Creative Family Living

Siblings and accessible art supplies

Maia doing the Monart pre drawing exercises

Almost all of our art supplies are accessible now either in the studio or around the house. And most that are not, are only out of reach because of lack of space down low. Maia is at the point where I trust her to know what to do with the art materials and to keep the mess factor within limits and to even clean up some of the time (I’m still working on that last one!).

I’m wondering how this may have to change once Daphne is mobile and getting into everything.

Mel asked this question a few days ago in the comments:

If you ever have time, I have a request for a future post.=) I am
wondering if you have suggestions for how to let older kids have access
to art supplies while there are smaller siblings around. I have a 4
year old who LOVES to create, but I feel very limited on what I can
“leave out” for her to experiment with on her own because of her little
sister. My 4-year old would love to have access at all times to
scissors, crayons, markers, glue and paint, but I feel like everything
needs to be put away for the safety of her sister and our walls and
furniture.=) It may be a while before your littlest is really mobile,
but do you happen to have any suggestions? Thanks!

Mel’s question got me thinking and wondering. How will I address this issue myself? I have a few ideas, but I’m still not sure and am hoping for some input from those of you who have older kids who need access to art materials as well as younger kids who are not ready for unsupervised access to certain materials.

Here are some of my ideas:

  • Put the washable crayons, markers, and paper down low and the paints, glitter, scissors, etc higher up where the toddler can’t reach them but the older sibling can. Genius idea, eh?
  • Create a box of materials just for the older child that the toddler can’t open (maybe one of those rubbermaid type storage boxes) or that is kept out of reach of the younger one.
  • Keep the door closed to the room with the art materials. Older child can open the door, but toddler cannot.

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas out there from people who are actually dealing with this. So come on, folks. What do you do to give your older children access to art supplies while keeping your toddler (and house) safe?


  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 7:44 am

    I will have to send you a picture of my solution later, its not pretty but its working for now! After my baby started chewing the tips off markers I needed to move things around!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 8:38 am

    We’ve got a crazy turbine of a 16m old and keeping anything accessible and in the open has been off the table since she started walking 8 months ago. Our crafty 4 year old has to settle for “big girl time” during naps when we get her art caddy down. Then she can cut, play doh and color for a good 2 hours.
    We have a lazy susan with small buckets glued on to hold her supplies.

  • Reply
    Jeannette Jones
    March 10, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I’m dealing with this now with my almost 5yo and almost 2yo. The younger one is starting to get to the point where he’s interested in creating. The paper, crayons, playdo, and rubber stamps are accessible to him. Everything is on a book shelf. My older son can stand on a stool and reach paint, glue and whatever else. But all this is in the room where i can close the door.
    I also have a tray I leave out for the younger one with some of his favorite art things while older one is at school.
    kind of thinking out loud here, too.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Yikes! We have this same problem! Right now the solution has been to keep the “scary” stuff where only I can reach it. (Although, it is a little scary to see the almost two year old running through the living room with a blue crayon!)

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 9:32 am

    All of these are great ideas. The problem that I have is that our toddler always wants to be doing whatever our four year old is doing. I guess that isn’t really a problem- but it makes it hard to keep things separate because they want to work together.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I’m struggling with this right now too. My children and yours are roughtly the same ages. Keep the ideas coming! I have a feeling our very accessible “art cabinet” will soon be way too accessible.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

    We have a big cabinet hutch thing in our kitchen right beside the table. The top glass door area is for cookbooks and stuff like that. In the middle is a drawer where I put finished artwork to keep and the bottom cabinet area is for art supplies. The doors have a strong closing mechanism so you have to give the doors a really strong tug to open them. This allows my 5 year old to access the contents but not my 1 year old. For now it is a very good solution.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Much depends on the personalities of your children. While it is a good solution to have a door that can be opened/closed by the older one only, that was often a set-up for disaster at our house when the younger child would come crawling/running at lightning speed whenever they heard that distinctive latch!! Or the older child had to bear the weighty responsibility of always making sure it was closed/not left cracked. A set-up for the big kid getting in trouble when the little kid got in where he/she wasn’t supposed to.
    Anyway, Legos were more of the issue at our house — older child built complicated things — can the younger child get into his Legos or not? Turns out that my 3rd child has INCREDIBLY advanced fine motor skills, from learning to put Legos together at a very young age (one). She has a very patient big brother and sister and must have been naturally inclined to fine motor skills to begin with — she’s also a pro at scissors and other craft supplies at age 2. And she was exposed much earlier than my other 2. Hope Daphne will follow in her big sister’s footsteps!!!

