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How to Set up an Art Cart for Kids

by Rachel Withers
June 16, 2021

Learn how to set up an art cart for kids or create a toddler art station in a few easy steps! A wonderful way to incorporate art in the home with art supplies that are easily accessible for kids.

kids art cart _rachel withers
Photo by Rachel Withers

I can’t imagine life without our art cart. Seriously.

Its small footprint is conducive to inviting art into the smallest urban space or a nice addition to a larger art space.

I believe having a dedicated place to store art supplies is key to incorporating art into your home. Ultimately it’s about access for kids.

Art cart filled with childrens art supplies_Jean Van't Hul
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

Art Cart for Kids

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Over the years our art cart has evolved. Initially it housed much of my firstborn’s toddler art supplies when our family lived in a 1 bedroom apartment. As I began to teach art classes from our home, our art supplies outgrew the cart so I kept only the most used materials on it. With the addition of a sibling, our art cart morphed once again with toddler accessible supplies on lower shelves and art materials for my oldest moved to the top shelf.

When my daughter became an older toddler, we needed another change.

I decided to create a toddler art station with only toddler approved materials. So I moved supplies for my preschooler up higher (thanks to Perch magnetic storage) or into our art hutch. And I also made an art caddy for my preschooler with supplies just for him that could be mobile for quiet time upstairs.

Art cart pulled up to table next to child drawing_Andrea Martelle
Photo by Andrea Martelle

Why I Give My Toddler Free Access to Our Art Cart

I understand this one may feel scary and you might not be able to picture how this could go well, but hear me out.

By having supplies out in the open, we encourage autonomy in art making and help to build our kids’ confidence as artists.

Rachel Withers

Because my kids have access to (pre-approved) art materials, when inspiration strikes, they can go and choose paper & drawing supplies, or get out a container of playdough with tools. I love seeing their confidence with our art supplies and processes grow.

Now of course, your child may be in a stage where they’re just not ready for a certain material and that’s totally fine. We are currently holding off on markers for my toddler. But in a few months we’ll try again.

As parents, we can choose what we’re ok having out on the cart. If the idea of glue or paint getting squeezed everywhere makes you cringe, then of course, don’t put that out. There are still many materials that are not accessible to my toddler on our art cart but she doesn’t seem to care!

So I encourage you to take a leap of faith. Your kids will likely thrive under the belief that they are capable and will rise to the occasion.

How to Set Up An Art Cart for Kids_Pin
Photo by Lauren Herrell

Set up An Art Cart in 4 Easy Steps!

1. Purchase cart

First step is to find a cart. I like our rolling cart, which can be pulled up to the table and then tucked back in the corner when we’re finished. These are becoming more widely available for a very reasonable price (normally $30).

Where to buy a cart

Kids art cart_Andrea Martelle
Photo by Andrea Martelle

2. Containers

In my opinion, finding the right containers or baskets for the art cart (or kids art space) is the trickiest part. In general, having matching containers or cup holders creates an overall nice aesthetic.

One day I sat down and measured each shelf to figure out what could fit and how to maximize the space. I used these containers which fit three across to micro organize materials on the shelves.

This is rather tedious but stick with it, because it will feel so great, when you get it just how you like it.

Pro tip: Purchase washable containers such as metal or plastic as art supplies will dirty containers in time.

Where to buy containers

  • Target (and sometimes the baskets & cupholders from the $ section!)
  • IKEA
  • The Container Store
  • Michaels
  • Recycled cans, jars or trays (you might paint or decoupage them)
Art supplies in baskets on cart
Photo by Rachel Withers

3. What’s on our art cart?

As I mentioned, our cart is currently set up as a toddler art station with supplies I’m okay with my toddler accessing. Here are the main materials we have out right now:

Art Supplies

And wall mounted above and next to our cart, we have Perch’s magnetic modular systems for holding paper and markers and permanent markers (out of toddler reach).

Kids art space_Rachel Withers
Photo by Rachel Withers

4. Set up cart

After assembling the cart, it’s time to make those art supplies accessible. I recommend taking everything out of the packaging––trust me on this one. Remember the big goal here is to give easy access to art supplies so that art making flows naturally for your kid(s) throughout the day.

As an example, we have all our drawing supplies up on the top shelf. Paint, stickers and a few extra drawing materials are on the middle shelf. And the bottom shelf is dedicated to playdough, tools and toys.

The great thing is this is totally customizable and in time you might go back and rotate new art materials in. As my kids grow, I’m sure our toddler art station will change as well.

So there you have it! We love seeing your photos so be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Tag us at #theartfulparent

Kids art cart_Lauren Herrell
Photo by Lauren Herrell

More Kids Art Space Ideas

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