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taming the art supply dragon

Organizing art projects and their requisite supplies can be a daunting task. I know. Check out our art closet a few months after we moved into our house. 

the art closet

It stayed like this for a while, just out of complete mama overwhelm. Finally, I dug in. It took me weeks to sort through all of my supplies from my teacher days, the art supplies themselves, and all of the other learning materials that I've collected here and there in anticipation of our future homeschooling days.

the art closet

I did it during naps (when both boys were still napping - now I can only count on one!) and late at night. This is how it looks now; it's actually the second iteration of the closet. The first time around I tried to keep all of our learning materials - art, language, science, math, etc. in here. It was too much. It didn't make for easy navigating. I find that one thing is essential for me in organizing art supplies (or anything for that matter) - I must be able to see things in order to know they are there and put them to use. Placing things in a bin doesn't really work for me, unless the items fit nicely into one category (i.e. paper)and can be labeled accordingly.

the art closet

I'll admit that, for a while, this art supply organization wasn't at the top of my mama priority list. I was biting my nails just a little bit, fretting that my two year-old just wasn't that passionate about art. What did I do wrong??? I would ask myself, art projects being a HUGE part of my own memories of growing up. 

Not to worry. The art project bug hit Finn fast and furious several months ago, and he hasn't stopped since. I even had to put a latch on the top of this closet in order to keep him from entering of his own accord and pulling out material after material, wanting to use everything at once.

I thought I'd give you a little tour of what's inside, for those of you who are at the beginning of your journey into making art with your little one.

the art closet

I store all of our writing and drawing tools (markers, crayons, glitter pens, colored pencils, etc.) in large freezer bags inside of these two clear plastic bins. I really like this way of doing things - it keeps all of the sets together and visible, and is easy to grab something for a specific project. 

the art closet

Here I keep corn syrup, glycerine, gelatin, cream of tartar and food coloring for making play doughs and paints. All of the different kinds of tapes and the glue sticks are here, too. Don't forget the contact paper!

the art closet

Here are most of the paints and painting accessories - watercolors, temperas, foam paints, fingerpaints and paintbrushes, q-tips, sponges, scrapers, pipettes, bingo bottles, and watercolor spray bottles.

the art closet

Below are some of the collage supplies, stored in glass jars for easy visibility. 

the art closet

the art closet

Finally, here's a list of recommended art supplies for the creative family. I'm sure I'll leave some things out, so feel free to leave a comment with your can't-do-without art supply!

Found and collected

  • egg cartons
  • cardboard scraps
  • leaves, seeds, acorns, and small sticks
  • newspaper
  • jar lids for holding paint
  • stamps
  • buttons
  • old sponges
  • magazines
  • small dishes
  • fabric scraps
  • ribbons
  • toilet paper rolls
  • paper
  • little bits of anything for collage
  • sand

Basic supplies

  • masking tape, scotch tape, double-sided tape, clear packing tape
  • glue and glue sticks
  • paper - construction paper, tissue paper, newsprint, tracing paper, blotting paper, large kraft paper (find at home supply store), watercolor paper, easel paper, sand paper
  • drawing tools - markers, sidewalk chalk, crayons, fine-tipped pens, window crayons, beeswax crayons, Crayola Twistables (great bright marks!), glitter pens
  • glitter
  • trays for doing activities with glitter or paint
  • paint - finger paint, dot art paint, liquid watercolors, foam paint, washable tempera, Stockmar watercolors, homemade paint
  • scissors, basic as well as the fancy ones that cut different designs

Other fun things

  • acrylic mirros
  • clothespins
  • mod podge
  • hole punches
  • beads
  • pipe cleaners
  • sequins
  • popsicle sticks
  • wooden shapes
  • straws
  • beeswax for making candles
  • felt
  • googly eyes
  • contact paper
  • spin art
  • glue gun
  • q-tips
  • cotton balls
  • stamps and stamp pads
  • plaster
  • clay
  • feathers

I do most of my art supply shopping at Discount School Supply and Montessori Services, and I've been very happy with both. I'm also lucky to live near the Scrap Exchange - a great creative reuse store where I can often find lots of random supplies for very little money. 

I also want to mention the overwhelming feeling of too-many-ideas-and-too-little-time that can come from trying to plan all sorts of art activities using the internet resources at our fingertips. Sure, pinterest is great, but where to start?! I've found that I do more art with my boys if I can focus my "idea acquisition" on one or two sites and one or two books. Here's where I go, time and again, for ideas and inspiration:

The Artful Parent

Scribble Art: Independent Creative Art Experiences for Children by MaryAnn F. Kohl

First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn F. Kohl.

How do you keep your art projects organized and inspired?