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MPMK 2015 Gift Guide: Best Art Supplies for Open-Ended Creativity

Gift guide: best art supplies for open-ended creativity - all great to have on hand for a rainy day!

Yay! I’m so excited it’s time to talk about art supplies as part of this year’s Gift Guide collection.  This is one of my favorites. But that probably doesn’t surprise you, huh?  You all know how much I love anything that promotes open-ended creativity… I believe that every house with kids has to have a stocked art drawer – if not an entire art closet!

I absolutely love gifting my kids art supplies because I know that while using them they’ll be flexing their creative thinking skills and likely spending a lot of time doing so independently.  Plus – big bonus – because these supplies get used up, they don’t contribute to a huge pile of toys that will inevitably lead to power struggles between me and the kids over clean-up time.

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2015 Gift Guides here!

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Art Supplies for Open-Ended Creativity (scroll down for full details on each):

  1. Twistz Bandz Rainbow Loom $19.95 (8+ years)
  2. Crayola Inspiration Art Case $39.99 (3 – 12 years)
  3. Playskool 2-in-1 Digital Camera and Projector $49.14 (3 – 7 years)
  4. Spirograph Deluxe Design Kit $22.99 (7 – 15 years)
  5. Ed Emberely Drawing & Art Books starting at $6.29 (7+ years) – These books are just so cool for kids that have a passion for art because they can use them to teach themselves how to draw all the things they want to.  We started with the thumbprint book, which is great for younger kids, and recently added the animal and vehicle drawing books for my son’s birthday as well as Picture Pie, which incorporates cutting and pasting shapes to make things step by step instead of just drawing.
  6. Doodle Cook $12.46 (4+ years with some adult help or reading age)
  7. Ultra Thin Portable Light Panel $189.99 and Light Table Panel Blocks $19.99 (babies – 10 years)
  8. Perler Beads Multimix Bucket $8.90 (5 – 12 years)
  9. Play Doh Barrel $26.95 (3 – 8 years) and Play Doh Mega Pack $24.99
  10. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Alphabet Stamp Set $17.23 (3+ years)

Read on for 27 of my favorite Art Supplies for Open-Ended Creativity…


Gift guide: best art supplies for open-ended creativity - all great to have on hand for a rainy day!

  • Spirograph Deluxe Design Kit $22.99 (7 – 15 years) – I get so excited when the toys I loved as a kid come back into vogue and I remember spending HOURS playing with my spirograph as a kid. The things you can make with this are unlimited but also so impressive looking. This one is a classic for a reason and the 50th anniversary edition has some cool extras including a carrying case with a built-in work surface and putty to keep the spirographs in place (so smart).
  • Alex My First Sewing Kit $38.95 (5+ years with some adult help) – I love the idea of teaching our kids to be creative beyond the crayons and markers at a young age.  This first sewing kit is such a great way to do that.  I think any kid would love it but little girls with moms (or grandmas) who sew will be especially excited to receive one.
  • Twistz Bandz Rainbow Loom $19.95 (8+ years) – Being billed by many as “the runaway toy of the year”, this award winning loom is the most exciting thing to happen to kid jewelry since the advent of the friendship bracelet. Using a special loom and the multitude of colorful twistz bandz that come in this kit along with a myriad of video tutorials available on YouTube, kids will spend hours happily creating with this fun kit.
  • Doodle Cook $12.46 (4+ years with some adult help or reading age) – I had the chance to review this coloring/activity book masquerading as a cook book last year (see here for the full review).  I was really impressed.  What I liked most was that the “recipes” start the kids off with specific instructions (“draw four lines on the plate.  Make the lines nice and straight”) but also include lots of open-ended components to encourage creativity (“Garnish the kebabs with colors or patterns”).  It’s a big book too.  Not only does it have 20 different recipes, but it measures nearly 10″ x 14″ in size, providing lots of space for your littles to express themselves. My son and I used this book for our special one-on-one time for nearly a month straight before running out of page – he LOVED it.
  • Fashion Design Portfolio $7.93 (7 – 12 years) – At first glance I wasn’t overly impressed with this fashion portfolio and accompanying stencils. But then I read the glowing reviews and remembered how much I loved sketching outfits like this when I was a girl and realized that I would have been elated to have a deluxe kit like this one! Plus, it’s a great price for what looks to be a very solid and popular toy.
  • Watercolor Set $7.99 (2+ years) – Watercolors are always a good less-mess choice for painting. So we picked this set up the last time we were at Ikea and I’ve been really impressed.  The cakes are bigger making it easier for the kids to use them and they don’t seem to muddy up nearly as easily as the crayola version.
  • Kids Knitting Set & Basket $26.98 (8+ years) – I really appreciate the authentic feel of this knitting set for kids – the wicker basket it comes in puts it over the top for me.  This is a great way to introduce the art of knitting to your child.  Along with the basket, the set comes with 6 skeins of brightly colored yarn (50-yd. each), wooden knitting needles, plastic crochet hook, plastic needle and easy to follow instructions (with illustrations).
  • Crayola Inspiration Art Case $39.99 (3 – 12 years) – This 150 piece art set gets great marks for everything from it’s special looking case that keep all the components snapped in place to the quality of the art supplies inside. If your child is getting serious about art, this gift will show them you are proud of their burgeoning gift and is sure to thrill.
  • Junior Rubbing Plates $16.26 (2+ years) – These are fun art tools for all ages.  Use them to create lots of different creatures (a horse-bird or butterphant perhaps?) in various colors and textures.  It’s amazing how creative kids can get with such simple little plates. Note: for young kids, these plates work best if you take them to the table before beginning.
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book $14.39 (3 – 8 years) – The hilarious Mo Willems plus lots of activities to keep the kids happy, what more do I need to say?
  • Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Easel $58.99 (2+ years) – There’s nothing like an art easel always set-up and waiting to entice a child to start creating and the folding design of this one makes it easy to store when not in use. One side is a chalkboard, the other’s a dry erase board, and in between the two easel sides is a dowel for holding a butcher paper roll. Pull the paper through to either side of the easel for your child to paint or draw. Once the painting is complete, the paper can be torn neatly against the top of the frame and set aside to dry, and a new length of paper can be pulled down for the next art creation. The multiple options for making art will keep kids interested AND allow more then one child to use it at once so it’s great for siblings. From the Amazon review, “Our preschool-aged toy tester enjoyed working on the easel, whether she was drawing with chalk or painting with poster paints. In fact, her creative output increased significantly with the easel. She especially enjoyed mixing paints to make different colors. Like many children her age, she likes standing while engaged in creative play, and the easel makes it much easier for her to draw and paint large pictures without having to reach awkwardly across a table surface or kneel on the floor.”

  • Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad starting at $3.99 (3 – 10 years) – Got a sticker lover in the house?  Welcome to the genius of reusable stickers! My kids love peeling them all off and rearranging them in the various settings over and over.  They’re also great for traveling and there are tons of themes to choose from. These books are one of the most popular items on my gift guides each year because they pack in so much bang for your buck.
  • Symphony in B Music Toy $55.39 (2+ years) – This one’s a little bit of an oddball for this list for a few reasons: it centers on music instead of art and it’s the type of plastic, bells and whistle, toy that I don’t typically recommend.  But giving kids the opportunity to create music is just as important as providing art time.  And the reviews on this one, both from consumers and fellow bloggers, are pretty amazing. From the manufacturer: As little maestros move up to six of the 13 instruments into the “orchestra pit,” they’ll hear each one’s sound incorporated into 15 glorious songs. The sound quality is remarkable, the recordings are professional, the possibilities endless. Includes tempo and volume control buttons, plus learning buttons that teach kids to more about instruments and orchestra sections… They teach kids to distinguish between melody and harmony instruments, as well as the parts of an orchestra: woodwinds, brass, percussion, keyboards, and strings.
  • B Pop Arty Beads $19.99 (3 – 6 years) – Girls will love this bright and bold jewelry making set containing 500 beads in a variety of colors, shapes and textures.  The way each bead snaps together is a nice alternative fine motor activity to traditional bead stringing (for that here’s a good set for younger kids and a cool one for bigger kids).
  • Crayola Oil Pastels $4.37 (2+ years) – With their creamy and vivid colors, kids can tell there’s something extra special about oil pastel crayons as soon as they start using them.  They’re also fantastic for learning about color theory because they blend to create true secondary colors.
  • Perler Beads Multimix Bucket $8.90 (5 – 12 years) – Did you guys ever play with perler beads as a kid?  Talk about the ultimate fine motor activity.  Tedious as some of the projects are, kids who like creating with these REALLY like it.  Getting to iron them at the end to create permanent masterpieces probably has a lot to do with it.  This is a very comprehensive set with 6,000 beads and a variety of pegboards included.
  • Alex Toys Friends 4Ever Bracelet Making Kit $17.16 (8+ years) – The 12 year old girl in me squealed when I first saw this kit.  It has so many enticing materials and tools for creating all kinds of colorful bracelets.

  • Crayola Telescoping Crayon Tower $14.99 (4+ years) – This is such a clever (and exciting) way to gift your kids a basic crayon set.  It’s a storage case that expands into a handy dandy dispensing tower with an included crayon sharpener.
  • Crayola Dry Erase Board & Crayons $8.89 (4+ years) – We really like to use dry erase crayons on laminated activity sheets because they’re a lot less messy and stinky than dry erase markers.  This set is also pretty fun on it’s own and it’s the perfect thing for coloring in the car or on a plane.
  • Classroom Crafting Starter Kit $23.99 (3+ years or younger with adult help) – I really like to take my cue from preschools when setting up my craft supplies at home. Which is why I love this classroom crafting starter kit.  It’s an easy way to stock up on all those random arts and craft pieces (googly eyes, feathers, foam shapes, sparkles, etc) that you always want on hand to get kids’ creative wheels turning.
  • Play Doh Barrel $26.95 (3 – 8 years) – We break out the play doh several times a week at our house, it’s so great for creativity, quiet time, fine motor skills, dramatic play, etc.  So it was important to us to have a collection of durable and engaging dough tools.  Last Christmas we got this barrel for the kids and it’s been a definite winner. Get it with the Play Doh Mega Pack $24.99 – 36 Play Doh cans, each in a different color, to complete your Play Doh set.

