A big challenge for many families who want to do more creative activities at home is the looming cost of kids art supplies. There have been times where I couldn’t believe how much money I’d just spent on supplies for ONE PROJECT…gulp… It’s easy to go overboard when faced with lots of inspiring project supplies and the enthusiasm of an upcoming project. But after the project is done and the supplies go into a storage bin and are forgotten you may ask yourself was it worth it? Could you have spent that money on something else your family needs?
Listen, I know creativity is a priority to you, so when you do choose to spend your hard earned money on materials you want them to be quality supplies that you will use over and over again, not one-off costs.
With that in mind I put together a list of our family’s favorite art materials that are all under $10 and that we use on a regular basis. All of these cheap kids art supplies find regular rotation in our projects and creative tinkering.
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10 under $10: Cheap Kids Art Supplies
I cannot say enough good things about having cardstock on hand! Cardstock is thicker than regular paper so it’s perfect for paper folding projects and painting because it absorbs liquids better, plus it is far cheaper than specialty watercolor paper. The BEST DEAL on cardstock is online here. Trust me, it’s three times the price if you purchase it at an office supply store.
Project ideas for cardstock: Flextangles, Paper Stars, Agamographs, Paper Hearts
2. Oil Pastels
Oil pastels are a great alternative to crayons. They glide across paper like “butter” and have wonderful vibrant colors!
Project ideas for Oil Pastels: Magical Appearing Pictures, Instant Scratch Art, Color Explorations
NOTE: These are permanent makers! They will bleed through thin paper onto surfaces below. Also they are not best in the hands of toddlers who may use them to write oh, I don’t know….on the walls! We learned this from experience. Supervision is suggested!
We love Sharpies in our house because they have bold colors, are long lasting and durable, and have the perfect sized tips for drawings large and small.
Project ideas for Sharpies: Sharpie Tie-Dye, Hojalata, Pinwheels
This clay is really inexpensive and every time I open a package of it my kids come running! It’s the perfect antidote when your kids utter “I’m bored…”
Project ideas for modeling clay: Skewer Structures, Clay Decorated Houses, Earth Balancers
5. Perler Beads
At first glance you may cringe at the site of so many little beads that can go everywhere…but wait, give them a chance! Perler Beads ( AKA Hama Beads) are fusible when ironed so kids can use them to create amazing designs and creations that last. A bucket of these happily kept our Girl Scout troop busy for a good 30 minutes and they all asked to do the activity again!
Project ideas for Perler Beads: Spinning Tops, Mini Bookmarks,
I love having these on hand just for mixing paints, glues, candy, and any concoction you can think of…BUT they re also wonderful for projects themselves!
Project ideas for Craft Sticks: Dip Dyed Craft Sticks, Craft Stick Wreath, Stixplosions
Every family should have a set of washable markers on hand especially if you have little ones in the house! Hand your child a stack of paper and markers any time you are in a rush to find something to keep them happily busy. The fact that they are water soluble makes them perfect for a number of science art experiments as well!
Project ideas for Washable Markers: Bleeding Blossoms,Diffusion Art, Magical Water Blossoms
A staple for warm days outside! Kids never tire of drawing on a driveway or the patio, even outdoor furniture (if you let them…). I usually leave a basket of chalk outside for the kids at all times.
Project ideas for Sidewalk Chalk: Washable Graffiti, Chalk Rocks
9. Wood Beads
These wood beads are perfect for a variety of projects and the large hole size makes them easy for kids to string. Plus they come in cheerful, bright colors! I always seem to find a gazillion ways to use them.
Project ideas for Wood Beads: Wire Sculptures, Straw Mobiles, Ball Drop Game
10. Food Coloring
Yup, they stuff you pick up at the grocery store! It’s cheap, has a gazillion use for coloring things like play dough, homemade paints and oobleck and the teensy squeeze bottles are perfect for little hands. A step up from food coloring is liquid watercolors.
Project ideas for Food Coloring: Cosmic Suncatchers, Milk Painting, Tie Dyed Gift Wrap
Here are 5 more inexpensive project supplies I like to have on hand at all times!
- Watercolor Set
- Colorful String
- Glue If you make slime you HAVE to buy this in bulk here.
- Garden Wire
One of the biggest lessons I have learned from doing creative projects at home with my kids is to stop wasting my money buying one-off project supplies. I try to buy supplies that can be used for multiple projects and that are open-ended enough to be used for art, science and engineering projects.
Another tip I have is to stay away from “discount” version of kids art supplies. I’ve spent money on giant “kids art kits” only to discover that the supplies were of low quality and usable only a few times. Good quality supplies don’t have to break the bank, you just need to know which ones are affordable to begin with and that your family will find uses for many times. I hope this list of our family’s favorite art supplies inspires you to stock up on supplies even on the tightest of budgets!
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