Caroline Foss | Sep 19, 2017 | 0
The Best Arts & Crafts Supplies & Gift Ideas For Kids — From Toddlers to Teens
Looking for gift ideas for kids who love to craft? We’ve rounded up the top rated art supplies and craft sets for children, from toddlers to teens.
Welcome! We’re thrilled you’ve found our Unrivaled Guide to Non‐Toy Gifts For Kids Of All Ages. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but when it comes to presents that aren’t toys, this is the biggest, most extensive and straightforward gift guide on the Internet (toot toot).
In this guide we’ll be breaking down the best arts and crafts materials and gifts for kids of all ages – everything from the top art supplies to keep on hand, to full‐on craft kits and even subscription art boxes.
These are some of our favorite gifts because they promote open‐ended creativity, self‐expression, and even fine motor skills…and best of all, most can be done independently, making for some wonderful quiet time activity.
Like all of our What Moms Love Gift Guides, we’ve done extensive product testing, so you can rest assured that any of the items we feature are ones that will not only get your seal of approval, but more importantly, will get 2 big thumbs up from your child as well.
So whether you’re looking to simply stock up a craft area, or spark your child’s artistic imagination, we’ve got you covered with the best art and craft supplies and gift ideas.
Because this guide is fairly extensive, we’ve split it into different categories to help you access the information that matches your child’s age/stage as easily as possible – simply scroll to the section which interests you most:
- Best Art Supplies For Kids
- Best Arts & Crafts Gifts for Toddlers
- Best Arts & Crafts Gifts for 4–7 year olds
- Best Arts & Crafts Gifts for Tweens & Teens
But please note, there will be some overlap between the age categories. So if, for example, you’re looking for gift ideas for a 6 or 7‐year old, we suggest not only looking at the 4–7 section, but to also take a peek at the tween/teen category, because there will be items that could still be suitable (but will perhaps need a little extra grown‐up assistance).
Also, while we have listed the manufacturer’s recommended age for each product, many times your child will be ready for these items before that age. Ultimately you know your child best.
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best art supplies
Keeping open‐ended craft supplies in stock will save many a rainy day, and ultimately let your budding Picasso’s imagination soar.
We recommend designating a drawer, cupboard or complete art table area and stocking it with a fun variety of materials like felt, googly eyes, pom poms, pipe cleaners, washi tape, tissue paper, popsicle sticks and construction paper. If you’re short on space, these amazing ArtBins can fit enough supplies for hundreds of projects, and give your kids easy access for whenever they get the urge to craft.
RELATED: All of our tips for creating the Ultimate Homework Station can also be used for making an incredible Art Area – take a peek here for some major inspiration!
Alternatively, instead of buying everything piece‐meal, there are fabulous pre‐made art kits that come with all sorts of different materials. Our favorites include the Kid Made Modern Arts & Crafts Library and ALEX Toys Giant Art Jar.
As far as the basics like crayons, markers, paints and pastels, we’ve listed all of our top rated products below. Browse through them and add a few new items to your art arsenal. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh new pack of markers to get our kids’ creative juices spinning again:
(1) Honeysticks Beeswax Crayons: We love these Honeysticks as a first crayon for toddlers (especially those who may still put things in their mouths). They are safe and non‐toxic, made from 100% pure New Zealand beeswax and Food Grade colored pigment. They come in a variety of shapes/sizes – all of them are easy for little fingers to hold, but difficult for them to break.
(2) Watercolor Crayons: These Jar Melo Baby Roo Silky Crayons certainly live up to their name: kids love the feeling of how easily they glide onto paper. They are non‐toxic, washable and the best part – can be transformed into a pastel or watercolor just by adding a little water. They also have a rotatable body so no need to mess with tearing paper sleeves.
(3) Colored Pencils: When your kids are ready to graduate from crayons, invest in a quality set of colored pencils as the difference between these Premier Prismacolors and your average joes is like night and day. These have richly saturated pigments that go on easily (kids don’t have to press hard) and are great for blending and shading.
(4) Watercolor Pencils: Take your colored pencils to a whole new level with these amazing watercolor pencils. You can use them like a regular colored pencil, but the magic happens when you add water. Try dipping the tip into water to get a creamy, vibrant texture, or take a wet brush over your work and blend all your strokes and colors together for a super impressive result. Our kid testers could not get enough of these!
