I have endured crayon breakages, uncovered markers, unwashable ink and all the horrors and mess when introducing arts and crafts to small children. I know mess is part of the game when it comes to little kids but I would prefer to control the mess because they do arts and crafts everyday and life is just a lot easier for everyone. To save you the trouble here are my recommendations on art supplies for young toddlers from 18 months to 3 years old.
1. Staedtler Color Pencils: I have tried all sorts of color pencils and loved these best. There is anti-breaking coating around the pencil tip so even when hard pressure is applied it does not break easily.
2. Crayola Washable Crayons: These, however, do break but it doesn’t matter because they can still color with the broken pieces. Word of advice – remove the paper coverings, it gets everywhere!
3. For those who do not like Crayola because of the smell or the breakability issue, another good alternative is the triangular P’kolino Jumbo crayons. Its also worth checking out P’Kolino’s entire range, especially its finger paint and poster paints. We just make do with poster paints from ikea and Popular bookstore, or we make paint from just dye and food coloring at home.
4. Melissa and Doug easel accessory set: You don’t have to get the Melissa and Doug easel because its more for older kids, and I’ll recommend a better one below. But this accessory set bundles all the main painting accessories you will need for your little one. It includes chalk, dry-erase markers and a roll of paper. But you can also purchase the items separately if you don’t like the bundle.
5. If you really, really want to get coloring markers, get the Crayola washable ones or Dot A Dot markers. I am not a big fan of markers for this age group simply because they do not cover their pens consistently so the ink dries out. The fatter the markers, the easier for them to hold.
6. I found a drawing table rather than an easel more comfortable for this age group, and I highly recommend the slanted kids drawing table by Imagine Childhood.
7. Children are encouraged to draw and color on blank paper rather than coloring books. I think coloring books are okay if used sparingly. Apparently at this tender age, they should ideally form their own impressions and connections with visual images, instead of being forced to follow images created by adults. You can read more about this here. And if they paint, use THICK paper. Or the paint totally soaks through the paper and it is just a hot mess.
8. Chalk Folio: I have tried wall chalkboards and easel chalkboards and they were totally a big mess. I came across this chalk folio at a departmental store in Singapore and its awesome. Cleans off easily, lays flat and you can roll it up to carry it along with you. If you do buy chalk, also go for bigger ones for easy grip and less breakability like these.
9. If you have a teething toddler who still likes to bite and taste his toys, then go for organic and vegetable-made art supplies. A particular good brand is Wee Can To. But in this case, I would prefer to make edible paint and play-doh at home and there are tons of recipes in Pinterest.
10. We use regular Play-Doh and we had the cupcake set gifted to us and our little girl plays with it everyday. We also used Waba Fun and it was terrible and I totally do not recommend it, it got everywhere. Play-Doh gets messy too and I used my oversize large silicon baking mat for my child to play her Play-Doh on because its easy to remove the Play-Doh bits from the silicon mat after use. I tried to give her a tray so that the mess is contained but it doesn’t work. In the midst of focusing on play, she doesn’t stick to the tray, so the silicon mat was a better alternative. We also only allow her to have 2-3 Play-Doh tubs at a time because otherwise she opens all the tubs and the entire living room is just a Play-Doh explosion.
So that is all the art supplies I have tried with my little girl. I am introducing her to safety scissors and knife soon now that she’s turning 3 and have better coordination with her hands. As for kids younger than 3, less is definitely more. Just stick with a few simple and basic items for them to play around with and experiment. You don’t need to buy crayon in 20 colors, in fact 4 or 6 will do. They get overwhelmed when there are too many choices.
My next post will discuss more about why its better idea to allow kids to just play around instead of following parent-directed art and craft projects. In the meantime, I have three screaming babies asking for milk so I gotta run!