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The Artful Parent’s Favorite Budget Art Supplies for Kids

by Jean Van't Hul
July 1, 2021

Tips on how to stock your art cupboard with budget art supplies for kids and encourage children’s creativity.

Updated July 2021

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.

blue paint in jars
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

Luckily there’s a lot you can do and have art-wise without much money.

We can imagine our posts about the best kids’ art materials and the best kids’ art tools are a bit daunting. But NO ONE needs all that. And few have all that.

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!

kids art supplies pinterest

What kids art supplies do you really need?

girl drawing with marker
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul
This post contains affiliate links.

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.

Boy drawing on paper
Photo by Rachel Withers

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.

Art supplies for toddlers
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

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 your buck.

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.

Child with paint dabber and paper_Anna Harpe
Photo by Anna Harpe

Something to protect your kid

A large old T-shirt makes a great art smock. Or, if you sew, you can make one.

black and white contrast collage materials_ rachel withers
Photo by Rachel Withers

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.

purple playdough with poke ins
Photo by Rachel Withers

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!

art supplies on a budget

Where and How to Get Kids Art Supplies on a Budget

Make your own

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.


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 in baskets on cart
Photo by Rachel Withers


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 phone. And many take competitors’ coupons as well.

Collaborative recycled art wall – art activities for toddlers
Photo by Rachel Withers

Get creative!

Try nature-based art or recycle-bin art.

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!

More of Our Favorite Kids Art Supplies

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kids art supplies pinterest

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