(5) Crayola Washable Finger Paints: These finger paints are non‐toxic and easy to wash off from skin and clothing. Squirt them directly onto paper for a fun sensory painting activity!
(6) Crayola Washable Kids’ Paint: You can’t beat the vibrant colors of Crayola’s non‐toxic water‐based paints. This set includes 10 classic colors perfect for brushes, stamps or sponges. Try dabbing a little of each color into a small painter’s palette…kids love feeling like a true art‐eest!
(7) Watercolor Paint Set: If you’re looking for a less‐mess paint activity, this Prang 16 color watercolor set is quick to set‐up (all you need is a brush and water) and can be put away just as easily…simply close up the palette!
(8) Melissa & Doug Jumbo Paint Brushes: These extra‐large brushes are perfect for toddlers who may still be learning how to hold their tools properly.
(10) Spill Proof Paint Cups: We find these cups extremely useful – not only for keeping unused paint fresh (thanks to the air‐tight lids), but also to fill with water to use for rinsing brushes. The hole in the top keeps heavier brushes from knocking over the cup, and if it is accidentally knocked over, the spill is drastically less. They also fit perfectly in our recommended easel (see below).
(11) Long Sleeve Art Smock: Although our recommended paints are washable, an Art Smock is never a bad idea. This one has long sleeves and a fun pouch – so supplies are always within an arms’ reach. It easily wipes clean, but can also be thrown into the washing machine for a more thorough wash.
(12) Clear ContactPaper: Although it may not look very exciting, contact paper can be transformed into some pretty awesome crafts. Our favorite: have your kids use tissue paper to make a pretty sun catcher!
(13) Oil Pastels: If your kids are growing tired of crayons and markers, try them with this set of Oil Pastels which offer kids the ability to blend colors together with smooth, creamy strokes.
(15) Crayola The Big 40 Washable Markers: All markers aren’t made alike and it’s hard to beat Crayola’s selection of colors. We love this big set which includes all different shades of the rainbow…and all are ultra‐washable.
(16) Crayola Pip Squeaks Telescoping Marker Tower: We love Crayola’s Pip Squeaks line, which are great for smaller hands and for taking on‐the‐go. This Telescoping Marker Tower gives you easy access to all colors, and makes for a much more impressive gift than your ordinary package.
(17) Crayola Brush & Detail Dual‐Tip Markers: For kids that have outgrown the need for washability, this set offers 16 dual‐ended markers with a brush tip for thicker lines, and an ultra‐fine tip perfect for details in “adult” coloring books. They come in a great storage tin and received rave reviews from our testers.
(18) ALEX Color Changing Markers: Abracadabra! Kids go crazy for these interactive markers. They can be used to draw and color like a regular marker, but then magically transformed into a different color ink using the magic wand marker. We love this set as it includes 2 magic wands, and the color changes are crisp and intense.
(19) Gel Pens: A set of gel pens makes a great gift for tween/teens to use for doodles, detailed coloring books or writing in their diary.
(20) Crayola Inspiration Art Case: If you’re looking for an impressive gift that’s a great value, look no further than the Crayola Inspiration Art Case. It includes 64 Crayons, 20 Colored Pencils, 40 Washable Markers (plus paper) all in a sturdy storage case. It’s a fantastic starter kit, and also great to take on the road.
(21) Sidewalk Chalk: We love the possibilities that lie in a simple piece of sidewalk chalk. So much so, that we wrote a whole post about it…from learning, to fun photo opps, what you can do is limited only by your imagination.
RELATED: 101 Genius Sidewalk Chalk Ideas
(22) Playdoh 10‐Pack: When you don’t have time to make your own, freshen up your supply with this Playdoh 10‐pack so you always have some handy when bad weather strikes. Although there’s a ton of great Playdoh sets on the market (some of our all‐time favorites are the Dr. Drill ‘n Fill, Pizza Party and Sweet Shoppe), we find the best open‐ended play is with a quality set of Playdoh tools (this 5‐piece starter set or these wooden dough tools are both stellar) which can cut, shape, sculpt and flatten dough into whatever your child imagines.
