Artistic fun on a budget

13 Ways to Find Cheap Art Supplies

by Jeanine DeHoney


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As an art teacher for preschoolers and their older siblings for many years, I loved seeing them create, whether they were making noodle collages or drawing a self-portrait. Although I received a grant to buy art supplies for my young artists, I was prudent and found creative ways to replenish my supplies. Now that I am a grandparent living on a fixed income, helping my grandchildren create artistic masterpieces could have put a large dent in my pocket. Thanks to some valuable lessons on frugality, I've learned to keep my artist's bin full of fun stuff and have provided my grandchildren with free or discounted art enrichment opportunities during their visits. Here is a sampling of 13 ways to help you create for your children or grandchildren artistic fun on a budget.

  1. Get the word out. Let family and friends know that you are collecting art supplies. They may have reams of paper, crayons, or markers that their own children are no longer using and are willing to share.

  2. Instead of buying a paint smock for your child or grandchild, use an oversized t-shirt and let your child decorate with markers or fabric paint to make it unique.

  3. Make your own paint with fruit such as blueberries or blackberries (it will create purple paint) or spices like saffron to create yellow paint. Soak the fruit in water and then remove fruit from the liquid. Add cornstarch to make thicker paint. You can also use fruits and vegetables that may be bruised as a stamper by cutting them in half and dipping in paint.

  4. Make your own play dough with two cups of flour and one cup of salt. Add one cup of water gradually (more or less) until the dough is a good consistency and add food coloring if you like. Your child can sculpt items on his or her own or you can use cookie cutter shapes and dry them overnight after cutting them out and then paint and decorate them.

  5. Don't get rid of old broken crayons. Take the wrappers off and put different colors in muffin tins. Spray with nonstick spray and then bake until melted at 250 degrees. When thoroughly cooled, take the muffin shaped crayons out of the tins.

  6. Save colored tissue paper from gift bags to make a beautiful collage. You can also ball pieces of tissue paper up and wet slightly to paint with. The colors are similar to watercolors.

  7. Use the cardboard tubes of tissue and paper towel rolls or oatmeal boxes to come up with clever projects. Use paper towel roll tubes to make telescopes and kaleidoscopes.

  8. Shop at yard sales for items you can use for an art project. You may find wallpaper samples, fabric swatches, old magazines, catalogues, postcards, coloring books, and even an easel or painting set.

  9. Take a nature walk with your child or grandchild and find acorns, pine cones, twigs, seeds, and feathers that can be used to create a nature sculpture.

  10. A clothesline instead of a costly store-bought frame is an inexpensive way to display your child or grandchild's artwork. Hang it across a playroom or bedroom wall using clothespins to secure each drawing. It is also easier to interchange and allows you to see the progression of your child or grandchild's artistic skills and creativity.

  11. Children should be exposed to art at an early age to develop their creativity. Many times during the holidays, art museums have free family days or discounted visits that are worth taking advantage of. Also check out your neighborhood library's announcement board for any events related to the arts and free arts and craft workshops they may offer. Your library's children's story hour also may be followed by a craft, such as making finger puppets, etc.

  12. If you must shop for art supplies, shop at discount stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, or Hobby Lobby. For great deals with sometimes 70% off, shop online at discounted art supply sites. Sign up for special savings they may offer if you are a new customer and subscribe to their e-mail.

  13. Scan your child's artwork (especially holiday artwork) and save it on your computer, so you can turn it into a calendar to send as Christmas gifts to family and friends. If you need help, Snapfish is a great site that helps you create personalized gifts, or you can try your large chain pharmacy or supermarket.

It is possible to be frugal and help your children have artistic fun at the same time. You might even be nurturing the next Rembrandt.

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