  • Reply
    Angel Funk
    March 10, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    We’re in the same boat here: our kids are both very close in age! I plan to use the first two ideas on your list, the third won’t work b/c we don’t have a door on our creative/art area.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I agree with so many of the comments here, and I’m thankful for their ideas too! Our daughters are 3 years apart, and the younger one has always wanted to do whatever big sis is up to. When she was really little, we’d try to offer her a more age-appropriate version of what the older one was up to (big sis on one side of the easel with markers, little sis on the other side with crayons; big sis could do collages with scissors, little sis could glue down pre-cut shapes or use stickers; etc.) We keep a lot of “scarier” supplies in our older daughter’s room out of the little one’s reach, in containers that little sis can’t open. But after the tricky months when the younger one was mobile but had no idea what she shouldn’t do, it’s been an amazing experience watching the two of them create! Our younger daughter has amazing fine-motor skills from copying her older sister, and she has such creativity that I know is sparked from being exposed to art at such a young age. Good luck!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    March 10, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Good question. I do have tightly lidded boxes for the grown-up children’s supplies, and I keep them tucked away out of reach.
    The more “child friendly” supplies for the younger ones are kept in open boxes and crocks at a table that is strictly for small fry.
    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  • Reply
    Ali Yaker
    March 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    We have a similar problem. I love for my almost 4 year old to be independent with his art, but my 16 month old wants to follow suit.
    I installed inexpensive rails from Ikea with plastic hanging cups against the wall behind his art table. The table is inaccessible from the sides because it is wedged in between our dishwasher and the easel. There are two rails. The bottom one has the less scary art supplies and the top has the things like rulers, scissors and markers with caps.
    Other than making it more difficult for my younger to access the materials, I just have to be really watchful. I have been working with my older son to remember to put his supplies away when he is done, etc. And just hope for the best, I guess.

  • Reply
    April Driggers
    March 10, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    My children weren’t close in age. My boys are 5 years apart. One of the solutions that worked well for me was that inside the coat closet, (where all the crafty “stuff” is stored) I hung a 24 pocket shoe holder. When my oldest son wants something, it’s in a higher pocket that only he can reach but there are STILL things that the youngest can get to in the bottom pocket.
    In invested in those “Color Wonders” (where the color ONLY appears on the pages intended for that type of material) and THOSE were the BIGGEST hit. I really just tried my best to find “kid friendly” materials. Eventually I got him (my youngest) his own little ‘case’ that when Josh (my oldest) was doing something crafty, that we’d bring out that case then — and only then — so that it was a special thing, a treat if you will, that he really looked forward to and I’d put things like stickers and stencils and special pencils and shaped erasers in there. And, of course, those good ole Color Wonder things!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    We took rubbermaid drawers (3) and labeled them colored paper, white paper, and binder paper. Then we took another set and labeled the drawers crayons, markers and pencils. Both my kids 4 and 3 can dive right in anytime they have an inspiration or feel like drawing. It’s great just being able to tell them to go to the playroom and get the tools they need to be creative at their reach.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I have a 3 year old and a 20 month old. The best soloution I can come up with is to differntiate our art and craft activities. This morning we did collages with a rainbow theme. My three year old had access to glue and all sorts of materials to make her collage and I had a different set of materials for my younger son – who was in his high chair for this activity (feathers, coloured paddle pop sticks, pom poms etc and contact instead of glue.
    My 20 month old boy is also really into threading at the moment – I use all sorts of different textured materials (felt, corrugated card etc, cut holes in the centre and he will happily lace these materials onto straws or pipecleaners while my older daughter is crafting away.
    As far as accessibility to our art and craft supplies goes I have had to store most of our resources in our cupboard. Slowly, but surely, some of them are reappearing (with clear boundaries as to where they are to be used) and I always create with the kiddos so I can gently guide our 20 month old as to what is appropriate while he is discovering and learning when it comes to creating.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I can’t wait till the day when I can actually have a lovely collage trolley for all this kinds of arty fun to go on! For now, we keep all of the art equipment for the girls in the playroom but it’s up high out of Miss H’s(15mth) reach. I’ve just created the playroom and my plan is to put up a long rail from Ikea which will hang high enough for Miss M (3) to reach but out of Miss H’s way. It will have the Ikea coloured hanging cups on it, each with different things them. eg pens, crayons, glues and scissors. BTW – Hooray for washable markers!! A friend of mine has created a great space for her big kids. It is a room with a lovely big desk and lots of shelving. The room has a gate at the door which only the bigger kids can access the room through. Her two littlies can look forward to using that area when they’re bigger. Not only does it house all the crafty fun but also all of the smaller creative activities such a lego. I think this is a brilliant idea if you have the space to do it. It’s a kid friendly room – lots of fun…..except for the homework that gets done there too!!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for all of the great ideas!!

  • Reply
    March 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Oh man. I have a 5 yo and and almost 2 yo, and the one thing I have learned is that non-toxic crayons are ALL ABOUT the second child, lol. Like others have said, he wants to do whatever she is doing. Substitutes will not suffice. I simply have to be much more vigilant and involved, and I’ve also had to let go a little bit and accept that more paint, etc, is going to go flying or end up places that I don’t want it to be. And I try to save the more involved projects for naptime.
    It is a bummer in some ways, because I was happy to be able to let her have more autonomy and self-start projects. But this, too, shall pass and already I’m wondering how my baby grew so fast. :)

  • Reply
    March 14, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Great post, and I love reading about everyone’s ideas. I only have one little one, but another on the way, and was wondering how to babyproof the craft supplies :) Thanks!

  • Reply
    March 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I only have one child but at just turned two years of age, she has had regular access to art materials for at least 8 or nine months now. I use an Ikea drawer unit which is on wheels to store our materials at the moment. It is easy for her to access when I wish her to but can really easily be wheeled away behind closed doors when I amy unable to supervise her closely enough!

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