The Top 25 Best Art Materials for Kids

The 25 Best Kids Art Materials!

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The Artful Parent list of all-time favorite kids art materials based on years of experience. Find the best paints, drawing materials, playdough, and more for children’s art.

The Top 25 Best Art Materials for Kids

This post contains affiliate links.I get asked for my recommendations for kids art materials 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 between my family, friends, the kids art classes I run now, and the kids art groups I used to run.

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So I’ll share what I consider the best kids art materials in this post.

That said, I 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. (Thank you!)

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.

And, bonus! You can get my free printables on the top art materials by age (toddlers, preschoolers, big kids) at the end of the post!

By the way, I 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.

Here goes… This is a list of our all-time favorite kids art materials.

Top 10 Favorite Kids Art Materials - The Artful Parent

Our Top 10 Favorite Kids Art Materials

I started with the top 10 that we just can’t live without, then had to keep going. So we have an addendum with the 15 runner-up kids art materials after the big top ten list.

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.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Tempera Paint

1) Poster Paints

Tempera paint is a staple for kids art activities. It’s super versatile, inexpensive, washable, nontoxic, and readily available.

We also love and use shiny, vibrant BioColor paint. Plus it adheres to more surfaces. If you’re looking for a metallic paint, BioColor metallics and metallic Activity Paints are both awesome.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Liquid Watercolors and a Watercolor Paint Palette

2) Watercolor Paints

If you haven’t tried liquid watercolor paint yet, you need to! We use them for everything from regular painting to all kinds of craft projects and even science experiments.

For a watercolor paint palette, we have liked and used quite a variety including this excellent quality watercolor paint set.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Faber Castell Gel Crayons3) Oil Pastels

We don’t have a clear favorite brand for these and like Crayola Oil Pastels and Colorations for chunky/sturdy oil pastels, Pentel for a finer version, and Faber-Castell gel crayons for something similar in a hard case.

4) Playdough

Homemade is by far our favorite and here are 3 awesome homemade playdough recipes. But if you’re not going to make your own, here’s a good set of soft playdough.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Playdough ToolsAnd this is the best set of playdough tools that I know!

5) Glue

Glue is a must for so many reasons. And maybe doesn’t even belong on this list as a stand-alone item. But it makes SO many fun kids art activities possible and little kids especially just love squeezing the glue bottles that I have to add it.

Glue sticks are good 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. Or, if you have my Artful Parent book, see the advice he gives on page 181.)

The Best Kids Art Materials - Tape

6) Tape

We’re tape happy! Besides Colored Masking Tape, we use lots and lots of regular Scotch tape, and we have a bit of a love affair with washi tape and other printed craft tapes.

7) Markers

Our go-to markers are the ever-present Crayola markers (skinny, thick, washeable, not-washable—they’re all good). But we’re always experimenting with different brands.

Sharpie permanent markers are great, too, especially when you need to work on different surfaces (leaves, pumpkins, Easter eggs) and don’t worry about your kids drawing on the walls. The metallic Sharpies are one of our favorites for doodling on leaves and rocks and for working on top of black.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Crayons

8) Crayons

The cheap Crayola crayons are just fine for drawing so if you’re on a tight budget, get those and spend any extra $ on some paints.

But if you’re okay with spending a bit more, I recommend these beeswax crayons for little kids and these cool Crayon Appeel crayons for bigger kids.

9) Clay

Real potters’ clay is messy, but good. My 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.

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.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Sketchbooks and art journals for children

10) Paper

White art paper and colored construction paper are musts.

Sketchbooks or art journals are great for portable art or for anytime. (Plus they make great gifts when paired with some drawing materials!)

 

The Best Kids Art Materials - Colored Construction Paper

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.

I have a whole post on choosing paper for children’s art, by the way.

