The secret to keeping your kids entertained, especially through this interminable winter, is a well stocked craft closet. You’ll often notice in my At-Home Activity posts, I mention that an activity was free or cost me a $1 because I already had everything else in the craft closet. So what all do I keep in that closet to be adequately prepared for any potential creative adventure? Read on to find out just how to stock your craft closet.
How to Stock Your Craft Closet
The closet is stocked with an accumulation of materials: crafting necessities, like colors, markers, glue, paint and paper, as well as seasonal accessories. I typically make 1-2 major trips to the likes of Michael’s or Hobby Lobby once a year to restock necessities, and the rest I pick up on the occasional trip to the Dollar Store or cruises through Target’s Dollar Spot. I try to avoid one off trips to get ‘just one thing’ I need for a project, because any time I enter a craft store, I never leave with ‘just one thing.’ If I really need something, I try to find it on Amazon, so I only buy what I need.
I have organized the list below by category, and provided affiliate links to our brands of choice, where applicable. I have also placed * next to those items you can typically find at your local Dollar Store.
- Assorted, colored construction paper*
- Coloring books*
- White printer paper – we use this both for drawing as well as printing FREE printables from our favorite show websites. Check out PBS Kids and Nick Jr. for free printables from your child’s favorite TV shows
- Roll of builder’s paper – $5 gets you 166 FEET of paper. I use it for wrapping paper, and to make monster murals with the kids, both indoors and out!
- Drawing pads* – we have multiple varieties for use with markers, water colors and crayons
- Paper plates* – we use these for LOTS of crafts, but usually just borrow them from the kitchen
- Canvas – we picked up a few small and medium size blank canvases one a stop at Hobby Lobby last month when they were BOGO. Can always find a use for those!
Colors & Markers
When Big M was little, I experimented with several different varieties of crayons to see which were easiest to use with little hands, and stayed out of her mouth best. Young children often struggle with regular crayons because 1) without lots of pressure, the color they make out is very feint and 2) if they use too much pressure, the crayon breaks. I’ve included everything we use in the list below, and highlighted our preferences to date.
- Crayola Twistable crayons – these are our favorite crayons. The crayon itself is encased in a plastic barrel, and you twist the end to let more out as you use it. They haven’t managed to break one yet, and since only a little bit sticks out at the end for coloring, they aren’t as easy to gnaw on either.
- Crayola 64-Count Pipsqueak markers – these are our favorite markers. They come in the 64-count package, similar to the 64-count crayon boxes I used to love in my childhood. They are a great size for little hands, and force proper pencil grip. Big M loves the broad color assortment, and generally will choose these over anything else for coloring.
- Crayola Large, washable crayons – these are the fat ones for little kids. They still snap in half relatively easily, and Big M still peels off all the paper at 3. Lil’ M at 18 months tries to bite them constantly
- Crayola Twistables slick stix – these make super vibrant color. Similar to the twistable crayons, the medium is encased in a plastic barrel, and you twist the end to let more out. It writes on paper almost like lipstick, so can get pretty messy and end up all over their hands and face, but Big M loves them because they make such bright colors. Great to use on dark paper as well.
- Crayola Multicultural Colors Markers – these were a ‘just one thing’ purchase for our MLK Day activity this year. Big M likes using them though to make different colored people, now that she has learned all about racial differences and all the colors of us!
Paint & Brushes
- Finger paint – we use this on cookie sheets or even inside a ziploc bag for super easy clean up!
- Washable, Tempera Paint – this is probably the most expensive thing in our craft closet. But we bought a set of 12 paints nearly 2 years ago, and so far, we’ve only run out of white, and we paint about 2-3 times a month.
- Water colors – we love this So Big set from Crayola. It’s a great first water color set. I put it in Big M’s Easter Basket nearly 2 years ago, and it’s still going strong. We use it to water color, and paint snow indoors!
- Water color pages – Melissa & Doug make these great water color books, with a paint palettes across the top of every page that only requires water to use. They are awesome for travel, taking to restaurants, or even just low mess painting at home.
- Bingo markers* – both girls love these. They are a great way to paint with no mess, and perfect for toddlers.
- Disposable Sponge Brushes – you can buy a set of good brushes and wash and dry them after every use… or you can spend less and buy these. A set of 25 will run you about $5, they can still be washed and reused, or for super messy or destructive crafts, you can throw them out
- Glue sticks – we like the Elmer’s Disappearing Purple variety. Big M likes them because she can “do it all by myself!”
- Elmer’s Glue – it’s like Kleenex for colds; standard issue for all crafting!
- Glue Dots – these are awesome for instant gratification. Instead of using tacky glue or waiting for Elmer’s to dry, glue dots work great for adding on things like feathers, foam pieces, jewels and sequins. Turn any adornment into a sticker!
- ModPodge – this is for me. I use it for fun DIY projects, like our Custom Photo Coasters, and to put finishing glazes on the girls’ canvas art that I want to preserve for posterity. It comes in Matte and Gloss finish; I like matte, but personal preference.
