Art Supplies on a Shoestring

Mar 17, 2019

Art draws on tools and materials. The tools might be our hands and the materials, sand. The artwork might be a hobby, a lesson or a career. Providing our children at home, or our students at school, with diverse opportunities to develop their artistic skills can be expensive, but does not need to be. The focus is on helping to build their confidence and imagination through enjoyment as they create artworks. Teaching art can be done on a shoestring budget with a few creative strategies.

Whether you are supporting kids with art as a homeschooler, a parent, a grandparent or a teacher these are some basic things to consider:

* tools for drawing or painting
* materials to draw or paint on
* resources for crafty work
* equipment for cutting, joining, gluing
* protection for the work surface and the child

As a mum, I did buy some items like a set of textas. To reduce costs, it can be worth catching the back-to-school sales (or end-of-financial year, or Christmas sales). But paper is recycled from my printer box. I have two boxes: one is for scrap paper; the other for materials that can be recycled such as egg cartons, toilet rolls, food boxes, plastic trays and tubs, bottle tops and lids… To support these crafty possibilities, I did also buy children’s scissors, some adhesive tape and a glue stick - and a small pot of stronger craft glue (for special occasions). My kids love cutting up magazines too and sticking bits. Every now and then they also help me make some playdough so they can sculpt: rolling, squashing, molding. A previous blog has more ideas for making materials at home.

These are my constant resources. However, because my kids obviously love Artventure, I added a palette with six blocks of paint and a couple of different brushes. The kids can use a wide-bottomed plastic cup for water to wash their brushes. A box of crayons was a suggestion as a birthday gift. Easy! And no cost.

Craft projects can be inspired by the environment (walking through a garden) or the seasons (autumn leaves, blossom, seed pods) - this is when I might bring out the more expensive craft glue. Materials from nature have wonderfully diverse textures and colours and can help build a child’s imagination. Situations can provide bonuses, like large boxes (arrival of a new washing machine?) - cut up or just opened out to create huge ‘canvases’.

The art workspace often requires a cheap plastic tablecloth or old placemats. I have old shirts they can wear to protect their clothing if the activity suggests this. Students would be able to source an old shirt of mum or dad’s that they could bring to school. In the school setting, it may be possible to build up a collection of art shirts that can be shared across classes.

This concept of sharing can be a key strategy for keeping to a limited budget. To invest in further specific, fancy craft materials like pipe cleaners, popsticks, foam balls, googly eyes or glitter, it may be possible to share the purchase of bulk resources with friends or with other teachers.

At school, parents are usually more than happy to bring in donations either from their own home or sometimes their business - perhaps scrap metal, small blocks of wood, material off-cuts, magazines and newspapers... There are great examples of how artists have used such materials to create amazing pieces of art: the collage portraits by Derek Gores using magazines and other bits of scrap paper are very impressive.

So here is a list summarising some strategies for sourcing supplies to teach art on a shoestring:

* Buy cheap basics and watch for sales
* Recycle, reuse from households
* Collect natural materials
* Make materials like playdough
* Ask for donations from school parents or businesses
* Suggest gifts from relatives
* Share the cost of bulk resources
* Save more expensive materials for special projects

The opportunities for children to develop their creative and artist skills should not be bound by concerns for cost. If we are creative and resourceful ourselves, we can help ensure their imaginations are nourished and enriched even when working on a shoestring budget.

Teacher and Artventure Blogger