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The Arts For Life Guide to Art Supplies: Craft Materials

When most people say: I’m not good at art! often what they really mean is: drawing isn’t my thing.

If this sounds familiar, let us remind you that art is SO much more than drawing!
In fact, if you have ever joined us at our art tables, you know that Arts For Life teachers offer all  kinds of not-drawing projects. We do painting. We make prints. We make sculptures and collages;  we cut things up and glue them together. We build stuff: big stuff, little stuff, stuff that moves and stuff that makes noise.

A lot of what we do at our art tables, if we’re being technical, is probably considered craft.

What’s the difference between art and craft? Well, there is a complicated answer to that question, but for our purposes, craft = making new, ingenious things from simple, practical materials. And this is something we LOVE to do.

If you’re reading this and thinking, YES, ME TOO! then read on to find our list of the craft supplies we always keep well-stocked in our cabinets.



There’s a reason yarn gets a whole aisle at the art supply store. Obviously, it is essential for knitting, crocheting and weaving projects, but yarn also has so many other practical uses! It’s great for hanging things like spinners, garlands, or windsocks. Thick knobby yarn or delicate eyelash yarn make great hair for puppets or other creatures. Yarn also adds amazing texture to collages and printing plates. You can find it in pretty much any color and thickness you could ever need…and we need them all!





Felt, too, comes in all colors and thicknesses and is widely available in small sheets. You can even find sparkly and sticky-back felt! We love felt because It’s easy to cut, and can be glued, sewn, or stapled together to create flat or 3D art. Paired with a thick embroidery needle and some thread, it’s perfect for learning to sew!




Model Magic

To say that Model Magic is a staple at our art tables is an understatement! When our teachers break it out, it’s like toothpaste…there’s not getting it back into that cabinet easily. We love it because it’s a perfect hybrid: it has the fun playfulness of play doh, but with the durability of real clay. It sticks together easily, making building and sculpting accessible for any age.





We’ve said it before; we’ll say it again: WE LOVE TAPE.
Beyond its obvious function of sticking things together, tape has undergone a renaissance through the years, and now there are so many different kinds of tape that it’s almost become a whole new art medium! Washi tape, painter’s tape, masking tape, double-sided tape, clear tape, and Glue Dots (a glue/tape hybrid) are all in heavy rotation at our tables.



Pipe Cleaners

Colorful, easy to bend, and so versatile…what’s not to love about pipe cleaners? We use them for so many things! When paired with wide-holed pony beads, they are absolutely perfect for beading with even the youngest artists. They make great flower stems, butterfly bodies, and snowflakes. We even use them to make armatures for larger model magic sculptures.





Googly Eyes 

All it takes to transform any ordinary object  is pair of googly eyes. Slap a couple on spork, or a pencil, or a bottle of juice and all of the sudden you’ve created a new friend! They come in all sizes, from extra-extra large to teeny-tiny. We love the self-adhesive ones!






From toothpicks to craft sticks to dowels, we use wood in all kinds of projects. Typically, craft wood is easy to cut, sturdy for building, and makes a great surface for paint.

Hot Glue Guns

We know they can be intimidating, but when used correctly, hot glue guns are actually safe and easy to use. At our tables, we use low-temp glue guns (with close supervision), which are perfect for fabric, foam, and paper. High temp glue guns should be used with caution, but are great for gluing wood, cardboard, and other heavier materials. Hot glue is easy to apply, and it dries quickly.



Cardboard and Mat board 

Any thick board that can be cut is great for building. Using cardboard and some masking tape, we’ve built boxes, letters, looms, rockets, masks, houses, and all kinds of other things at our art tables. In our normal hospital setting, we can’t always use recyclable materials like cardboard, so we substitute often with pre-packaged mat board.  At home, you can use cereal or packing boxes.

Cutting thick board can be difficult for little hands, so we let young artists draw their lines, then leave the cutting to adults 😉


What craft supplies do you think are essential? Did we miss something? Tell us in the comments below.



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