Crayons are the ubiquitous art material for young children, right? If there’s one art material every family has on hand, it’s probably crayons. But as widespread as they are, I don’t feel they are one of the best art materials for toddlers.
You have to press hard to get bright color, the paper wrapper is a pain, and the skinny crayons just break so quickly.
So, what are the best art materials for toddlers?
Note: This post was originally published in July 2011. I have updated it and am re-publishing it, after having three people in the space of one week ask for recommendations for toddler art supplies.
1. Washable markers, perhaps the little Crayola Pip-Squeaks, although my kids both loved the regular-sized markers as well when they were toddlers. We keep our markers in a plaster marker holder as a toddler-friendly way to keep track of lids and markers. You can also buy a wooden marker holder for the same purpose.
2. Crayola Twistables Slick Stix These are awesome for toddlers—much better than crayons—because they glide on smoothly with little pressure and the color is vibrant. They are basically oil pastels in a hard plastic case, making them easy to grip. You just twist up the pastel as you need more. This generally makes them less likely to break than traditional oil pastels (which we also love), but we have had them break on us occasionally, especially if they are twisted up too far.
3. Playdough. We love homemade—the cooked playdough recipe is the best; the no-cook recipe is easier and quicker—but if you’re not going to make it, give this playdough from Discount School Supply a try.
4. An Easel is a great way to let toddlers work standing up, as they do best, and to create a simple dedicated art space at the same time (a kid-sized table works well, too.) We’ve had our Melissa and Doug Easel for eight years now and still love it. I think its the best value out there for a children’s easel. Be sure to get paper for it. We like the easel paper rolls from Discount School Supply the best, but Melissa and Doug paper is okay. If you really want convenience, they sell an easel accessory kit that includes paper, spill-proof cups, and lots more.
5. Spill-proof paint cups - Keeps the paint off the table (floor, lap…) and also keeps it from drying out.
7. Chalk (I like Melissa and Doug jumbo triangular chalk sticks—they are not as small and breakable as the skinny little pieces sold for chalkboards, but not as huge as sidewalk chalk). If you don’t have a chalkboard, you can use chalkboard paint on a wall or simply buy a chalkboard wall decal.
8. Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paints If you’re only going to buy one kind of paint, this is what to get.
9. Colorations Washable Finger Paint You can use tempera paint with your fingers, but finger paint has the perfect smooth texture for smearing around on paper and it stays moist for much longer.
10. Colorations Liquid Watercolors Because they are just gorgeous and vibrant. The traditional watercolor cakes are not ideal for toddlers; liquid watercolors are easier for them to use.
11. A bottle of squeeze glue. Yes, they will squeeze and squeeze until there is a puddle of glue on their paper, but they will have so much fun doing it, and the glue is so cheap, that I think you ought to let them. Besides, it’s a good hand-strengthening exercise and helps with motor control. And you can bring out the collage materials to stick in the glue. If the normal size squeeze bottle is too hard for them to squeeze, try a mini bottle.
What are your toddlers favorite art materials? (Or what were they, when your kids were toddlers?)
P.S. Despite the title, we have come around to crayons with child number 2 and I wrote a post about crayons for toddlers and creative drawing with young children that you might be interested in reading.
P.P.S. For more about art with toddlers, check out my new Parents’ Corner and scroll down to the toddler art section.
This post contains affiliate links.
P.S. If you liked this post, you might enjoy my weekly ARTletter. Sign up here for creativity delivered straight to your inbox.