One-Stop List of Must-Have Art Materials for Preschoolers
written by: Andrea Coventry
• edited by: Jonathan Wylie
• updated: 7/12/2012
In order to properly teach art at the preschool level, you must have enough materials on hand! Check out this essential list of materials to keep in your art area, plus we'll also offer up the best places to find deals on these needed materials.
Newsprint - Newsprint is a great lightweight paper for drawing or painting with tempera paints. It works well at the easel and is relatively inexpensive. It cuts easily because it is so thin, but this makes it less durable for big projects that involved heavy paint use or gluing. You can sometimes get free remnant rolls from your local newspaper publishing company.
Construction Paper - Traditional construction paper is perfect for cutting and gluing. You can also use this to introduce painting with water, or to experiment with color mixing. It tends to leave a little dust, so you can't run it through a copier. It is available in numerous colors, either cheaply in a variety pack, or individual colors.
Sulfite Paper - Sulfite paper is similar to construction paper in its color selection, but often brighter in color. It is also sturdier, easier to cleanly fold, and does not leave dust behind when cutting. White sulfite paper is good for heavier art projects.
Office Paper - Paper that is designated for the copier or printer makes great drawing paper, and it tends to be a little cheaper.
Watercolor Paper - If you are dabbling in watercolor painting, consider using this for special projects, as it is designed to better absorb the paint. Children can practice coloring with watercolors on regular office paper.
Fingerpaint Paper - Fingerpaint paper is shiny on one side and more dull on the other. The glossy side is the one best suited for fingerpaint, as it allows the fingers to glide and to better mix the paint.
Tracing Paper - Tracing paper allows children to practice writing or drawing by tracing over books or posters.
Tissue Paper - Tissue paper is great in art and collage projects. You can get a variety that keeps its color, or one that bleeds the color, allowing better color mixing, when painted over with glue.
Cardstock - Cardstock is a heavy-duty paper, like index cards, that is great for extremely durable projects. It works well as book covers or for supporting mini-sculptures.
Crayons - Thick crayons fit best into the smallest hands, as they have yet to refine that pincer grasp. Thin ones are appropriate for those who can properly use them. Take off the wrappers for a greater tactile experience, and to add to the ways in which the crayon can be used. Use different shaped crayons and rainbow crayons for extra creativity. Buy cheaper ones that melt and make your own in the microwave. Crayola brand no longer melts. Remember that cheaper crayons are also more likely to break, and often don't color quite as well, but can suffice.
Markers - Again, have both thick and thin markers available. Choose a wide variety of colors. Pink and red are always the most popular colors. Of course, red markers are the ones that run out the fastest, and are the one color that cannot be independently replaced. Cheaper varieties don't last quite as long, but can provide a larger color range. Use non-toxic, washable varieties.
Colored Pencils - There really doesn't seem to be any one brand of colored pencil that is sturdier than the others. Most seem to have issues breaking off or splitting when being sharpened. More expensive ones, usually used by older, serious art students, can last longer, but do not really justify the cost in a preschool setting. Again, use a variety of colors to maximize creativity.
Sharpeners - Hand-held pencil sharpeners are great for having children exercise their finger muscles, and for gaining independence. They also seem to sharpen better than electric pencil sharpeners. Keep many extras on hand, because they unfortunately break easily. Crayon sharpeners can also be useful.
Chalk - Both white chalk and colored chalk are great to use on the chalkboard. However, they also have cool effects when used on construction paper. Try to buy the dustless variety, but be forewarned that young children are still quite capable of creating a dusty mess with them.
Dry Erase Markers - Some classrooms are doing away with chalkboards, instead depending on dry erase boards. Choose varieties, such as Expo 2, which are the odorless variety. Crayola also makes some.
Erasers - Pencil toppers are good to keep on hand because children love to erase more than they like to draw. Chalk and dry erase erasers should be designated for each area.
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The first paint that preschoolers should use is simple water. Once they are comfortable manipulating a brush, then they can move on to using real paints. Add these fun kinds of paints to your list of materials:
Tempera Paints - This is the classic kind of paint used by kids, as it is the most versatile. Buy it pre-mixed as liquid tempera, or purchase the powder to mix your own. Pour tempera paints into muffin tins and let them dry for a few days for tempera cakes, similar to watercolors. Again, seek washable paints.
