I’m often asked: “What basic supplies should I get if I want to do art with my kids?” This question comes up a lot with parents wanting to do homeschool art and parents who see the value in giving their kids an art education. The answer depends on your purpose. Do you want to give your child a quality art education because you may have a future Rembrandt? Although that is possible, your more likely goal is to give your child all the benefits of a visual arts education: Increased creativity and creative problem solving skills, new synapses in the brain, higher overall academic achievement, increased empathy, and self-esteem, and of course, fun! It may even lead to a lifelong hobby or career that will provide your child with joy, satisfaction, and a means to earn a living. The most important equipment you need for this is not something you can purchase at an art supply store; it’s a mindset. The Mindset Involves: Cultivating curiosity with your kids. What if several times per day you threw out “I wonder” questions to your kids and didn’t answer them yourself? For instance, I wonder why the sky is that color. I wonder how many shades of green we could find in that forest. I wonder why the mountains look greyer and lighter as they get farther away. You could ask your kids what kinds of things they’re curious about and help them keep a list or journal of things they’d like to investigate. The most creative and interesting adults I know approach life with an attitude of curiosity. Steve Jobs defined creativity “just connecting things”. Creative people see connections where others don’t. Promoting mistakes as something good! If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t risking and trying new ideas! Sir Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” This is harder than it sounds. We adults must resist the temptation to always step in and show kids how to do things. Whether kids are working on art projects or trying to figure out how to change a battery in a toy, it’s important to let them struggle a bit and come up with their own solutions. Then, when and if they ask for help, you can start by asking them an empowering question: “What have you tried so far?” and then “What other ideas do you have?” They may come up with the winning solution just by talking about the problem like this; or you might then brainstorm different ideas with them. Helping kids understand that not only are mistakes not bad, but there is often more than one correct way to solve a problem. This insight will serve them well, in art and all other areas of life. Promoting a growth mindset. There is a myth about art that you are either born with artistic ability or not. While some people are born with more of an innate artistic ability, more than 90% of art is learned skills and habits. As Macklemore said in his song, Ten Thousand Hours, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint.The greats were great because they’d paint a lot.” So if your child says, “I’m not good at drawing,” the right answer is “Not yet!” Engaging in activities that help your kids learn to really notice things. This sounds super simple, and for some kids it is. But many of us spend a lot of time in our heads and aren’t really all that observant. This may be especially true if your child is in the Asperger’s range of the autism spectrum or is just a super type A kiddo who is constantly thinking about the next thing to do. So much of art is about really seeing things. The reason drawing feels so difficult to many people, is because our brains want to draw an object like we think it should be drawn, not like we really see it. For that reason, if you are doing a drawing project with kids and drawing something from a picture, I often suggest turning the picture upside down so that you trick your brain into just seeing shapes, rather than a dog or a tree. You can’t be a good artist if you don’t notice all of the different colors in the sky when you’re trying to paint it, or subtle differences in value or shading. Supply Quality Now that you have the mindset nailed, there are some basic supplies I’d recommend having on hand. Consider the quality. Definitely, quality art supplies will help your child have a better art experience, but there’s a sweet spot in between way too expensive and super cheap. A few of the overall solid art supply brands I recommend are: Strathmore for paperFaber-Castell for a variety of products from colored pencils to watercolors and paperArt Advantage, a solid quality student-grade line with a variety of productsCrayola for crayons, tempera paint, and washable markers. Specific Supplies Please note that this post contains affiliate links for the supplies so that you can easily purchase the ones you want. We receive a very small commission when you purchase through these links (which we hope you’ll do). These do not change your price at all! Pencils: Almost any pencil will work. If you want to get drawing pencils, we like General Pencil’s Carbon Sketch Drawing Pencil. Harder pencil leads draw lighter lines (your