awesome and don’t cost a lot. Crayola crayons are inexpensive and have served kids since 1903, when the first box of 8 debuted. The point is to draw, not to have the fanciest crayons or all the colors of the universe or even the most ecological materials. $30 Stockmar crayons don’t make you a better artist.
Something to paint with. A few paints and a paint brush or two. You can even make your own paint. But if you’re going to buy some, Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paint provides excellent bang for the buck at $1.99 for a large 16 oz bottle.
Something to protect your table. A flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth from the dollar store (1-3 dollars) works better than most expensive art splat mats. And a plastic placemat (1-2 dollars) is a smart buy as well. An old rimmed baking sheet, perhaps from the thrift store, can be used as an art try to keep the messes contained.
Something to protect your kid. A large old T-shirt makes a good art smock. Or, if you sew, you can make one.
Some materials to collage with. Inexpensive odds and ends are really the best for collage anyway! Fabric and ribbon scraps. Paper scraps. Yarn. Buttons. Pasta. Office supply stickers. Nature items. Oh, and glue.
Some dough to mold and sculpt with. Homemade playdough is the best! Plus, you can make a nice big batch that lasts for months for very little money. You can mold and sculpt bread dough as well with the bonus that you can serve it for lunch or dinner after it’s baked!
Where and How to Get Kids Art Supplies on a Budget
There are a lot of art supplies you can make yourself, most with ingredients you already have around the house, such as flour, salt, food coloring, cornstarch, vinegar, etc. So, if you have more time than money, make some art supplies! And get the kids involved—the making is as much fun as the using.
Second-hand. You’d be surprised at what you can pick up at yard sales or thrift shops. Or even for free. It’s the luck of the draw, but I’ve found some great arts and crafts supplies this way.
Ask. For holidays and kids’ birthdays, try requesting art supplies from grandparents and others. You can also get free mat board scraps sometimes from frame shops or old blueprints (large white paper!) from architects’ offices.
Use coupons. If you have a large arts and crafts supply store such as Michael’s, AC Moore, or Joann’s nearby, use their coupons when you shop. Most have great coupons (like 40-50% off an item) on their website, in the paper, or through a free app you can download to your smartphone. And many take competitors’ coupons as well.
Buy selectively from Discount School Supply. They have some quality arts and crafts supplies at good prices; their Colorations-brand products are an especially good deal.
Any other ideas? Please share!
I know many of us read but don’t comment, even when we might have something to add, but please do chime in here if you have any helpful tips for kids art supplies on a budget. Thanks!
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