I am writing to share my top picks for art inspired gift giving for kids. I am a local artist, author and illustrator- but more importantly, I am a mother of 3 children- ages 9, 7, and 5. I have a background in early childhood education, and many, many years of teaching, creating and making joyful messes with children. I am frequently asked what I would suggest purchasing for kids to encourage creation and inspire creativity. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to get children REAL art supplies. Yes, they are a bit more money, but I have seen firsthand the difference in quality of art and love of making when children are given higher quality art supplies. Skip the big box sets of “100 ITEMS!” – most of which are lost, broken, dried out and faded within hours of opening. Instead, opt in for a few simple, but vibrant supplies, that are sure to make satisfying and stunning pieces of art. I am fiercely devoted to shopping at Wet Paint for materials, because the selection, vibe, and staff are beyond excellent.
1. A Utility sketch book
These guys are nice, heavy paper for any kind of drawing, bound like a book, and a full 288 pages! We keep a couple in the car for drawing when “bored”, my kids travel with them, and have one next to their bed for late night drawing. I love that they’re bound, because it allows a collection of art (288 pages!) to be saved easily.
These bright solid paint sticks are my most recommended to parents who are looking to get something new and interesting. They are capped like a marker, but smooth like a paint. They are deeply satisfying to draw with, almost like a lipstick. They dry fast, are not very messy, and come in varieties like metallic and textile. I think kids as young 3 and as old as me would enjoy these!
3. Yarka Watercolor Palette
Yarka’s palettes are semi-moist, vibrant watercolors. These are SOOOO much better than those dried out, barely there color, other brand watercolor paint palettes we all used in school. Creamier and brighter, kids love painting with these. I especially love watercolors with kids if the paper is wet from a spray bottle or big brush. Watching the colors swirl and mix is so much fun process, and if you use a decent watercolor paper, the images can be saved for gift wrapping, card making, and other fun crafts.
4. Niji Watercolor
A step up, for my kids, is a tube or liquid watercolor. The Niji brand is affordable, and kids love to squeeze a bit of paint onto a palette and mix it up with water. It’s also great for learning how to color mix and creating unique shades. Wet Paint also carries two other already mixed liquid watercolors, which are also fantastic.
5. Watercolor Paper
I like the Strathmore vision watercolor pad. It isn’t top shelf paper, but it is a million times better than flimsy kid craft paper. You get 30 sheets for $10, and end up with frame-able kid art and great watercolor abstracts for various paper projects.
6. Faber-Castell Beeswax Crayons
One of my personal favorite art supplies, I use these crayons for almost all of my base sketches, and my children use them whenever they color. I think they are brighter and smoother than a typical crayon, and they are amazing with watercolors or inks as a resist. Plus, beeswax is a natural and renewable resource, unlike petroleum-based paraffin of other crayons.
7. Ampersand Art Panels
I have used art panels in many of the classes I’ve taught to young artists. I always ask them, “how do you like painting on the panels?” And everytime they all say IT IS SO MUCH FUN. The Ampersand art panels come in many finishes, and I love them all. My favorites are basswood and claybord, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. They are smooth, sturdy, and hold endless amount of material (so they’ll never get soggy like paper, no matter how much paint your kids pile on). Kids feel VERY proud of art made on these panels, because they are instantly ready to gallery hang, which makes any artist feel legit.
Pretty clay in fun packs of four colors, and it never dries out. Unlike other clays, it isn’t crumbly, and so less messy and easier to clean up. Soft and smooth clay is easier to create detail work, and to sculpt into the perfect figure. I suggest getting a lidded plastic pan/tray, that the clay can be kept in. Then it is easier to tidy up, and keeps it all in one spot. Bonus- add a couple IWAKO Japanese mini animal erasers to your clay tray. My kids love to sculpt tiny furniture and gardens and lands in the tray for the eraser guys to live in. Tiny clay bunkbed with a tiny eraser bunny = CUTE.
9. Marabu Art Crayons
Somewhere between Playcolor and watercolors, is the new Marabu Art Crayons. Silky and satisfying like Playcolor, they are a joy to draw with. But add in a paint brush and cup of water, and they turn to pretty washes and blends. These come in sets, or a la carte, for the perfect set of favorite colors.
10. Yupo Paper
Yupo is fun paper to play with and experiment new techniques on. I can’t imagine any child wouldn’t love it! It is silky smooth and lush, and with ink or markers is complete joy. Our kids love to use the Sakura Gelly Roll pens on it, or the Touch brush markers. The markers just saturate the paper with color, and the gelly rolls are glossy and glittery.
11. Kuretake Bimoji Pen
My favorite pen, for drawing, sketching and writing. We can’t keep enough of these in our house. Everyone loves them. Solid black, smooth, felt tip, they are great for outlines and detailed drawing work.
12. Cigar Boxes
Now that you have all the supplies, make sure you grab a $3 cigar box. Cigar boxes are the best! When I was kid I kept all my crayons in my grandpa’s old cigar boxes, and so it is nostalgic for me. But besides that, they are appealing to look at, practical for storage, stackable, sturdy, and a great size for almost anything.
I also love: Amsterdam acrylic inks, Gelly Roll pens, Papermate felt tips, Sakura Micron Pens, Molotow paint markers, Strathmore blank cards/envelopes, Art Graf carbon disc + Aquash water brush, and Traveler pocket journal sketch
Here are some lovely combos:
Basswood art panel + Beeswax crayons + Niji watercolors + cigar box
Basswood art panel + Playcolor + cigar box
Basswood Art Panel + Marabu Art Crayons + cigar box
Claybord Art Panel + Amsterdam acrylic inks + beeswax crayons + cigar box
Utility sketchbook + Gelly pens + Yupo
Utility sketchbook + Kuretake Bimoji Pen
Yupo paper + Kuretake Bimoji Pen + Touch Brush Markers + cigar box
Yupo paper + Gelly Pens + IWAKO eraser for cuteness + cigar box
Strathmore vision watercolor pad + Niji or Yarka watercolors + cigar box
Strathmore vision watercolor pad + Marabu Art Crayons + cigar box
Strathmore vision watercolor pad + Art Graf carbon disc + Aquash water brush
Claytoon + IWAKO erasers + storage container