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 June 2021
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).
Here goes…this is a list of our all-time favorite kids art materials.
Our Top 10 Favorite Kids Art Supplies
We started with the top 10 that we just can’t live without, but then had to keep going! So we have an addendum with the 15 more kids art materials that are pretty great, too.
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.
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.
3. 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 gel crayons for something similar in a hard case.
And this is the best set of playdough tools that we know!
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 we had 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. 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.)
Our go-to markers are the ever-present Crayola markers (skinny, thick, washable, non-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want even more information on paper, we have a whole post on choosing paper for children’s art.
15 More Kids Art Materials We Really Like
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, but also eye stickers and a good supply of more commercial, image-based stickers.
12. Tempera Paint Sticks
Tempera 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!
If you’re okay with glitter (some parents we 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 worked great.
`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.
15. 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 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.
17. Sculpture Items
Pipe cleaners are good for manipulating, for building sculptures, for threading beads and pasta, etc.
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!
20. 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.
Everyone uses sidewalk chalk! But we also recommend chalk for indoor art, both on paper and if you have a chalkboard in the house (which we highly recommend, even if it’s simply a chalkboard wall decal).
Eye droppers or pipettes (we use and like both; the bigger 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.
23) 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, like snowflakes, buntings, spiderwebs, and collage. 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.
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’ll end up with another addendum of 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?
Further Reading on Kids Art Materials
- The Best Art Materials for Toddlers
- Choosing Paper for Children: The Best Papers for Kids’ Art Activities
- The Best Kids Art Tools for a Successful Experience
- 40+ Homemade Art Materials for Kids
- Kids Art Supplies on a Budget
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