- Hot Glue Gun, Glue Sticks – again, this is for me. With two girls, I’m always making bows, and taking craft shortcuts. I don’t know how people live without a glue gun. For less than $10, there’s no reason to!
- Painter’s Tape – I know, not technically glue, but seemed to fit best here. This is great for fixing paper in place on the table, as well as for use in resist process art.
Yes, this is its own category. Stickers probably provide more hours of entertainment at my house than any other craft activity. They are great for toddlers developing fine motor skills, and pretty sure they never get old at any age. There is also no reason to buy them anywhere other than the Dollar Store, especially if your kids eat through them as fast as mine do! This includes all varieties, from seasonal to individual foam stickers, and more.
Guru Tip: To ease frustrations, peel off the backing on the sheet of stickers, leaving just the stickers on the page. It makes it easier for little fingers to peel them off themselves and play independently.
Similar to stickers, stamps provide hours of entertainment. They make great stocking and Easter basket fillers, and with stamp pads in all colors and stamps in all range of themes and sizes, the possibilities are endless!
- Melissa & Doug Stamp Set – we have received a few of these sets as gifts, complete with colored pencils, stamps and pads, as well as some smaller sets with just assortments of stamps.
- Foam stamps – we also received a few of these foam stamp sets for Christmas. They are great starter stamps for little hands, and can be used with giant ink pads or regular paint
- Giant ink pads – we are fortunate the teaching Grandmas keep us well stocked in fun craft gear, like these!
- Foam cutouts* – from Christmas trees and snowmen, to shamrocks, Easter eggs, crowns and more, these make great bases for quick and easy kid crafts. You can ALWAYS find seasonally appropriate ones in the Dollar Spot at Target and in the holiday section of the Dollar Store.
- Pipe cleaners*
- Popsicle sticks – we like multi-colored ones, as well as plain ones.
- Pom poms – in multiple sizes and colors. We use them for fine motor skill challenges, sorting, color matching, crafting, and kindness jar filling. Craft stores often sell holiday color assortments (like red, white and green at Christmas, or pastels at Easter) in various sizes. It’s a great way to build a varied stash.
- Googly eyes – for making characters of all shapes and sizes
- Pony Beads – these are great for fine motor skill challenges as well as making jewelry
- Jewels – we have a bucketful, and we have used them on everything from fancy masks to tiaras
- Sequins* – you can get assortments of these at the Dollar Store. We use them like we use jewels, only even more often because they are lightweight, so you can use more of them!
- Feathers* – for masks, making creatures and other imaginative crafts
Kitchen & Household Craft Materials
We often utilize kitchen or other household items in our crafts, and try to keep these in the cupboards for crafting.
- Cream of Tartar – for making play dough
- Food coloring – for coloring play dough, making our own paint, tinting glue, and various science experiments. For more vibrant colors, we like these Soft Gel Food Colors.
- KoolAid or Frosting flavor packets – for coloring play dough and edible finger paint (and giving it great scent)
- Cookie cutters* – for playing with play dough, tracing and using with paint as stamps
- Shaving cream* – I buy old school Barbasol shaving cream at the Dollar Store. We use it for making marble prints with paint, and plain old sensory play fun. You can also use it to make various goops and doughs
- Pool noodles* – I bought these at the Dollar Store last summer. You can cut them up and use them to craft with, make stamps, or create play light sabers.
Trash to Crafting Treasure
We don’t save every one of these that crosses our doorstep, but we do keep a box of them on hand. We can always find something creative to do with them!
- Toilet paper rolls
- Paper towel rolls
- Cardboard boxes
- Packing materials – bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, packing paper
For Easy Clean-Up
I keep these items in the craft closet for easy clean-up
- Plastic table cloths* – you can find these in an array of colors at the Dollar Store. I usually cut the table cloth in half or thirds, and spread it on the table under messier activities. When the kids are done, I can grab the ends and throw everything away in one big, mess-free package
- Foil trays* – we use these for painting, melting ice, shaving cream play
- Smocks – for any crafting, other than basic coloring and stickers, we always wear a smock. I’m a big fan of this one with long sleeves to fully protect clothing. You can also use one of Dad’s old dress shirts, but as toddlers, those are still so big, these work much better!
How to Organize Your Craft Closet
This could be a whole post topic on it’s own. We use an assortment of magazine and photo storage boxes (cardboard, courtesy of Ikea). They are great for storing all the paper, foil trays and various crafting accessories, and can easily be labeled. We also use one of Dad’s fancy tin whiskey containers to house all our pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks. And last, but not least, we have a few plastic shoe bins and one larger bin we use to store paint, and all the other loose pieces. We recently undertook a craft closet organization overhaul; otherwise, I would be ashamed to share any photos of what it looked like!
Trust me – we didn’t get this all at once. We’ve amassed this collection of goodies over the last 2.5+ years, from our first finger painting forays and scribbles, to the more involved projects we undertake today. Family and friends are always asking for gift ideas too, and at most ages, you can never go wrong with arts and craft supplies.
What are your favorite crafting materials at your house? Did we miss one of your favorites? Is there something on our list you can’t wait to try? To see how we put all these great materials to work, follow our At Home Activities board on Pinterest!