It is tempting to purchase cheap art supplies for kids who blow through paper and paint with cyclone speed, but there are solid reasons to pay a little extra to get the good stuff. Truly, there is only so much you can do with inferior supplies. That’s why professional artists spring for quality materials, even though they are somewhat expensive. If a professional artist can’t get good results with cheap materials, what makes us think that kids can? It’s like teaching someone to play music on an out-of-tune guitar. There are too many kids (and adults!) who think that they can’t produce the type of art that they would like, but the truth is that they have simply never gotten their hands on the tools that they need in order to make it happen.
That’s not to say that the cheapy supplies have no place in your art center. It is also true that you can’t just hand a child a stack of expensive watercolor paper and walk away, but children can be taught to respect the supplies and still be given the freedom that they need in order to experiment and learn.
So where can you skimp and where do you need to pay a little extra? In the next few articles, we will take a look at various art supply choices and what they are good for. We will start by examining the most classic art supply of all: crayons.
Unless you are doing a craft project like melting crayon shavings between sheets of tracing paper, don’t even bother with cheap crayons that are more wax than pigment. These dollar store knock-offs don’t even look good on a coloring sheet.
Your standard Crayolas don’t cost that much more than the knock offs and they are a good, general choice for doodling on white paper. You are probably familiar with this option.
If you want crayons that really look fantastic, even on colored paper, card board and poster board, try construction paper crayons. These crayons have more pigment than standard crayons and are truly a pleasure to work with. Both Crayola and Sargent Art make these supplies.
If you have a super special project and you want to splurge on professional supplies, a good option is Caran d’Ache crayons. They are not as smooshy as oil pastels, but they are softer than a colored pencil. They are water soluble and colors can be blended. Using them might make you drool with delight. If you can’t afford real Caran d’Ache crayons, but you want something a bit better than construction paper crayons, try student-grade “wax pastels,” such as Reeves.
Also, while we are talking about crayons, have you ever experienced the frustration of drawing with a dull tip? Make sure your child has access to a crayon sharpener, whether it is the one that comes built into the bottom of Crayola’s 64 pack or a fancy electric version.