Preschool Art Materials Guide

Get the right materials every time.

- click to jump to each material + follow the links to buy! -


Beads are used in many of our activities as optional, glitzy extras. Assorted bead "grab bags" can be found here on Amazon or in craft stores. We also like to discover unique and affordable costume jewelry at yard sales and second-hand stores.


High-quality crayons are best for our activities. They make bold, bright colors and are excellent for color mixing. Spring for the brand name kind if you can, it will make a difference. Large, thick crayons are the easiest ones for young preschoolers to use. They are easier to hold, and they don’t break as easily as thinner crayons. Crayola crayons found here, are our large crayons of choice. And Crayon Hokus Pokus is an activity that highlights why crayons can be super creative!

You can test the quality of your crayons by:

  • Color a small area, putting direct pressure on the crayons. If you can scratch the wax off the paper with your fingernails, there is too much wax in the crayon. In higher-quality crayons, pigment (or color) and wax are equally combined, and the wax cannot be scraped off the paper.
  • Color an area with blue and then put a layer of yellow over it. If the resulting color is not a vivid green, your crayons are of lower quality. Crayons of good quality can easily be combined to form new colors by putting different layers of colors on top of each other.


There’s a world of glue out there. Here’s how they’re different and why they're preferred for certain kinds of activities:


Clear or gel glue is the same consistency as white glue.  The only difference is that it's clear when wet and when dry. Choose it when you want to be sure your glue dries "invisibly." For example, it works best to use clear glue with glitter, because you better see the glitter clearly. Mmm, glitter ... We prefer Elmer's Clear Glue found here on Amazon.


This is the “old-fashioned” white paste glue in a jar, like this example. It works well with collage and most paper pasting activities. It’s messier than a glue stick, but so much more fun to use! Put a spoonful on a small piece of wax paper and let the child apply it as they desire. Children enjoy exploring glue paste with their fingers and sometimes even take a taste or two.  Don’t worry if they do, it’s non-toxic. We don’t have a preferred paste glue. In our experience, all paste glues behave equally.


Glue sticks are easy for young fingers to hold and very useful in most paper pasting activities. They don’t work well with cloth, styrofoam, natural objects, and similar heavier items. Spend a few cents extra to buy the name brand kind. Better quality glue sticks adhere better, don’t dry out as fast and last longer. We look for Elmer’s Glue sticks like these.


This glue is extra sticky, dries quickly, and comes in a plastic squeeze bottle, too. Use this for activities that you want to dry together quickly. It also works best to hold heavier materials like fabric, felt or beads. For example, when creating Nature's Sculptures with sticks and seeds, a tacky glue will hold one piece of material quickly so the next piece will layer on faster and securely. We choose Aleenes Tacky Glue found here.


White glue, found in a squeeze bottle, generally works well with cloth, paper, and styrofoam. This is your “go to” glue for collages, three-dimensional sculpture, and cloth pictures. It takes longer to dry than tacky glue, but secures your materials just as well. Also, look for child-sized plastic squeeze bottle as they are easier for little hands to use. We prefer Elmer’s white Multi-Purpose Glue found right here.


Remember this when choosing markers:

  • Always choose water-based, child-safe markers. Look for the words “not permanent” on the packaging. Also, avoid using markers that have smells. Smells encourage kids to put markers in their mouth to taste them. Ick, what a let down. Crayola Ultraclean, found here, are our preferred markers.
  • One marker size doesn’t fit all. Start off using thick markers like these first. They are much easier for little fingers to hold. Later, introduce thinner, child-safe markers like this example to see if your child can easily hold them. If they're not held easily, go back to your thicker markers until your child can hold the thinner ones easily. 


When it comes to kids, the right paint brush makes all the difference:

  • Small trim, paint-rollers like these are not meant for painting pictures. Typically found in a hardware store, used for painting walls or trim, these can be well used to paint objects or to use to “ink” an object for printing.
  • For a longer life, wash your brushes with a bit of liquid soap like this and air dry after each use. Ask your child to help and make it part of the fun.
Age-appropriate flat-tip brushes for pre-schoolers:

This stronger paper works best for collage and most pasting activities. It also works well with painting and printing activities We recommend a big, multi-colored pack of Crayola construction paper like this.


Recycled papers are great for many Skilly-do activities. Keep an eye out for paper bags of all sizes, such as brown paper grocery bags or lunch bags found here, used file folders, white printer paper like this and beyond! 