Watercolors - Start with the large watercolor cakes in sets of four to get children used to using them. Gradually add more colors and let the cakes get smaller. You can also find watercolor pencils, by companies like Crayola that add to watercolor fun. Add salt to a freshly painted picture for sparkly spots, or draw a picture first with crayon for crayon resist projects.
Acrylic Paints - Acrylic paints dry very quickly and stain clothing. Keep these on hand for adult supervision projects, only, such as for holidays or auction items.
Make Your Own Paints - Make sparkly paint by boiling Epsom salts in water, then letting it cool. Add food coloring for variety. When dried, it has a sparkly look to it. Add food coloring to condensed milk for a glossy paint.
Again, always search for washable varieties. Off-brands seem to work as well as name brands.
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There are many different types of scissors for preschool students. Keep a couple of pairs of each on hand to be used according to each child's needs.
Scissors with no fingerholes - These scissors have what looks like a giant plastic band connecting each blade of the scissors. These are for children who are not ready to use two fingers and a thumb, and are more comfortable with a full-hand approach.
Teacher-Student Scissors - These scissors have four fingerholes. The child puts his fingers and thumb into the inner set of holes, and the teacher puts her hand around his, using the outer holes. This way she can help the child get used to the feeling of opening and closing his fingers.
Children's Scissors - Scissors by companies like Fiskars are now designed to accommodate both right and left-handed students. This way you don't have to keep special "Lefty" scissors on hand. Use the blunt ended scissors to start. Some varieties of scissors exist to cut hair. Unfortunately, these do not cut paper very well. Be firm in your expectations of scissor use if you want children to be able to truly practice cutting.
Scrapbook Edgers - Children who are confident in using scissors will also enjoy using edgers for further creativity.
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Here are some other materials to help enhance your list of art materials:
Glue - Whether it is sticks or the liquid kind, those name brands, such as Elmer's, seem to work the best. Other brands can serve a purpose, but don't last as long.
Stencils - Children can refine writing skills when tracing along the outside of a stencil. They also help them to practice drawing skills. Cardboard stencils wear out faster than plastic ones, but you can laminate the cardboard ones for more durability.
Stamps and Stamp Pads - You can buy small wooden stamps at art supply stores, or larger ones with handles, designed for younger children, through school catalogs. Children love to stamp and can embellish prints with drawings. Also, use materials found around the house or classroom for different stamping experiences. When purchasing stamp pads, look for ones that have a secure lid to avoid drying out, and nontoxic ink.
Play-Doh - Play-Doh and clay provide three-dimensional exploration, while also refining fine motor control. Collect different kinds of tools, such as rolling pins, cutters, cookie cutters, and more, as well as experimenting with different types of Play-Doh and clay.
Colored Pasta - Purchase pre-colored pasta, or make your own by soaking pasta in rubbing alcohol plus food coloring. Use different varieties for different stringing experiences, whether on yarn, string, or pipe cleaners (chenille sticks).
Collage Items - The collage tray can be one of the greatest open-ended art projects in preschool. Anything that children can glue can be kept in the tray. Use paper roll tubes, feathers, craft sticks, chenille sticks (pipe cleaners), tissue paper, straws, yarn, felt, foam pieces, magazine photos, buttons, rice, pasta, etc.
Works of Art - Display famous works of art, through posted prints, matching activities, and books, to expose children to the Greats. Perhaps they will be inspired to emulate the Masters.
Aprons - Aprons are necessary to keep clothing clean. Use either commercial plastic ones or old adult shirts that are worn backwards.
Clean-up Materials - Children need to clean-up when they are finished. Provide a child-sized broom, dustpan, and plenty of soap and water. Demonstrate how to use them accordingly.
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Where to Buy Materials
Materials are relatively easy to find. Go to mass retailers, such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Wegmans for name brands such as Crayola, Rose Art and Elmer's. Sometimes there are generic versions available, but not often. Office supply stores are also great resources, but can be more expensive. The ultimate time to go shopping for your classroom is during the back-to-school season, when all supplies are marked down.
Check with your school to see if they order from any places that work with schools and offer discounts. One great company to try is Deep Discount School Supply. If you have time, try to do some comparison shopping to ensure you are getting the best deal for your money. Experiment with different brands to see what works best with your classroom and your particular projects. Then you will know how to best add to your list of materials to keep your art area full and inviting.