Art Centers: Organize and Display Supplies

Do your children ever beg you to let them paint, cut, use markers or chalk?  My children do and sometimes (much of the time!), I have to turn them down for one simple reason– not enough time in the day!  There just isn’t time to help my children find the supplies they need, supervise the creation of their art project and then help them clean up  the mess (while making dinner, filing out a school form, changing a diaper, etc…).

Once your children are old enough to follow basic rules when using art supplies (“paint goes on paper, not your tummy” or “scissors are for paper, not your hair”), usually around the age of 2.5 years, then it is time to take your art supplies out of hiding and put them on display.  Putting art and clean-up supplies within sight and reach will enable your child to create and clean-up their own art independently.

I recently redesigned my art center after this realization struck me.  Prior to this project, we enjoyed our easel, but all the supplies were kept in the kitchen cupboards (out of sight/out of reach).  I would rotate crayons, dry-erase markers, chalk, etc… on the easel, but now that my children are more capable and have the desire to do more with art, it is time for a change.  Here is the result:


The easel (on the left), by Melissa and Doug, allows two children to work at one time.  A chalkboard is featured on the back of the easel, while a grease-board and roll of paper is featured on the front.  The bookcase, next to the easel, is stocked with art supplies and a clean-up stand (by Magic Cabin) is conveniently next the supply case to facilitate the children taking responsibility of their own messes.  (Most products recommended in this article are available for purchase at The Intelligent Nest Toy Store- Powered by Click here to visit!)

The supply display case is the most significant addition to my art center.  To re-create a similar art center at home, your will need a simple bookcase, organizational bins, art supplies, and clean-up tools.


The key to any home addition involving children is versatility.   I chose a white folding bookcase from Crate and Barrel.  If I ever need to relocate or store the bookcase it can quickly fold up or be transported without loss or damage.  You will then need to purchase simple storage bins and organizers.  The Container Store has an excellent selection.  I used their line of mesh office organizational pieces.  I like mesh because it is see-through, which entices children to help themselves when passing by.  Plastic transparent bins also work well.

Let’s look shelf by shelf at what I included.  (Keep in mind, the items included are aimed at serving children ages 2 1/2 to 5 years of age.)  The top shelf organizer includes: pipe cleaners, hole punch stickers, foil star stickers, colored and white index cards, tape, (glue stick if your children are old enough), sticky notes in assorted colors, large red paper clips coated in plastic to avoid cuts, paper cupcake liners (kids love playing with these) and small wire bound notebooks.   On the right, there are mesh cups filled with colored pencils, dry-erase markers, regular markers, child-safe scissors and a hole puncher.


On the middle shelf, there is a bin filled with dot paint markers (Dots and Dashes Paints by Alex), which are wonderful for mess-free painting for small, chubby hands.  Another bin is filled with play-dough and tools/utensils.  I recommend using Crayola Model Magic instead of regular play-dough (no mess, little balls of dough don’t get stuck in the carpet) and Melissa and Doug makes a lovely set of play-dough tools.  Both of the paint-markers and play-dough bins are stacked on top of another bin, making it easy for the child to take them out and to the table or easel while they work since they contain many smaller pieces.   Below the top bins, there are two more bins used to store supplies kept in ziploc baggies (slider baggies work best).  The child can take the supplies in the baggies and return them to the bin when done.   Those supplies include: various sizes of crayons, smaller markers, stamps and stamp pads and crayons  used on the grease board. (I keep paint, paintbrush and chalk on the easel in the appropriate spots designed for their storage.)


Finally, on the bottom shelf, I used a parallel file unit to store coloring/work books, white computer paper, construction paper, a file of stickers, a collection notepads, and various envelopes.


Young children love being given age-appropriate responsibilities.   They can find art supplies, use them, put them away in the proper places and clean up on their own.  When you first debut your art supply case, make sure you show your children where everything is located and go over any rules for use.   Some people may find using picture labels on the bins helps children put the items back in the right place. Make a game of testing your children on where supplies are stored and teach them how to clean up.  You will likely need to repeat these lessons for the first couple of weeks, but don’t give up.  Your children will learn to use the supplies properly if you take the time to train them.  Keep a dust pan and hand broom nearby (and possibly paper towels or wipes) so they can be in charge of sweeping up scrapes of paper on the floor.

Art at home is possible with the help of a little organization.  Enjoy and share your questions, ideas and success stories!

Most products mentioned in this article are available for purchase at The Intelligent Nest Toy Store- Powered by  Click here to visit!


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Intelligent Nest

Intelligent Nest, LLC strives to empower parents, from all backgrounds, using leading scientific and philosophical theories to help parents transform their homes into an Intelligent Nest. Through examining the bidirectional nature of the parent-child relationship, Intelligent Nest, LLC aims to equip parents with practical, research-based and non-judgmental solutions to inform their parenting decisions.

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