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How to Create a Crafty Home

If you have a young artist at home, you need a supply of materials at the ready whenever inspiration...

When you have a budding Renoir in your family, crayons and construction paper won’t cut it for long. And if you want arts-and-crafts time to last more than 10 minutes, you’ll need more than just pipe cleaners and glue! Instead of waiting until a rainy day or the playdate that’s run out of steam, stock up ahead of time and keep an art box full of cool materials for making masterpieces.

A few tips before you start: Designate a box, crate or drawer for art supplies. That way, all the supplies are readily accessible, and tidying up is a snap. If you store everything in a cardboard box, you can make an activity out of decorating the box with stickers, markers or paint. Also, remember that making a mess is part of the fun. Spread newspapers on your work surface and don't be afraid of spills. It the weather is warm, the backyard makes a fine studio. Have the kids paint in bathing suits and then wash up by running under the sprinkler or using the garden hose.

In the meantime, here is a list of the new essential art supplies:

  1. Sparkly markers and more Standard-color crayons and regular markers are staples, but they aren’t exactly exciting. Time to add some variety to your marker supply: fine point and fat point, sparkly and neon, scented and gel. While you’re at it, tuck in a box of colored pencils and a set of smooth, bright Cray-Pas (remember them?). Note: "Washable" crayons and markers are great for little kids, but they smudge more easily, so older kids may prefer the traditional ones.
  2. Paper goods The obligatory pack of construction paper is fine, but why stop there? For greater creative expression, head to the nearest toy or craft store and pick up a roll or large tablet of "art paper" (newsprint). Toss a selection of metallic and patterned scrapbooking sheets into your cart. And once you’re back home, bring a stack of paper lunch bags and paper plates from the kitchen to add to the box.
  3. Sticky stuff Glue sticks and Elmers are givens, but they’re not right for every project. Consider some sticky alternatives such as double-sided tape, glue dots, glue tape, fabric and wood glue -- and for added fun, glitter glue. (Note: Avoid hot-glue guns; with children around, they are an accident waiting to happen.)
  4. Magazines and catalogs When it comes to making paper dolls, old magazines offer great ready-to-wear fashions. Cut out figures and clothes, and glue them to construction paper or cardboard. You can stick the clothes on the dolls with either taped paper tabs or paper clips.
  5. Paints and brushes Once you’re out of the finger and tempera paint phase, there’s a wide world of colors, textures and techniques for your older child to experiment with. Watercolors, acrylics, paint sticks -- they’re all available at your local art supply store or online, along with canvases and brushes. Keep a supply of newspapers or old sheets on hand for drips and spills.
  6. Extras Drinking straws, random stickers (think: goody bag extras), shells, beads, buttons, ribbons, fabric scraps, colored sand and googly eyes with sticky backs can transform a picture into a collage, a paper bag into a puppet, or a boring card into something special.