Amanda writes at Kiddio, where she writes about fun projects, ideas to bring the creative spirit into your home, links to neat stuff on the web, and ways to make daily life with your children more enjoyable.

I admit it. I have an art supply habit. Pink marker gone missing? I’ll happily pick up a new box on our next trip out. Can’t find the safety scissors? Ditto. With two creative children and an infant, my addiction was indulged more and more, until my mother reminded me of my art box.

I was the youngest (by quite a bit) of three, and spent a lot of time sitting around at my brothers’ sporting events, scout meetings and the like. Thanks to my mother, though, I was always recognizable by my orange tackle box filled with bits and bobs that were guaranteed to keep me busy for several hours.

Since stocking an art box for my own children, we’ve managed to significantly pare down our art supply budget (since things just don’t get lost any longer), and the children are able to easily pull out the box, make what they like, then – get this – clean it up independently. They tote it outside (where it occasionally gets left in the rain, but is no worse for wear), on road trips, and to nice restaurants where they’re, much as I was, occupied for hours making books, boxes, collages, writing letters to their friends, and whatever else they imagine.

I picked up our box from Let’s Explore, but you can use a tackle box as my mother did for me, or a specialized art bin from the craft or art supply store. In outfitting it, think about what your kids like to do.

Ours always contains some basic supplies:

  • scissors
  • tape
  • glue stick
  • crayons (I like Crayola Twistables – lots of colors, they don’t break, and don’t melt)
  • small pad of construction paper
  • small pad of drawing paper
  • stickers (we like colored hole reinforcements and gold stars)
  • unlined index cards or squares of cardstock
  • small ziptop bag of collage-able sequins, buttons, paper scraps, pompoms, feather bits, etc.
  • small ziptop bag for collecting trash

Depending on the kids’ interests and ability levels, these other items are rotated in and out:

  • stamps and a stamp pad
  • glitter glue pens (more reliable and less messy than glitter)
  • small ziptop bag of plastic beads and precut lengths of elastic cord
  • squares of craft foam
  • spool of lanyard lacing
  • small ball of yarn
  • bottle of white glue
  • paperclips (they make great axles for tiny cars or clip-on earring bases)
  • chenille stems
  • mini stapler
  • hole punch

These items are used in ways that I would never have expected (for better or for worse) and the children do a lovely job of caring for what they have, since it is so easy to manage and organize.

What are your children’s favorite art supplies? Do you keep them in an accessible location or does it work better for your family to pull them out for specific times?

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