The Artful Parent list of all-time favorite kids art supplies, based on years of experience. Find the best art materials for kids here!
Updated October 2022
We get asked for recommendations for kids art supplies all the time. Questions such as, “What paint should I buy?” “What are the best watercolors for kids?” “What markers do you recommend?” and “Where do you get your paper?“
We have done so many different art activities and used so many different art supplies over the years with family, friends, and all of the different kids art groups and classes we’ve attended and taught.
So we’ll share what we consider the best kids art materials in this post.
That said, we haven’t tried everything out there. And they are always coming out with fun new art supplies for kids, so if you have a favorite to add, please do so in the comments!
Please note: You don’t need everything on this list. But if you’re looking to stock your art supply cupboard, this should help you get started. And if you are already well stocked with kids art supplies, then maybe this list will give you some new ideas to try.
You can also visit The Artful Parent Amazon shop for even more of our favorite art materials!
And, bonus! If you’d like a list to print out and save, you can get our free printables on the top art materials by age (toddlers, preschoolers, big kids).
Best Kids Art Supplies
Note: This list has been updated to reflect evolving favorites as well as new art materials that are available and others that are no longer being manufactured.
1. Poster Paints
Tempera paint is a staple for kids’ art activities. It’s super versatile, inexpensive, washable, nontoxic, and readily available.
Additional reading: For more of our favorite paint recommendations see The Best Paints for Kids.
2. Watercolor Paints
If you haven’t tried liquid watercolor paint yet, you need to! We use it for painting, all kinds of craft projects and science experiments!
For a watercolor paint palette, we have used quite a variety including OOLY’s Lil’ Pods watercolor paint set and their fabulous neon palette! This Pelican watercolor paint set is another option that’s high quality and long lasting with rich paint coverage for watercolors.
3. Tempera Paint Sticks
There are many brands out there, but Kwik Stix are a top favorite. Paint sticks are a low mess, easy clean up way to invite your child to paint. Paint dries in 90 seconds. Perfect for those moments when you’re just not up for major cleanup.
4. Oil Pastels
We don’t have a clear favorite brand for these and like Crayola Oil Pastels for chunky/sturdy oil pastels, Pentel for a finer version, and Faber Castell’s version for a cheap, but very high-quality oil pastel.
We also really like Faber-Castell gel crayons which are somewhere in between crayon & oil pastel with easy coverage. The added case is a nice feature for supplies used on the go. Be sure to check out the neons as well!
Our go-to markers are the ever-present Crayola markers (skinny, thick, washable, non-washable — they’re all good). We’ve also had good experiences with Magic Stix and Stabilo markers, both of which don’t dry out if you forget that marker lid!
Sharpie permanent markers are great for work on different surfaces (leaves, pumpkins, Easter eggs). Use only when confident your kids won’t draw on other surfaces! The metallic Sharpies are one of our favorites for doodling on leaves and rocks and for working on top of black.
Crayola crayons work just fine for drawing so if you’re on a tight budget, get those and spend any extra money on some paints.
But if you’re okay with spending a bit more, we recommend Faber Castell beeswax crayons.
Kitpas are another favorite all-purpose crayon that can write on glass, become a watercolor paint, or regular crayon. These go on buttery soft, more like an oil pastel.
7. Colored Pencils
Colored pencils are the underappreciated workhorse in our house. They never seem to be as coveted by our kids as, say, foam paint or googly eyes, but get used for drawing regularly just the same. We’ve used and liked a variety of brands, especially Lyra, Prang, and Faber-Castell World Colors.
For younger artists, Stabilo Woody 3 in 1 pencils can be used for window art, watercolor paints (just add water) or as a crayon/colored pencil. The chubbier pencil means your toddler can grow with these for many years (they last a LONG time)!
But if you’d rather not make your own, here’s a good set of soft playdough (also good for kids with allergies besides gluten). Crayola dough is easy to find and gets the job done. Their playdough now comes in bigger buckets, purchased by color, a nice plus.
And this is the best set of playdough tools that we know!
Real potters’ clay is messy, but good. Our kids LOVE sculpting with clay. We just let it air dry, but if you have access to a kiln, all the better.
We also use Crayola air dry clay quite a bit, because, you know, air dry. Plus not as messy.
Plastilina is a wonderful modeling clay that NEVER dries out and keeps basically forever. A must have if your child loves to build and sculpt! We especially like the Jovi brand for its soft, moldable quality.
Model magic is another air-dry modeling material that is super fun, stretchy, and squishy. Not exactly a must-have, but fun every once in a while.
