Hello, Friends! Lindsey of Café Johnsonia here with the second installment of Secrets to Living Well. Before school ended, I started making plans to stock my art supply cupboard, to keep my very active children busy this summer. About that time, Gabrielle sent me an email from a reader that said: Hi Design Mom, I would LOVE it if you would consider doing a post about art supplies. I always wonder what staples I should keep on hand.

If you’ve never set up an art supply cupboard before, it can be intimidating. Craft stores and art supply stores are huge! How do you know where to start? I thought this topic would make a perfect Secrets to Living Well post, because a well-stocked art supply makes it a thousand times easier to get creative with your kids.

So I got on the phone with Design Mom — she’s been raising creative kids for 14 years —  and we came up with a list of 15 Art Supply Essentials + 4 Helpful Secrets. Keep your cupboard stocked with our suggestions, and you’ll be ready for pretty much any idea your budding artists come up with.

These 15 items represent a beginners kit, geared toward younger kids, but I’ve included suggestions for upgrading the kit for older kids too.

1) Crayons.
You can go with classic Crayolas, gorgeous beeswax crayons, or choose an option like triangle crayons that are especially made for little hands to hold. Secret #1: Stock up during back-to-school season. Buying this all at once can add up! But if you shop sales in August and September, you’ll spot amazing bargains. Like a box of crayons for 25 cents!

Older kid upgrade: Cray-pas. They’re like an inexpensive oil pastel. They blend well and make really intense colors.

2) Colored Pencils.
Sometimes, crayons just can’t make the kind of details your little artist is imagining. That’s when colored pencils save the day. Colored pencils are so pretty, I like to keep several styles in a jar on my desk. The two styles pictured are here and here.

3) Markers.
The ones pictured are beautiful! But I recommend choosing washable markers for beginning artists.

Older kid upgrade: Sharpies. They’re permanent, so be careful, but they open up lots of new options for projects — like Sharpie tie-dye.

4) Coloring books
There are so many options out there! Sticker books. Character books from their favorite movie. I personally favor these Japanese doodle books, and Hervé Tullet’s scribble books.

Older kid upgrade: Give them their very own sketchbook.

5) Big Roll of paper.
Secret #2: Big paper = big ideas. Look for over-sized sheets or a wide roll. Remember Oscar’s horses? They have big impact because the paper was big.

6) Watercolor paints.
Watercoloring is interactive — dipping in water, wiping excess color off your brush, mixing colors. Some kids really love it! Note: always watercolor on the heaviest paper you have on hand.

Older kid upgrade: If you can see your kids enjoy painting, you could invest in a better quality paint set which will help them really learn to mix colors.

7) Construction Paper
The big sheets of solid colors spark ideas, and the paper is easy to cut.

Older kid upgrade: try patterned origami paper.

8) Scissors
Go with a safe pair. Secret #3: Stock extra scissors. Scissors are one of those items that get taken away from the art space to cut a loose string or a flower or whatnot. It can be super frustrating to reach for a pair of scissors and find it gone, so I recommend stocking multiple pairs.

9) Play Dough
Make your own at home. Or buy a naturally made version.

Older kid upgrade: Try bakeable Sculpey. You can use it to make all sorts of things. Even beads.

10) Craft Sticks
You never know what kids will come up with when they have a pile of crafts sticks in front of them.

11) Pipe Cleaners
They’re fun to fiddle with and come in handy at unexpected times — like connecting things when glue won’t work.

Older kid upgrade: If your kids love bending and shaping pipe cleaners and working with their hands, you could introduce embroidery floss and projects like friendship bracelets.

12) Googly Eyes
You will be shocked how often your kids will find uses for these. Secret #4: Googly eyes are irresistible. They make pretty much any art project a success. Use them to tempt your kids to the art table.

13) Glitter
Like googly eyes, glitter makes any project seem special.

14) Glue Sticks
Especially helpful for mess averse moms. I like using the purple kind with little kids, so they can see where they’ve applied glue.

15) Liquid glue.
When a glue stick isn’t cutting it, this is your go to. A liquid glue is also helpful when you want to dilute it.

Older kid upgrade: Mod Podge. Use it for all sorts of projects, like this decoupaged sketchbook.

There you have it! 15 essentials for your art supply stash, plus 4 helpful secrets. What do you think? Anything you’d add to the list? Other “upgrades” you’d recommend? I’d love to hear.