(23) Glue Sticks: We can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone to start a craft only to find all of our glue sticks dried up and unusable. They key is to stock up (and always keep a stick or two in hiding so they can’t all be subjected to a missing top!). This Early Learners Washable Glue Stick is one of the best – it’s easy for kids to independently open/close the cap, is washable, non‐toxic and thanks to the triangular shape, doesn’t roll away. It also goes on purple (but dries clear), so it’s perfect for younger kids to see where they’ve already applied the glue.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Easel: Young artists delight in having their very own workspace to scribble or draw to their hearts content. This deluxe easel from Melissa & Doug is our top performer and jam‐packed with features. It includes 2 different sides: a chalkboard and a dry erase board, which allows more than one child to use it at a time. Furthermore, the chalkboard is magnetic which really sets it apart from the competition, as it provides a completely new way to play (and letter and number magnets are even included!).
It comes equipped to hold a roll of easel paper, which can be easily pulled through to either side of the easel, and then neatly torn off against the top of the frame. There are 2 removable trays to keep art supplies close at hand, and it folds together to save space when not in use.
3‐Tier Rolling Storage Cart: OK, starting to wonder “where am I going to put all of these new art supplies?!”. We love, love, love this 3‐Tier Metal Rolling Storage Cart. The large baskets are great for papers, coloring books and larger supplies, and the smaller bins on the sides help keep markers, paint brushes, glue, etc. neatly organized. With 4 casters, you can simply wheel it over to your child’s chosen work area, and then store it out of the way when craft time is over. (editor’s note: for kids who love to craft, this cart would make a very special gift stocked to the brim with supplies!)
Art Bin: But if you’re looking for a smaller storage option, these Art Bins fit a surprising amount of supplies, and the tackle‐box style compartments keep everything neat and tidy.
Best First Crafts for Toddlers
Finding arts and crafts suitable for toddlers can often be tricky – many are too advanced for them to do independently, and others aren’t engaging enough to hold their attention for more than a few minutes. The ones we’ve selected hit the sweet spot for age appropriate steps, and were highly engaging to our toddler testers.
We also gave our moms’ opinion a great deal of weight in this category. Although we love to give our kids the freedom to get messy with shaving cream and paints, we found less‐mess activities were highly coveted and used far more often. Therefore, the majority of our top craft kits and supplies for this age group are easy to set up and require minimal clean‐up (can we get a virtual high five for that?!).
ALEX My Giant Busy Box (3+)
If you’re looking for fun and engaging “pre‐packaged” crafts that don’t involve any planning or trips to the craft store, the ALEX My Giant Busy Box is the perfect solution. Inside you’ll find 16 projects that range from creating paper bag puppets, tissue paper pictures, sticker art, collages and moldable dough animals.
The visual instructions are super simple to follow and everything fits nicely inside the large box for storage. We found this set one that our testers came back to again and again, completing 1–2 crafts at a time over the course of several weeks/months. It’s one where you’ll definitely get your money’s worth!
Do‐A‐Dot Markers (3+)
These genius Do‐A‐Dot Markers are must‐haves for any toddler. They’re easy to grasp and have a circular sponge tip that can be “stamped” to create a perfect dot, or dragged to cover more area. The colors are bright, the ink dries quickly, and kids just love to dab them and create their own abstract art. Try using them for practicing counting or layering the colors to teach color mixing.
They come in a variety of different color packs, including the classic rainbow, and this super fun Ice Cream Scented set (think Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy). We also highly recommend the Do‐A‐Dot Play & Learn Activity Book where kids can use their Do‐A‐Dot markers to create letters, numbers and shapes.
Orb Factory My First Sticky Mosaics (3+)
These My First Sticky Mosaic kits from The Orb Factory will result in plenty of quiet time as your child works to create an image using sticky foam, jewel and fuzzy “tiles”. They require kids to match colors and shapes and are a terrific fine‐motor activity. Each set comes with 4 projects, and are available in a variety of themes to match your child’s interests, including Rescue Vehicles, Princess, Zoo Animals and Fairies. (editor’s note: these are one of my go‐to birthday party gifts for this age group…they are loved by both kids and moms alike!)
Crayola Color Wonder Mess‐Free Products (3+)
If you’re even the slightest bit nervous to hand over a marker to your little one (or have had the joy of scrubbing it off of walls or furniture), Crayola has come to your rescue with their brilliant Color Wonder products. Their special Color Wonder markers only work on Color Wonder Paper – they won’t stain skin or fabric so there is never any mess! We have no clue how they work, but it is sheer genius and allows toddlers to freely create (without you watching them like a hawk), just like the big kids.
We suggest this Color Wonder Starter Kit which comes with 2 Color Wonder Pads and 20 Color Wonder mini markers. These are fabulous for carrying with you to use at restaurants or traveling. They also make a huge range of character‐themed coloring books – so you can still satisfy your Paw Patrol, Princess or Mickey Mouse lovers.