We’ve also discovered Cloud Clay, which is a great sensory material!
Sketchbooks or art journals are great for portable art or for anytime. (Plus they make great gifts when paired with some drawing materials!)
Watercolor paper and poster board are good sturdy surfaces for watercolor paint or any other paint.
Big paper such as easel paper rolls allow kids to work big and use their whole bodies, whether at an easel, a wall, or the floor.
But all you really need is some plain white paper. Or recycle bin paper. Or cardboard.
Additional reading: If you want even more information on paper, we have a whole post on choosing paper for children’s art.
More Art Supplies for Kids
Glue is a must for so many reasons. It makes SO many kids art activities possible and little kids especially just love squeezing the glue bottles as an activity in and of itself. Glue sticks are handy for paper collage, of course.
And a glue gun makes gluing sculptures or structures (wood, cardboard, etc) a lot quicker and easier. (If you’re worried about kids + glue gun, see Teacher Tom’s tips here. You can purchase a low heat glue gun as well. Or, if you have the Artful Parent book, see the advice he gives on page 181.)
Around age 2-3, kids can begin practicing making small snips with scissors on paper (with supervision, of course). These blunt tipped Fiskars are perfect for the task. Once your child enters elementary school, these pointed tip scissors are a better fit.
Our kids have a sticker fetish. Maybe yours do, too? We use all kinds, including colorful dot stickers, foil stars, and other office supply stickers. Eye stickers and a good supply of more commercial, image-based stickers.
15. Ink Pad + Stamps
This rainbow ink pad by Melissa & Doug is our favorite as it’s large, washable, and it has all the colors we want in one place. We use this with our fingers for fingerprint art, with stamps, and for stamping household objects.
17. Foam Paint
Foam paint is a lot like shaving cream, the all-time sensory art and play favorite. But it is formulated especially for art, doesn’t smell, and is supposed to be environmentally friendly. It’s more expensive but worth trying 2-3 colors sometime. Our kids and their friends LOVE this stuff.
Eye droppers or pipettes (we use and like both; the bigger droppers are easier for toddlers) are a favorite for lots of fun art activities and science experiments that involve liquid watercolors or even food coloring.
19. Colored Tissue Paper
Colored tissue paper is great for suncatchers, collage, and papier mache. You can apply it to contact paper for colorful suncatchers, glue it onto anything, or apply pieces directly to wet poster paint.
Bleeding Tissue Paper is a tissue paper that will bleed through to another surface when wet. A fun alternative for many process art adventures!
20. Transparent Con-Tact Paper
Go with the name brand Con-Tact paper for sure. You can find it at most drug stores or grocery stores with the shelf-liner paper. (It’s also called sticky-back plastic). We use it for all kinds of suncatcher and stained glass projects as well as some collaging fun.
21. Collage Items
Some of our favorite items for collage include googly eyes, stickers (mentiod above), colored tissue paper (also above), rainbow feathers, buttons, colored pasta shapes, tape, pom poms, yarn, fabric scraps.
22. Sculpture Items
Pipe cleaners are good for manipulating, for building sculptures, for threading beads and pasta, etc.
23) Coffee Filters
We use white basket style coffee filters for all kinds of arts and crafts projects, like snowflakes, buntings, spiderwebs, and collage. And check out this larger size, perfect for extra-large snowflakes! Coffee filters are easy to cut, yet are very sturdy. You can also buy the same kind of paper cut into different shapes such as leaves.
If you’re okay with glitter (some parents we know are all about it; some hate it), it makes a fun addition to many arts and crafts projects and something most kids love. Pretty much all the brands we’ve tried have worked great.
Don’t throw away those cardboard boxes! Or paper towel rolls or egg cartons either, for that matter.
Recycle bin cardboard can be used for so much! Art activities, kids crafts, homemade toys, pretend play, construction, and more. Cardboard is the best!
So that’s our list! If we don’t stop now, we might end up with another 10-15 art materials…
By the way, we think art materials make great kid gifts for all occasions from birthdays to Christmas, Easter, and more. Sometimes bundling 2-3 related art materials together makes the best art kit gift.
Did we miss one of your favorite kids art materials? What would you add to this list?
More Kids Art Supplies
- The BEST Baby Art Supplies
- The Best Art Materials for Toddlers
- The Best Kids Art Tools for a Successful Experience
- The BEST Art Supplies for Preschoolers
- Choosing Paper for Children: The Best Papers for Kids’ Art Activities
- 40+ Homemade Art Materials for Kids
- Kids Art Supplies on a Budget
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