Inside the Art Cupboard

How to set up an art area for children - An Everyday Story

The atelier had to be a place for researching motivations and theories of children from scribbles on up, a place for exploring variations in tools, techniques, and materials with which to work…a place for becoming familiar with similarities and differences of verbal and non-verbal languages. ~ Loris Malaguzzi

Kindergarten Homeschool Art Space - An Everyday StoryFor my first post back I thought I’d give you a little peek inside our art cupboard. Our art area, our atelier, has changed a lot over the last couple of years. It has gone from a dedicated space to this small narrow cupboard under our breakfast bar.

I think the reason why I really wanted to show you this space was because I wanted to show you that it is possible to have a place for art, a place for authentic art materials, in a tiny space.

I think I also wanted to show you that, as beautiful and invoking as the ateliers are in Reggio Emilia or even those in early childhood settings, you don’t need to have every thickness of paper or every imaginable colour of paint to create a space where children can explore their passions and creativity. 

Clay Materials - An Everyday Story Drawing Materials - An Everyday Story Art Materials in a Reggio inspired Home - An Everyday StorySo what’s inside the art cupboard?

I’ve purchased our art materials over time as Jack and Sarah grew and became more familiar with and confident in their skills. Here’s what we have in our art cupboard:

 Top shelf (left to right) (and links to some activities)

  • wooden alphabet stamps (Kikki K)
  • wooden number stamps (Typo)
  • ink pads (Aldi)
  • pipettes (Zart Art)
  • lino block printing tools (Thrift store)
  • cut craft wire and kebab skewers (wire from Spotlight)
  • coloured wire (Zart Art)
  • twine (supermarket)
  • low temperature glue gun (Spotlight)
  • watercolour pencils (JasArt)
  • chalk pastels (Reeves)
  • charcoal (Spotlight)
  • oil paints (Art supply store)
  • glitter (my nemesis – safely secured in the plastic container – from Spotlight)

Inside the Art Cupboard - You don't need a lot of space to create an art cupboard full of authentic art materials - from An Everyday StoryBottom shelf (left to right)

  • recycled clay (Potters’ Society)
  • air dry clay (Top Bargain)
  • clay sculpting tools (sorry I can’t recall where I bought these)
  • cash register paper (office supply store)
  • glue, scissors, hole punches and double-sided tape
  • Crayola sidewalk chalk
  • coloured Sharpies (Big W)
  • Stockmar wax block crayons
  • wallpaper adhesive powder (available from hardware stores)
  • coloured sand (Top Bargain)
  • oil pastels (Micador – from Officeworks)
  • block watercolours (Micador – from Officeworks)
  • watercolour tubes (Micador – from Officeworks)

Art materials for young children - An Everyday StoryAnd this is a little shelf we have outside. It has paints, brushes and claggy glue as well as paint containers. Underneath this shelf there is a bucket of sidewalk chalk, a clear container and some big brushes for water painting and some old towels for cleaning up.

So this is our art cupboard. It’s small but it is full with wonderful art materials. I’d love to hear about your art areas. Is there a small cupboard somewhere that you could turn into an art cupboard?

23 Replies to “Inside the Art Cupboard”

  1. As always, you are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing. You’re inspiring me to add new material for my children to explore. We too have an art cupboard & art table with lots of materials to hand. I’m working hard to give up control to the kids, so they can access what they want without needing to ask me first.

    1. Thanks Mona 🙂 It is difficult to give up control. I like things to be tidy but I know how important it is for their individual creativity to have access to art materials. There are some materials (like glitter, the glue gun, charcoal and the lino printing tools) that they have to ask for first. Mostly because they still need supervising when they are using them. For me I found starting out with block watercolours, playdough, stick glue and pre-cut collage materials was a nice way to give Jack and Sarah freedom whilst not overstimulating them with too many materials (therefore creating a lot of mess). Good luck 🙂

  2. We have a 3-shelf rolling cart from Ikea. The top shelf holds markers and crayons, the bottom shelf holds paper, and the middle shelf…well, it holds whatever gets dumped in it. Then we have a series of those little plastic drawers for glue and scissors and multiple rolls of coloured tape, and a shelf for stickers (paper ones in magazine files, foam ones — which can also be used for printmaking, it turns out — in clear plastic shoeboxes). And a third little wicker drawer unit tucked under the kitchen island holding small boy’s “stuff for my crafts”…aka things my husband thinks belong in the recycling.

