Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Art Materials - Where do I start?

If you want to provide your child with basic art supplies, where do you start? Likewise, if you are seeking to incorporate art into your children's ministry, you may also be wondering what to provide.  Here are a few suggestions that I hope will be helpful.

1) Less is more.  Children as well as adults are overwhelmed by too many choices. Limiting our choices actually allows for more creativity. Begin with a few basic mediums and use those supplies before you buy new ones.  At home, you might begin with acrylic paint, oil pastels, and colored pencils.  In a children's church setting, consider choosing 1-2 mediums in each of these areas:  drawing, painting, collage and clay.  

2) Buy quality materials. It is worth it to spend more money on a few items. Cheap crayons and colored pencils cause little hands to be cramped and take the joy out of art.  The materials that your child uses should easily make vibrant marks on the page, be it paint, magic markers, or oil pastels.  Playdough, for example, can be a great medium for the clay area, but be sure to buy a good brand or a homemade version from a Waldorf or Etsy shop and not the cheap stuff that dries out quickly, is not pleasing to the hands, and possibly toxic. 

3) Use appropriate paper.  Especially when painting, the paper should be between 170 and 190 g/m2.  Painting on paper that is too thin produces paintings that curl up too much or rip from the amount of liquid it is absorbing.  When using chalk or oil pastels, however, one can be more creative and a paper bag, for example, makes a marvelous ground for a picture. 

4) Have the materials stored where the children can get to them.  This empowers the children and saves the parents / teachers lots of headaches.  Also, in a children's church setting, the art center should be in a place where the floor can get a bit dirty.  It is also wise to think through how the children will get the water for the paint and how they will clean their brushes afterwards.

5) Try the materials out yourself.  This way you know a little more about what your child is experiencing and if the product is easy and pleasurable to use. If you are buying for children's church, ask an artist for advice.  Once I was in a church setting where there was a desire to encourage the arts,  but the people buying the materials and setting up the workspace were not artists themselves.  The result was that in the art corner, there were no drawing boards to draw on (we were sitting on the floor) and there were no sharpeners for the colored pencils. There were paints, but no water to mix them with.  I ended up thoroughly frustrated, despite good intentions. It takes more than a variety of mediums to make an art area usable. 


  1. Great list Sheila! We will miss you at the EU Gathering coming up but your ideas are great as we plan kids' times. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Jenni! Hope you guys have a wonderful time together!

  3. Thanks for this. Rule 5 is definitely one I'm still working on. But it's helped me to determine that the cheapest glitter-glue available here is not worth the savings. I'm afraid I still gave it to the kids once it was purchased, but I'll be re-stocking with something else. And I appreciate your advice about paper weight. This is all very new to me.