I have an opinion on art equipment for children. Indeed I have a opinion on lots of things - and as always I will say that if you disagree then that's fine!! It's not a right/wrong thing - it's opinions!
So this advice/these opinions, are things I have come to believe after 25 years of motherhood/home education, and many more years of being an avid art equipment user!
There are some educational philosophies that say "only provide THE BEST for children". The Best often includes a $60 watercolour set in about 5 colours, and a beautiful brush; watercolour paper, very high quality crayons with a reasonably large price-tag, and beautiful pencils in specially chosen colours.
I do actually LOVE that high quality art equipment - I love using it myself! But would I buy them for my 3 or even 8 year old? Would I be happy for them to splash around with the paints as they desired? To scatter and (possibly) eat the crayons? No. I wouldn't. My children are not barbarians. They do have some manners - but on the whole, they are too busy, too fast, and too "not caring" about the desire to do things "the right way." And that's actually ok!
I know that some people believe in giving the children structured direction with learning/using colours, colour mixing etc - and that's fine if your children are open to that instruction - but my children on the whole have not been open to that instruction.
At the other end of the scale there is the Very Cheap equipment - poster paint that smells bad and blobs horribly, watercolours that don't have much pigment in, brushes that lose their hairs, crayons so waxy that they come out very pale on the paper, felt pens (that might possibly come in 60 or 120 colours) that are scratchy and dull to use, stickers that should be called "skidders" as they slide right off the project and find their way onto the bottom of everyone's socks and the dog's feet ...
And then there is the middle ground. BUT it can really put a parent off trying to find that middle ground to be honest. Especially if you have been stung by purchasing disappointing products in the past.
I remember when we started home educating, and I know from seeing other people's questions on facebook groups that the this is still a big question: "What do I need to buy to start home educating?"
Everyone's suggestions will vary: a library card; a pair of gumboots ... right on through to a computer and printer, art and craft equipment - or even a whole room dedicated to home education/mobile home/bus/caravan for adventures!!
There is no right and wrong, no good and bad here - but in my experience, and borrowing from the experience of hundreds of others I'd like to encourage people who are new to home ed to take it slowly. Often many of the resources and items purchased in the early years of home ed will become buried and forgotten as the good old basic and favourites are used and re-used, or purchased and re-stocked year after year. The "counting bears" will be put aside and the children will love using shells, stones, walnuts, blocks, wooden rings and pebbles; the files of photocopied "handwriting helpers" will be left on the shelf and the whiteboards will be in constant use; the mega-expensive "learn to read programme" will be given to the op-shop because nobody liked the stories in the books, but they'll read Tin Tin comics for hours and hours.
Items that have multiple uses become a valuable resource for the home educating family. Open-ended toys, loose parts sets, kitchen equipment, gardening things ... these things will be enjoyed year after year.
And of course it totally depends on your family's choices to do with having possessions/living a minimalistic lifestyle - AND the interests and gifts of your family!
But back to the main topic of this post!!
Providing art equipment for your children - once again - start slowly. A realm of photocopy paper, good quality pencils to draw with, an eraser, ruler, nice quality coloured pencils (perhaps just a pack of 12 so the can be kept track of), a 12 pack of crayons, a pencil sharpener and some pens.
Really small children, and those who can't stick with a task for long will probably be happier with some homemade playdough and sticks and pebbles to push into it, than pom-poms, iceblock sticks, pipecleaners, glitter, glue, foam sheets etc etc etc.
Expand from your "basic" supplies gradually if your children show an interest. Buy an art journal, some A4 or even A2 cartridge paper, some watercolours, nice paintbrushes, watercolour pencils, pastels, glitter glue, stick-on rhinestones, a "long-arm" stapler for the child who loves making books, carded wool for felting or spinning, yarn and knitting needles ... Look critically at the quality of the items you're buying.
Don't go with the advice "get the best you can afford" because that can lead a parent to feeling guilty sometimes. Buy from a trusted source, or ask friends. High-quality, more expensive equipment can come later when a child really specializes in various areas and can look after their equipment properly.
Does this blog look like an advert for the things we sell. Well I guess it does. But with GOOD reason!! I like all the products we sell. I stand behind them as being suitable for families to enjoy. They are not top-of-the-range, the are not el-cheapo. They are affordable and LOVELY to use!!! And I want to build a relationship of trust and respect with our customers, so nobody feels like they wasted money when they buy something from us.
Finally - can I encourage you to find the balance for YOUR family. By all means ask other people what they have and what they use, and look at all the wonderful "homeschool rooms" on Pinterest, scroll through stationary, art and craft websites, browse over the "back to school sales" in January, make a list of "I'd like this" things from my shop! But keep in mind YOUR family, YOUR budget, YOUR tolerance for often messy creativity, YOUR children's interests and start slowly. xxx