  • Set of 11 Simply Washable 16 oz. Tempera Paints in Classic Colors $21.89 (2+ years) – This one is a fantastic deal.  Small children will go through paint like water at art time if you let them and with this set you can!  I’ve actually stocked our art room with a similar set of washable tempera paints from Crayola that cost over twice as much. I’ll be re-stocking our supply with this set next time.
  • Ed Emberely Drawing & Art Books starting at $6.29 (7+ years) – These books are just so cool for kids that have a passion for art because they can use them to teach themselves how to draw all the things they want to.  We started with the thumbprint book, which is great for younger kids, and recently added the animal and vehicle drawing books for my son’s birthday as well as Picture Pie, which incorporates cutting and pasting shapes to make things step by step instead of just drawing.
  • ALEX® Toys – Early Learning First Scribble $10.58 (18 months – 3 years) – This is the perfect first coloring book as all it requires are scribbles. Parents report that it’s a nice, heavy duty book and a great keepsake for some of your child’s first attempts at art.
  • Melissa & Doug Deluxe Alphabet Stamp Set $17.23 (3+ years) – As I’ve said before, I much prefer integrating letter learning and literacy into play over focusing on rote memory drills.  We have this set and my 4 year old loves to break it out to practice his letters during art time.

Gift guide: best art supplies for open-ended creativity - all great to have on hand for a rainy day!

25) Play Foam $8.99 (3 – 8 years) – I first got the idea to add this stuff to our art supplies when our local children’s museum had it out for play.  They provided scissors with it and it made for great cutting practice/fine motor building.  I love that play foam is an interesting alternative to play dough (which we also play with frequently) and that it never dries out.

26) Playskool 2-in-1 Digital Camera and Projector $49.14 (3 – 7 years) – Photography is an amazing art to introduce to your children at a young age.  Encouraging them to get behind the lens gives them a different perspective on their surroundings and gives them some control of their world. Plus, if you tend to take a lot of photos of your kids (ahem), getting them into photography will make them more likely to put up with your shutter bug tendencies.

We’ve had a few digital kid cameras in the past and, while the kids have always been excited about them, they all produced poor picture quality, were difficult for the kids to operate on their own, and broke easily.  So I’ve been on the lookout for a better designed kid camera for quite a while and I think this Oppenheimer award winning version is it!  My favorite feature has to be that with the flip of a switch this camera will instantly project captured images up onto a wall (cool!).  Big buttons and screen, along with durability, good photo quality, storage of 1000 photos at a time and instant special effects means this one is going under our tree this year (shh! – don’t tell).

27) Ultra Thin Portable Light Panel $189.99 (babies – 10 years) – I wrote an entire post last year called “Meet the Light Box – Your New Must Have Toy?“, inwhich I explored all the amazing things you can do with one of these.  Since then a whole new crop of bloggers have been having fun with light panels/light tables at home and the possibilities have grown even more.  I really like the portability and easy storage of this ultra thin option.

28) Light Table Panel Blocks $19.99 (babies – 8 years) – The light table is another favorite toy at our local children’s museum and they always have this set of blocks out with it.  They’re great for working with patterns, layering colors, and general creativity.

29) Spirograph Deluxe Design Kit $22.68 (7+ years) – I grew up playing with a spirograph and was psyched to see that it’s been updated this year for the 50th anniversary. This Deluxe kit is super popular and gets rave reviews for the sturdy pieces and carrying case. If you’re not familiar, spirographs are a simple (yet addictive) tool originally developed to be used for drafting by a mechanical engineer. The distinctive wheels and rings of the Spirograph cleverly combine the principles of art and mathematics in a way that allows anyone can to make some truly impressive patterns and designs.

Winner of the ASTRA 2013 Best Toys Award, this set features all the iconic wheels and rings of the original, re-engineered and updated for today. Just set your paper in place and then choose again and again from 19 different gears to mix and match patterns and create a unique image every time. Use the design guide to try out tried and true designs or get creative and create cool and colorful graphics of your own.

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If you like these recommendations, I encourage you to pin or bookmark them for later when you’re ready to start shopping.  I would also love it if you forwarded the list on to your parenting friends or shared it on facebook – trust me, your friends will thank you for the help and you get to be the cool mom (or dad) with all the best resources. It’s a win-win.

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P.S. See all 10 of our 2015 Gift Guides here.


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