15 More Kids Art Materials We Really, Really Like

The Best Kids Art Materials - Roll of Eye Stickers11) Stickers

My kids have a sticker fetish. Maybe yours do, too? We use all kinds, including colorful shape stickers, foil stars, and other office supply stickers, but also eye stickers and a goodly supply of more commercial, image-based stickers.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Kwik Stix Paint Sticks12) Tempera Paint Sticks

Paint sticks are more like extra-large oil pastels than paint, really, in how they are applied but they are great for mess-free art for kids! The colors are vibrant and the paint goes on smoothly. Plus the paint dries within seconds!

13) Glitter

If you’re okay with glitter (some parents I know are all about it; some hate it), glitter is a fun addition to many arts and crafts projects and something most kids love. Pretty much all the brands we’ve tried have been fine.

14) Transparent Con-Tact Paper

Go with the name brand Con-Tact paper for sure; you can get it in any drug store or grocery store with the shelf-liner paper. Also called sticky-back plastic. We use it for all kinds of suncatcher and stained glass projects as well as some collaging fun.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Googly Eyes15) Collage Items

Some of our favorite items for collage include googly eyes, stickers (mentioned above), colored tissue paper, other papers, rainbow feathers, buttons, colored pasta shapes, tape, pompoms, yarn, fabric scraps.

16) Foam Paint

Foam paint is a lot like shaving cream, the all-time sensory art and play fave. 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. My kids and their friends LOVE this stuff.

17) Sculpture Items

The Best Kids Art Materials - Pipe CleanersPipe cleaners are good for manipulating, for building sculptures, for threading beads and pasta, etc.

 Wood craft sticks are great for building, sculpture, crafts, catapults, everything!

And wood scraps, either from a carpenter friend or a box of wood bits, are fun for making wood sculptures.

18) 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.

19) Rainbow Feathers

Rainbow Feathers add a little fun color and tactile experience to suncatchers, collages, playdough sculptures, and more!

The Best Kids Art Materials - Colored Pencils

20) Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are the underappreciated workhorse in our house. They never seem to be as coveted by my 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 Jolly.

21) Chalk

Everyone uses sidewalk chalk! But I also recommend chalk for indoor art, both on paper and if you have a chalkboard in the house (which I highly recommend, even if it’s simply a chalkboard wall decal). We really like Faber Castell chalk because of the vibrant colors and high quality.

Liquid chalk markers are pretty awesome, too.

22) Droppers

Eye droppers or pipettes (we use and like both; the smaller droppers are better for toddlers) are a favorite for lots of fun art activities and science experiments that involve liquid watercolors or even food coloring.

The Best Kids Art Materials - Rainbow Stamp Pad23) Ink Pad

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.

24) Coffee Filters

We use white basket style coffee filters for all kinds of arts and crafts projects, including snowflakes, buntings, spiderwebs, and collage. Coffee filters are easy for kids to cut and they accept watercolor paint beautifully, yet are very sturdy. You can also buy the same kind of paper cut into different shapes such as leaves.

25) Cardboard

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 my list! If I don’t stop now, I’ll end up with another addendum of 10-15 art materials…

Did I miss one of your favorite kids art materials? What would you add to this list?

Would you like a free printable download with my favorite art materials for each age group? Click on any of the images below and you’ll get a printable delivered straight to your inbox!

 

Further Reading on Kids Art Materials 

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  • Meg Roke
    January 6, 2014 at 8:16 am

    This is a pretty fabulous list. I would add yarn, stamps and cotton balls. My daughter loves putting cotton balls (or pompoms)in her art. My son, who is younger, is really into stamping… everything… these days.

  • Siouxzy
    January 6, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Fun! Thanks!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    January 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Oh, yes! Yarn, for sure. We use stamps and cotton balls a bit less, but others really seem to like them!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    January 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    You’re welcome!

  • Mona
    January 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    How do you use the oil pastels? I’ve looked (longingly) at them several times at Michaels, but I’ve never known what to do with them. Maybe it’s time to invest in a set.