Paper rolls, 18 inches wide by 200 feet long, can be found online here and in your local craft or art stores. Intended for easels, the size and length of this paper is great for larger projects like a group collage or our Hands and Feet Prints activity.


Colored tissue paper that comes in large sheets can be found at the dollar or big-box stores. That said, we recommend using high-quality tissue paper like this, found online or in your local art supply store. It has more vibrant colors and bleeds better when wet, which is perfect for color mixing. Speaking of, our activity Paper Bag Trees, is provides a fun and unexpected use for this artistic material.


We find plastic bowls like these are best to use with young children, as they are safer, lighter and you don’t have to worry about any breaking glass. Metal bowls work well too, although they may be a bit heavier when filled with liquids.


These are also known as "chenille wires." You can find pipe cleaners here online, in dollar stores, discount and craft stores. Give our Bloomin' Carton Gardens activity a go to transform your pipe cleaners into a growing sculpture. 


Most of our activities use two kinds of small, plastic, water bottles:  One bottle with an adjustable trigger for spraying like this and a bottle with a squeeze top, like the kind for ketchup, found here. You can also find an affordable selection of spray bottles at your local discount store, grocery or pharmacy. Have fun with your squeeze top bottles with our super simple Water Works activity.


We advocate using recycled styrofoam only! You can collect styrofoam of all sorts, shapes and sizes from food and shipping packaging and them use them in creative activities such as Ready Made Styrofoam Sculptures. When using recycled styrofoam food trays, be sure to wash the trays in bleach before using them. Never use styrofoam trays that were used to hold meat.


Because Skilly-do activities can be messy, we recommend covering yourself, your child and your work area:

  • Cover up with old clothes that are already stained. Using these, you can create your own “art clothes” by wearing the same old clothes during each activity. They'll become a souvenir of the messy, creative times you spent time together!


Masking tape like this example and cellophane tape found here are often used in Skilly-do activities. Remember, masking tape can be painted over. Cellophane tape cannot. Try our Line Challenges activity for an easy, active way to have fun and be creative with just tape.


Tempera paint is water-based paint with vibrant colors. Here are the types we recommend:


Large jars are our preferred form of tempera paint. They are ready to use, no mixing needed. There's plenty on hand and it's perfect for diluting when needed. Just put a small amount of paint in a containers such as recycled cans, clean yogurt cartons, child-friendly paint pallets like this or small plastic containers with lids. We use the generic brands paint found here on Amazon, in dollar stores and discount stores. Try Fold-over Painting for a super quick and easy activity that's suited to painters young and old.


These are ready to use, no mixing necessary. They're also great for diluting as needed. Just squeeze the amount you want into a small container. You can find tempera paint tubes here online, in dollar stores and many discount stores. We go for the generic brands. They work just as well as name-brands.


These are the most convenient for a child’s use. They are actually dehydrated tempera colors in concentrated cakes. We like Crayola Watercolor Mixing Sets found here, but find that dollar store or generic brands work pretty well too. Also note, if the set comes with a little plastic brush, don't use it for kid-focused activities. Check out our Paintbrush section for age-appropriate specifics.

When buying a Tempera Paint Set look for:

  • Sets that aren’t too dry and hard. Try to make an indentation with your fingernail. If you can't do so, it's not best for young children. This is because it will take too much water and pressure with a brush to use easily.


Round toothpicks like these work best with our activities. They are stronger than the square type. You can give your toothpicks new meaning with our Celery Boats and Fruit Kebabs activities.


These materials are typically optional for our activities, adding a bit more pizazz to your child’s unique creations. They can be bits and pieces of glitzy braid like this found on Amazon, ball fringe like this example, multi-colored ribbons like these, rick-rack (also known as zig-zag) trim, a bag of sequins in assorted colors, bright colored turkey feathers like these or anything that adds interest. Go hunting around your house, your local fabric store, and second-hand stores for one-of-a-kind, affordable finds. Then, have fun adding these to your Popsicle Stick Puppets!

Who needs all this stuff anyway? Try one of our Pure Imagination activities!

For your convenience, we've linked to products that we use and love. 

Our materials guide contains affiliate links. We may get a commission if you choose to purchase from our recommended companies. Using these helps support Skilly-do and keeps us ad-free so, thank you!