Descent craft supplies can be the difference between a successful project, and a total flop. When I was an Art major in college, sometimes my supplies cost more than my books. That was back in the day. Now I’m a mom, and I’m always on the hunt for a bargain. I’m going to let you know when making arts and crafts with your kids, where you can cut corners, and where you need to splurge.
What to stock up on at the beginning of the school year
This is the time of year when you can buy kid basics at a fraction of the cost, so stock up on enough to last you through the year! I do this every Fall! I stock up at the beginning of the school year when on-brand school supplies are about the same price as the off-brand at normal times. Do not be wooed by the off-brand supplies that are practically free this time of year. You’re getting a great deal on the “good stuff”, so do your best to ignore the 10 cent boxes of crayons.
- Crayons- these absolutely need to be on-brand to say the least. I always buy Crayola. Using cheap crayons is kinda like running colored candles over your paper. Coloring for kids is not fun when the colors aren’t brilliant. It’s also no fun when all the colors are worn down to nubs, so mom, just throw those crayon nubs away and give them a fresh box. It’s worth it. Also, the bigger box you get, the more colors you get, which also = more fun.
- Markers- Cheap markers dry up so fast that going on-brand is a no-brainer here. Also, it’s harder for kids to use the lids on the cheap ones. We use Crayola. Stock up in the Fall on a variety of fat and skinny.
- Glue Sticks- Do not, I repeat do not buy off brand glue sticks. Your work will just fall right apart after it dries. We stock up on Elmer’s brand in the Fall- I usually get the ones that go on purple but dry clear.
- Bottles of Glue- I actually think it’s ok to buy the off brand glue in bottles. It works a lot better than off brand glue sticks. When it comes to Elmer’s , remember that “School Glue” is washable, and “Glue all” is not.
- Highlighters- Kids love to color with these, and experiment with mixing their own colors. Get a set of the on-brand ones while they’re cheap at the beginning of the school year, and keep them with the markers.
- Sidewalk Chalk- It took years before I even tried Crayola brand sidewalk chalk, but I am a believer. That stuff you get at the Dollar Tree is generally different pastel shades of grey- not the Crayola stuff! Now that we get the bright colors, my kids spend hours drawing on our parking pad! Not only is it more colorful, but it’s softer, so it’s a lot easier to draw with. Also, it turns out that it’s not any more expensive, it just feels that way because you buy more at one time. Again, the bigger of a box you buy, the more colors you get, and kids are a fan of having more colors!
Next up: Supplies that fall into “The Cheaper the Better” Category.
I get a lot of the following supplies at the Dollar Tree- they have some cheap stuff! If you can’t find them at the Dollar Tree, try Wal-Mart, then Hobby Lobby or AC Moore. Save Michael’s as a last resort. For this list of supplies, feel free to buy the cheapest junk you can find.
- Pom pom balls
- Popsicle sticks (and other small wooden things)
- Fun foam
- Acrylic paint
- Pipe cleaners
- Glitter and Glitter glue
- Hot glue sticks
- Paper (when I say the cheaper the better, I mean they can just draw on copy paper, but I don’t mean those big sheets of that newsprint stuff)
- Googily eyes
The Moment Of Truth: Where To Splurge
There are some things that just aren’t worth having unless you have the good stuff. If you have something specific that’s a little expensive for you, find one of those 40% off one item coupons you can print for Michael’s, and go get it!
- Watercolor Paints- if any of you think your kids “just don’t like watercolors”, it’s probably because all they’ve ever painted with resembles spilled kool-aid rather than actual paint. In this case, even Crayola doesn’t come close to being acceptable. Go to a real craft store, then go to the paint aisle (not the little kid aisle). Once you’re in the grown-up paint aisle, you’re welcome to buy the cheapest stuff you can find. The cheap stuff is usually labeled “student grade” rather than “professional grade”. What’s even better is liquid watercolors. That’s some good stuff! Watercolor paints last a long time, and this is definitely worth the “splurge”.
- Colored Pencils- I only ever buy 1 brand of colored pencils, and that’s Prismacolor. Again, you’re welcome to buy the “student grade” of these, which are called “scholar” for Prismacolor- they are a bit cheaper. These are a favorite, and my kids use them all the time. The colors are brilliant, they can be layered, mixed, and they will keep your kids far happier than little kid colored pencils. Make sure to take good care of them, and try your best not to drop them on the floor. This causes the lead to break up, so that when you sharpen it, the tip falls out of the end of the pencil. You can also invest in a pencil extender for using them even when they are nubs.
- Oil Pastels- These are far better than crayons, and I always suggest that parents keep a set around for their kids. The colors are absolutely brilliant! You may buy the cheapest ones you can find. I only put it on the “splurge” list because I consider them a considerable step up from crayons. We also recently got a set of Crayola Twistables Slick Stix, and we love them! They are very similar to oil pastels, but far less smeary and messy. When you’re finished drawing with them, the pictures practically look painted.
- Glue Dots- These are kind of expensive, and we certainly don’t use them all the time, but they’re a great alternative to hot gluing. So if your kids are too little to hot glue, and you have something where staples, tape, or glue sticks won’t work, it’s time to pull out the glue dots. Another great benefit to these- there’s no “drying time” involved. They’re just like a very sticky bugger that sticks immediately, so they’re instantly gratifying.
- Sharpies- Anything that needs a permanent marker, needs a Sharpie. That’s all there is to it. They are kind of expensive, but I keep one set of pretty much every color under lock and key to only come out when I say it’s coming out.
- Paint Brushes- It’s just not ok to expect a child to paint with those hard bristled plastic brushes that come free with cheap watercolor paint. You need to get something that feels hair-like so it can actually absorb paint. You don’t need the super expensive ones, but the bristles should resemble hair, not pine branches. Basically, you want very soft bristles for watercolors, and slightly stiffer ones for acrylic. For little kids, I also really like to use foam brushes.
- Scissors- Have you ever tried to cut something out with safety scissors? If you did, it wouldn’t take you long to figure out why your toddler is so frustrated. Buy some child-sized regular scissors, and then train your kids what is and isn’t appropriate behavior with scissors. Put them out of reach of your smallest ones, and talk to your older kids about the importance of putting them away when they’re finished.
I keep all of our arts and crafts supplies in plastic boxes the size of shoe boxes. After trying several different methods, this has now been working for me for about 4 years. I suppose that’s a whole post of its own.
What about you? Where do you skimp, where do you splurge? What craft supplies do you stock up on and keep around the house?
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