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There are what seems like an endless supply of kids’ art materials out there. It can be almost unnerving to walk into a craft store and try to pick out a handful of supplies. In my years teaching children’s art classes I was lucky enough to have a wall of closets stocked high with almost every artsy item that a kid could want. Seriously. If only I could have that at home. But, I can’t (and I know most of us can’t). So, we need to pick and choose.
Yeah, the kiddos are going to ask Santa (or you) for video games, smartphones and all kinds of other stuff that they really don’t need—and that you really aren’t into buying. If you’ve got a crafty kid or just want to add some artsy ideas to their already lengthy list of holiday presents, these are some of my top picks. Along with gifting these to your child, you can also pack some away into a gift basket for others. Last year we put together an art-themed gift basket for a silent auction at my son’s karate school’s holiday party. It went over very well.
So, what are my favorite kids’ art supplies to give as holiday gifts?
1. Paint: Really, a nice tempera will do when it comes to process paint explorations or as a finger painting medium. I’m a fan of Crayola’s. The texture is easy for kids to work with, it isn’t too watery (I can’t stand watery tempera, it’s just way too runny for little hands) and it doesn’t get that weird smell after a few uses (when I worked in a preschool the paint closet always smelled like old tempera). I also like that you can choose small sized bottles (they come in multi-color packs) or larger sizes.
2. Oil pastels: I love, love, love oil pastels. Yes, kids like regular ol’ crayons. But, when you take out the oil pastels, they really get creatively crazy. They’re slightly less of a mess than paints, but the kids can still blend the colors together. This 50-piece assortment of Cray-Pas gives your child all the shades and hues she’ll need.
3. Modeling clay: Building and sculpting are fine motor favorites. But, I also like using modeling clay to paint. What? How? Follow this tutorial to see how (it’s such as less-mess version of finger painting). Crayola has my favorite kind of clay for artsy play. While you’re looking, their Model Magic (which is a totally different type of compound) also makes a creative kids’ holiday present too.
4. Glitter: What child doesn’t want to play with the sparkly stuff? ALEX Toys Artist Studio24 Glitter Shakers gives your child so many sparkle-filled options to choose from.
5. Hole punches: I know, I know—hole punches? Right? These shaped punches are perfect for so many crafts. Really, I used to use them all of the time when I taught art classes. Let the kiddos punch a bag of shapes, then use them anytime to collage or add to a craft project.
6. Canvases: Ready-to-use canvases are an ideal alternative to plain construction paper. Your child is probably pretty used to painting on paper (or maybe poster board). A pack of canvases gives her a new option, making her feel like a “real” artist.
7. Craft foam shapes: These are super-easy to use. You can get adhesive back ones (they’re basically like puffy stickers) or plain ones to glue on. In either case, gifting your child with an assortment means hours of crafting fun. You can pick a theme that interests your child or go with something educational (such as letters and numbers).
8. Craft foam sheets: While we’re on the subject of craft foam, adding in a few paper-sized sheets makes for even more artsy good times. Your child can cut these apart and add craft foam shapes to DIY her own bookmarks, fold them in half to make books or use her imagination and create whatever she wants to.
9. Watercolor crayons: As if watercolors weren’t fun enough as is, try this art item out with the kiddos and see what happens. They can draw (like they’re using crayons) and then brush on water for a paint effect.
10. Paper mache art paste: Oh, this is my all-time top paper mache pick. Sure, you can make your own using school glue, water and flour. But, I adore Elmer’s version. It’s a powder that dissolves into water, giving the kids tons of ooey, gooey artsy sculpture-time play.