  • Cheryl Geiget
    January 7, 2014 at 4:40 am

    Great List! The new Sharpie brush markers (Michaels’) are a hit at our house, as are my all-time favorite Stadetler markers (thin tip, dual tip) available at Office Depot and sometimes at Staples. I would have to add a Rainbow Loom and elastics – one of the finest obsessions ever created, as well as origami paper, foam sheets and felt.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    January 7, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Just draw with them! They’re lovely to work with. Also, they work great for watercolor resist art.
    If you’re buying from Michaels, make sure to use your half off coupon to get the oil pastels! (You probably know that, but just in case you don’t…) You can either print out a coupon from their website (use the storefinder, then after you find your store, you’ll be given the option of printing a coupon for that store) or download their app.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    January 7, 2014 at 6:09 am

    I haven’t tried Sharpie brush markers yet but have had my eye on them! And thanks for the tip on the Stadetler markers! I’ll try them!
    Maia would concur about the rainbow loom and origami paper!
    What do you use the foam sheets for? Just curious…

  • Milly
    January 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

    My fave is watercolor pencils. If you haven’t ever tried them you should!

  • Besquirrely
    January 8, 2014 at 9:26 am

    My girls also love stamps and paint daubers…
    and yes, still sticker obsessed in our nest!

  • Frances
    January 10, 2014 at 2:11 am

    beads and jewels. Millions and millions of beads and jewels. Must Use Coupon.
    Also Crayola makes a washable brush marker which is brilliant.

  • Liane
    February 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Not quite it’s own art material but we love the Nancy bottles from discount school supply for squeezing out white glue, paint, or colored glue.

    Also beads and buttons are huge favorites for sculptures and collages.

  • ayse demirdonder
    February 28, 2014 at 7:59 am

    what do you say for the brand ; COLORATIONS ?
    is it one of your favorites ?

    • Jean Van't Hul
      February 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Ayse – There are lots of different Colorations products — everything from paints to markers to construction paper and contact paper. I LOVE some of them (paints, etc) and am not crazy about some of them (construction paper, contact paper). If there’s a particular Colorations product you’re wondering about, let me know!

  • Heather gu
    April 23, 2014 at 3:15 am

    How bout macaroni,food coloring,and yarn? Or paper mache? I like to get the different colored paint swatches from home depot and cut out different shapes so we can use glue and make pictures with them

  • rekha tripathi
    April 25, 2014 at 11:38 am

    i like making new things with useless things

  • Arts and Crafts for Kids
    May 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

    This is a lovely list! I mean I got to know many new things. My kids love Oil Pastels, colored pencils and glitter and now I am going to get them some more items to enjoy. Thank you.

  • Lonna
    May 25, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Great list. In our house we use all kinds of chalk & stickers plus everything that has been mentioned in your list.

  • Neasa
    June 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Little wood discs and colored pasta. Also good markers by bic if you can find them and Caran d’Ache – you can buy individual ones of these. All time favorites in our house though are coloring pencils and any size of cardboard box!

  • Holly
    June 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I have two boys, one is almost 3 and the other is almost 6. Of the items you listed, what paints would you recommend for doing pieces using handprints and footprints on canvas? Thank you!

  • Elizabeth
    June 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    I just asked several of my friends the other day about a good clay body to sun dry (like Mexican red clay). I was wondering your thoughts since you said you air dry your clay. I recall watching some traditional Mexican artists sun drying their clay then painting it…one was a piggy bank, so I imagine it would have to hold up fairly well. What has been your experience? I do not like the “air dry” clays they try to push off as clay. They are crumbly and not worth purchasing. Thank you in advance for letting me know!

  • Paige Greenw
    July 2, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Felt!!! So many colors & so much fun! Also- sequins, pom poms, labels (multi-colored) & wrapping paper.

  • Jenny Mendez
    July 2, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I have run an Art Center for the past 17 yrs and have bought/used a ton of supplies through the years! Your list is great and agree with all the ones i have personally used with our students and cant wait to try the others listed!!
    I would add q-tips for painting dots on all sorts of things- just the right size for little hands! Also my favorite glue sticks are by Crayola- they have a cap that you take off and use to stand the glue stick in, makes it easier to NOT lose the lid! The glue is blue when gluing but dries clear. I would rather spend a little more for products that last longer, make art a little easier, less mess and are of good quality.

