As parents, there are many things we struggle with presenting to our children too early. Television. Devices. Video games. Eggs. (Seriously, though.)
Art is not one of those things.
Babies can “do” art. This has been demonstrated to me by many a skilled daycare employee who has surprised me with handprints and finger-smears on colored construction paper with thoughtfully written notes. (My one year old did not yet know what a turkey was, but I imagine her multi-colored fingers and brown palm inspired a lot of inquisitiveness.) This same child joyfully smeared Crayola markers all over the shower walls while she and I hastily cleaned up each morning. At age 11, she is kind of mortified about that artful event, but she still loves to pick up markers!
In addition to my “tween” girl, I have an almost 9 year old boy, and a 6 year old daughter. I’m not sure they’d all say they love art. And yet, when I pull out “my” art supplies, I very often find three eager volunteers, willing to test out the various media on all sorts of appropriate surfaces. We homeschool, so these opportunities come perhaps more frequently than in a home of traditionally-schooled children. But I’m not here to tell you how to educate your children. I’m here to say something else:
Buy quality art supplies. For yourself. For your children.
Were you ever the kid who was stuck with the RoseArt crayons in a class full of Crayolas? They broke easily, never saturated the page with as much color, and were generally unpleasant to use. (Entire angry internet rants are devoted to this, but here’s a fairly objective article explaining why Crayola reigns supreme over other crayon brands.) If you don’t want to use them, neither will your kids.
I culled through our crayons and markers one afternoon earlier this year (hello, quarantine!) and purged all the non-Crayola crayons and all the dried up markers.
I even sorted them into color families so they would be easy to find and use! (Did I mention March lasted about 93 days?)
BUT if you want to up the at-home art game, I suggest oil pastels. These can be messy, but they can also be washable (thanks again, Crayola!). They also tend to be affordable – and FUN! No need to buy special paper; regular printer paper works just fine. Amazon packing paper also makes a delightful art surface. Unlike crayons, oil pastels can be blended with your fingers or, if you prefer, a q-tip. They break easily, but even the tiniest pieces can still be used by little fingers with success. We have the lovely Crayolas and also these.
The highlight of our art supply stash, however, are watercolor pencils. Watercolor pans are fine, and tube watercolors feel downright professional as far as my kids are concerned, but watercolor pencils are where it’s at. For these, you will want some affordable watercolor paper and some inexpensive paint brushes. The pencils give you the control of a regular colored pencil but, when traced over with a wet brush, give the illusion of a painting. These have served us well on road trips. Never underestimate the thrill of a water brush for a small person with parents who don’t mind a few drips of water on their car interior. And, guess what. Crayola makes some, too.
Watercolor pencils can also be used wet for a different sensation on the paper and a slightly higher pigment saturation. In my experience, this shortens the pencils’ lifespan considerably, at least with kids. The joy for your kids may make up for that, though. 🙂
I’ve touched on some art supplies that are popular in my home, but I have not even scratched the surface. Buying quality kids’ art supplies was a great foundation for art in our home, but what caused the enthusiasm to grow was having the courage to let the kids use my supplies. More on that another time.