Art-making is a major part of child development. Not only does it enhance children’s motor skills, like hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity, but it can also boost their self-confidence. Additionally, art fosters creativity and encourages innovation, problem-solving and creative thinking.

For these reasons, creating art is a common activity in afterschool programs. Whether they’re dyeing carnations or squeegee scraping, students can enjoy fun, hands-on activities while receiving key physical and social-emotional benefits. To ensure you never miss out on an opportunity to create art, we’ve rounded up a list of must-have supplies to add to your art toolbox. Be sure to stock up on these items so that you’re always prepared for planned or impromptu art-making sessions.

1. Tissue Paper

Tissue paper comes in a variety of colors and can be used for a number of art projects and crafts. Students can fold, twist and create their own tissue-paper masterpieces or use it to enhance a craft or art project. It’s always good to have this supply on hand!

2. Glue

As the one supply that holds everything together (literally), glue is an important piece of nearly every art activity. What’s more, you have multiple options that work best depending on the project type and materials you’re working with:

3. Glitter

Need to add a little sparkle or shine to your art? Glitter is the answer! It comes in a variety of colors - including red, green, silver and gold - and can enhance any art project or craft with a small pinch.

4. Paint

Ready to get messy? Pull out the paint! Depending on your art style, there is a range of paints that you can use in your afterschool program:

  • Tempera paint: Works for a variety of painting techniques and provides excellent coverage on paper, cardboard, cloth or wood.
  • Watercolor paint: Mixes with water, causing it to be translucent and watery, and it’s best used on thick paper.
  • Acrylic paint: Thick and opaque, this paint is best used on paper, wood and canvases.
  • Finger paint: Typically slippery with a tacky feeling, and it works best with thick paper, like this tactile finger paint paper.

5. Paintbrushes

In most cases, it’s hard to paint without a paintbrush (unless you’re using your fingers). And similar to paint, there are different types of brushes you can use to add variety to your art projects. For example, you may consider design brushes to make different creative effects or foam brushes and rollers to create distinct patterns, like zigzags, dots, hearts or even solid lines.

6. Pipe Cleaners

All art boxes should be stocked with pipe cleaners, or chenille stems, as they can be used for a variety of crafts. They can be cut, bent and twisted into a variety of shapes, like flowers, animals and even cars. Even better, they come in an assortment of bright colors to add a “pop” to your art projects.

7. Construction paper

For many art projects, construction paper is the canvas for your art. That’s why it’s always good to have more than enough stored away for artmaking in afterschool. Beyond construction paper, however, there are other paper products that work better for certain activities, such as:

8. Buttons

Add dimension to your art project with an assortment of buttons! They come in various shapes - such as circle, square, flower, and heart - and can be used for sewing, stringing or gluing. Adding buttons to a piece of art is also great for building fine motor skills.

9. Mats

We all know that making art can get messy. That’s why you should always have some sort of mat on hand to make cleaning up as quick and easy as possible. You can collect old newspapers as DIY mats or try these Messy Mats that are waterproof, stain resistant and washable.

Bonus: Big Box of Art Materials

If you’re on a budget or simply strapped for time, consider stocking your art toolbox using the Big Box of Art Materials. This collection of supplies includes burlap, craft sticks, yarn, tissue strips, buttons, beads and much more! The kit has nearly everything you need to provide art activities for students, and it even comes with a teacher’s guide with both open-ended and directed projects.