  • Sophie
    July 3, 2014 at 6:37 am

    I teach art to kids and was thrilled to discover Faber-Castell Eco Pencils. They are much better quality than regular children’s colored pencils, with richer color coverage and sturdier leads– and they are reasonably priced, much less expensive than artists grade pencils. You can find them on Amazon. I also shop alot from dickblick.com.

  • Kelly Bornt
    July 9, 2014 at 3:00 am

    Lovely list! Thank you for sharing :-) I am setting up an art closet/storage/work area for my kids and as a mother to 2 little ones and a full time preschool teacher lists are quite helpful. ;)
    With love from Laos!

  • Carrie Peel
    July 21, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Awesome list, and the only thing I was surprised that I didn’t see were soft pastels, which my daughter loves! She’s always liked to draw on the sidewalk (or the deck, or the garage floor, or whatever she can find!) with the cheapo sidewalk chalk they sell everywhere, but most of the time she’d use those once or twice and find plain ol’ white chalk underneath the top layer of pigment…so her “neon green” chalk would only be used until that first layer of color wore off. She started getting very interested in my soft pastels (which are too pricey for a five or six year olds to use!), so I was really happy to find the 48 color set of Crayola sidewalk chalk–the colors are really bright and they stay that way until the chalk is gone! I used some of them for a sidewalk art competition last year to fill in larger spaces, actually, and I was surprised at how well they worked! Now that my daughter’s seven, she likes her artwork to be permanent sometimes, so we use the soft and hard student grade pastels on paper quite a bit too- any of the student grade sets would probably work well, but personally our favorites have been Loew-Cornell and Faber-Castell soft pastel sets, and General’s or Sargent Art for the chalk pastels. Oil pastels are also a favorite in my house as well- the ones we’ve really liked have been Prang, Reeves, and the Portfolio series watersoluble set (I used that set to draw on dark wooden frames and they worked beautifully, which I didn’t really expect!). The soft/ hard pastels on paper do need some kind of fixative spray- I like to use a workable fixative after she’s done a little and a permanent fixative when she’s finished–aerosol hairspray works to seal them too!

  • Steven
    August 2, 2014 at 6:21 am

    Love what you share here, i just started creating video tutorial on how to make simple origami arts for kids, the list you share here gave me ideas on what will be my next video about. Thanks again for the share!

  • ann
    August 16, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Great list – thank you for the specific brand recommendations. I have 3 girls and they love love love FACE PAINT! They take the watercolor crayons, a little cup of water, a sponge to dab off excess water, and a hand mirror into the back yard and transform themselves. So fun!

  • Chris
    September 22, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Great list! I think I have all of them. Would love for you to post your top 25 or so favorite art projects :). I enjoy your posts keep them coming please and thank you.

  • Eleasha Thorpe
    October 21, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I would add Gallery Wrapped Canvases. I buy small ones at the dollar store and large ones when the go on 80% off at Micheals. So many of our art adventures turn out so well, we do a second round on canvas and hang them arround the house. Like when we put crayons through the hot glue gun and squirted the canvas with meted crayon….amazing!!

  • Barbara Mail
    October 25, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I really like using Crayola brand watercolor pencil sets of 24 colors. They last a long time and give the students experience with watercolor without the usual mess. They are particularly nice for classes of kindergarten and first grade students. I usually add ultra fine sharpies to the mix. They just need to be dampened gently with a brush once the color is applied to paper. They also work well as plain colored pencils. The cores are a bit softer and creamier than regular colored pencils, and blend beautifully. They are cheap too.

  • garry
    October 27, 2014 at 3:09 am

    Thank you for the list!

  • christin
    December 17, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    scissors!

  • Jennifer
    December 19, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I love your list!

    Not to be a downer but you may consider adding a few notes regarding age appropriateness as some of your favs like Biopaint and Liquid Watercolor (both of which I love) can stain clothing and skin in the case of the water color, if you’ve got a little one who’s super messy with their painting.

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