run-of-the-mill H or HB pencil) and are best for rough sketching. Softer darker leads are best for shading (3B-5B for mid tones and 6B-8B for darker shading.) I’m not a huge fan of erasers. We want kids to be relaxed and free with their drawing instead of erasing a lot, but it’s probably a good idea to have an eraser that works well available, like the Faber-Castell Dust-Free Eraser. If your child is advanced at drawing, a kneaded eraser is the gold standard.Paper: as a parent who wants to encourage your kids to engage in art projects, have lots of drawing paper available. Printer paper actually even works pretty well for daily drawing paper. By having stacks of inexpensive paper readily accessible, it takes pressure off of kids to have to be perfect! If you want a paper that is specifically for drawing, look for a sturdy white paper, at least 8 ½ x 11. Strathmore has an entire line of kids’ papers. Their youth drawing pads or marker pads will work great for pencil, colored pencil & markers and they aren’t super expensive. They even have a youth story drawing pad where kids can write stories to go with their drawings.Crayons: I’d go with good ole Crayola. Cheaper crayons often disappoint and frustrate young artists; more expensive ones aren’t necessary.Scissors: if you have scissors at home already, I’d use what you have. If you find that you want some better kid sized scissors, I like Fiskars pointed tip kid scissors. For older kids, Fiskars is still a great brand!Glue: Glue sticks work well for a multitude of kids’ art projects. Get Elmers, or another trusted brand though! If you want to get a liquid glue, we like Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue.Markers: Markers should be fun to use & juicy! The size and type of marker you get should depend on the age & maturity of your child. Younger kids should have broader tip markers that won’t be ruined if the caps are left off a while, like Faber-Castell Jumbo Broadline Markers. We love them because they’re juicy, washable, non-toxic (made with food based dyes), and if the markers dry out, they can be rejuvenated by dipping in water and replacing the caps! If your child is ready for a smaller tip, the Crayola Fine line Markers are great. If you want to invest in something a little more expensive, we love these Tombow dual-tip markers. They’re great quality and one end is a nib while the other end is a brush, so that’s fun!Paint: You really can use almost any paint you have starting out. If you’re going to purchase paint, we recommend good quality watercolors to start. Beware of super cheap watercolor sets. Kids often have a tough time loading their brushes with pigment when using those sets of dry paint cakes, so look for one that is more moist and soft, like this Faber-Castell set that even comes with a brush. Or use liquid watercolor, like Watercolor Magic, that you would then dilute.Brushes: Brushes can be tough. I like to feel them before I buy them and find it tough to purchase online unless I know exactly what I want. Get a few sizes that are appropriate for all water mediums so they are versatile, like these Princeton Snap brushes. The key with brushes is to get good enough quality but not overly expensive. A lot of the brushes that are specifically labeled for kids, are really terrible, but on the flip side, you can spend a fortune on brushes and they can get ruined. Princeton is generally a good brand. There are also water brushes that hold water in the handle. In theory, these sound really great. They would be good to use if you’re planning a trip and want kids to be able to paint with reduced fuss and mess, but in general, kids will find these brushes very frustrating and we wouldn’t recommend them.Air-Dry Clay: Our favorite air-dry clay is Creative PaperClay because it’s soft and malleable, non-toxic, and dries without baking. If your kids are really young and inexperienced with clay, you might start with Crayola Model Magic. It’s air dry too. Both clays can be colored with a variety of different materials (markers, paint etc., when they are dry.) Those are the basic supplies. You can add other things over time ….or not. Here’s something else to consider, having limited choices of supplies can actually be really beneficial in terms of creativity and art. This sounds counter intuitive, but when kids (or adults for that matter), have too many choices, it can be paralyzing. Offering up a limited amount of supplies and giving kids some techniques to try and a challenge can be a really effective way to get their creativity flowing! Of course, if you don’t want to fuss with buying supplies for art projects, subscribing to our boxes is a great option! Each month we create an art experience for your kids and send the supplies, instructions and a book right to your doorstep! We also, when possible, like to use supplies that your child may not have ever been exposed to before – things you may not have thought of or even known existed, like these PeerLess Watercolors that are super brilliant, non-toxic, and come in a booklet!