Tips on how to stock your art cupboard with budget art supplies for cheap and encourage children’s creativity, even on a limited budget.
Updated March 2022
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 feel like a stretch (and we’ve been there).
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.
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!
Art Supplies for Cheap
What supplies do you really need?
1. Something to draw and paint on
It can be paper, cardboard, a chalkboard, poster board, rocks, wood, windows, a wall of the house, whatever. Anything goes, really. Paper is good to have on hand, though. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Copy paper is fine. You can also repurpose paper from the recycle bin or paper bags from the store. Both corrugated cardboard and the thin cereal box cardboard are also handy to grab from the recycle bin.
2. 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.
3. Something to paint with
4. Something to protect your table
A flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth from the dollar store works better than most expensive art splat mats. And a plastic placemat 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.
5. Paint shirt / Smock
A large old T-shirt makes a great art smock. Or, if you sew, you can make one.
6. Collage Materials
7. Dough to Sculpt & Mold
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 for Cheap
DIY Art Supplies
There are a lot of art supplies you can make yourself. And most include ingredients you already have around the house, such as flour, salt, food coloring, cornstarch, vinegar, etc. So, if you have the time, make some art supplies! And get the kids involved — the making is as much fun as the using.
Art Supplies for Free or 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 we’ve found some great arts and crafts supplies this way.
Art Supplies as Gifts
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.
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 phone. And many take competitors’ coupons as well.
Buy arts and crafts supplies cheap 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!
More of Our Favorite Kids Art Supplies
- The 25 BEST Kids Art Supplies
- Choosing the Best Paper for Kids Art Activities
- The Best Kids Art Tools
- Homemade Art Materials
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