    I keep the paint out of reach, but otherwise he’s got open access to everything. Not nearly as contained or tidy as your setup, but it works.

  3. You are well stocked enough to give art classes to more kids than just your own. It makes me drool looking at your stuff

    1. I love looking at it too Faigie…and seeing Jack and Sarah use it of course 🙂 We have grown our collection of art materials over the last 4 years and I think this is important. I think if children are given free access to a wide selection of art materials all at the one time it can be overwhelming and overstimulating. I don’t think they can be mindful and create purposefully if they haven’t had time to properly explore each material individually and in relation to other materials first.

  4. Such a nice variety of items, we haven’t tried wire yet, ready to introduce it soon. Love the outside shelf too!

    1. Thanks Natali. Pipecleaners are a nice introduction to wire. They are easy to manipulate but give children some experience twisting and bending to form shapes. I also introduced wire first as a material to thread onto (with beads) and then as a material to bend into something (into clay or playdough) then finally as their skills improved and they understood how wire worked, as a material on its on to sculpt and design with.

  5. This is wonderful to see. I love the simplicity of this space and your organization. We have a small sunroom that is half dedicated to an art studio for our 5 and 2 yr olds. Ever since we moved our art space to this room, my 11 yr old niece has been using it too! I completely agree, though that a small shelf or cabinet is really all you need.

  6. I adore your space. This is very inspiring!

  7. I love your art cupboard!
    I really want to find a way to make our art materials more accessible to Little Bear (nearly four) whilst keeping the majority of them out of Teddy’s hands (just one). Your outdoor shelf is a great idea as well. I don’t think it would work in our British weather, but perhaps an outdoor sealed box…?
    Thank you for being inspirational!

  8. Thanks for sharing this space Kate. I’m always reflecting on how I can organise things our supplies better and I love looking at how others share theirs.

    We also have a tiny little space under our island bench that I probably don’t utilise well.

    There are a few little items in your cupboard that I’d love to add. I just know that Cammy would do wonderful things with coloured wire.

  9. Oh Kate! Thank you so much for sharing this!! I am in awe of the wonderful art you expose your children too! I can’t wait to try some of these AND set up our own art/craft area a whole lot better! Thanks for inspiring me once again x

  10. Hi there! I love your blog so much. Our family actually has an art room specifically set up for the children, but to be honest, I have scaled it back so much! It seems that the more they have access to, the more confused and distracted they get. Simple, simple, simple is what works for us. I’ll put out a few provocations, like watercolor paints, craypas, and watercolor paper, and they love that, but mostly they just want access to a few,high-quality materials. I’m finding that fewer options, left out in the open for them to pick from, guarantees higher creativity! Thanks for your sweet blog!

  11. I’ve been following the discussion & thinking about the notion of simplicity and of limiting what children have access to in order to allow them space to be mindful. I’m coming to the conclusion that like adults, kids must have different needs, or maybe different abilities, when it comes to order vs chaos.

    I’ve found that small boy is actually less creative when he has less stuff to work with, and apart from his beloved markers — he draws all the time — he isn’t terribly interested in mommy’s carefully selected art supplies, preferring to make things out of found objects, the finding of which is an important part of the process. But though much of what he makes is not particularly beautiful in a traditional sense (we are talking about cardboard, styrofoam and duct tape, here) it is interesting and thoughtful and original, and entirely his. Would he do better in a more structured, uncluttered environment filled with beautiful things? Maybe in terms of learning to handle specific materials, but in terms of his creative process, I don’t think so. In fact, I suspect it might limit him.

    Our various cupboards and drawers for his art/making supplies do serve to separate, his choices and he does tend to work mostly out of one area at a time, with tools that cross over (like the scissors, fasteners, and all things sparkly) stored in the middle. This system evolved to match how he uses things within the limits of the space and furniture we had, so maybe he’s come up with a way of simplifying all on his own.

    Anyway, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Small boy adamantly self-identifies as an artist. So I’m staying out of his way.

  12. I love how much you mix being organized while still maintain freedom for your children. It’s beautiful!

    1. Thank you Jana 🙂

  13. Hi Kate,

    We are just getting started to prepare our home environment for homeschooling. I wonder if you have two tables and hairs one for each child? We have a bigger art table right now they both share, but it seems that sometimes they run out of space. I wonder if I should set up two, so they can take care of the materials and tidying up themselves since my son is 2.5 and daughter is 5.5. One can do more clean up and management than the other.


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