This line of products also extends to stamps and paints, using the same mess‐free magic. The Color Wonder Art Desk with Stamps was a fan‐favorite in our testing, as was the Color Wonder Magic Light Brush which turns clear “paint” into different colors using a light‐up brush – major wow factor with this one!
Melissa and Doug Water WOW! (3+)
Speaking of magic, the Water WOW! books from Melissa and Doug are just that. These travel‐sized activity/coloring pads come with 4 chunky pages and a refillable water brush that magically makes colors appear. But as it dries, the page turns back to white, so your kids can use them over and over again (editor’s note: I own a variety of these books and they have been “painted” countless times…probably hundreds! And they still work perfectly. There is one in my purse at all times!).
These are fantastic for cars, restaurants, planes, grocery store carts…essentially any time you have a “waiting” moment. And we found kids are so fascinated by them that every time they’re pulled out, they get excited to “paint”.
There are plenty of designs – the “coloring” style ones have fun things to find within the picture as it’s colored, and there’s also educational ones to help your child learn Letters and Numbers…even Flash Cards!
AquaDoodle Classic Mat (2+)
Along the same lines as the Water WOW! books, the Aquadoodle lets your kids turn water into color. The Aquadoodle, however, super‐sizes the fun with a large mat that can be used anywhere as it’s mess‐free. Simply fill up the Aquadoodle pen with a little water, and your child can doodle away on the mat – and depending on where they draw, the water will turn red, blue, green or purple. Once it dries, their doodles disappear.
Our tester’s loved that they could draw lying on their bellies, and with extra Aquadoodle pens, it’s a great activity that multiple kids can do at once – perfect for siblings and play dates!
Kwik Stix (3+)
These solid tempura painting sticks are nothing short of genius – now your toddlers can paint without any set‐up or mess involved. Just twist up the Stix and use it as your paintbrush – the colors come out bold and smooth and they dry almost instantly (editor’s note: I love that you can easily stack your child’s finished artwork without having to lay it out to dry!).
No more brushes to clean, and Kwik Stix can be used on paper, cardboard or even wood (although hopefully not on your furniture!).
They come in a huge range of colors and can be overlapped and mixed to create even more.
We tested a few spots on clothing and it washed right out – hurrah! Genius invention.
B. Toys Pop Arty! (4+)
If you’re looking for a creative jewelry making kit for the 3‐year old age set, the B. Pop‐Arty is perfection! This kit comes with fun snap beads of all shapes, colors, textures and designs that can be popped together to create bracelets, necklaces, rings and other trinkets. Best of all, they are completely re‐usable – simply pop them apart to create new designs.
Our testers spent a lot of time creating and re‐creating with these beads, and we love that they come in a sturdy storage container for easy clean‐up. As a bonus – the motion of putting the beads together and pulling them apart is great for developing finger strength, fine motor and hand‐eye coordination!
Please note: because of the smaller pieces, the manufacturer’s recommended age is 4 years old. However, 3 year olds that do not put things into their mouths (and with supervision) will be quite capable of creating with these.
best art books + small sets for Toddlers
But wait, there’s more! We also highly recommend the following books and smaller art sets to keep on hand for quiet time activities, rainy days, or just to pull out when the going gets tough!
(1) Melissa & Doug My First Paint With Water: All your child needs to paint is a little water and a paintbrush with these very cool books which have the paint printed right onto the pages. Kids love to see the colors appear!
(2) ALEX My First Scribble: This large “scribbling” pad makes the perfect first coloring book for your tot. The simple illustrations aren’t overwhelming and allows their creativity to flow freely. The front/back covers are thick and sturdy and it even comes with 65+ stickers.
(3) Melissa & Doug “Make A…” Sticker Pads: These large scale “Make A…” series sticker books give kids hundreds of stickers to make their own scenes. Our kid testers especially enjoyed the Make‐A‐Meal pad, Sweets and Treats, and Make‐A‐Face (the results of the latter can be quite hilarious!)
(4) Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads: We also love these Sticker Pads that come with 5 glossy background pages and tons of reusable vinyl clings that “stick” to them. Your child can create their own scenes over and over again! The clings also stick to windows and dry‐erase boards for additional play options. These Sticker Pads come in a variety of different themes, including Play House, Animals, Vehicles, Princess Castle, and our favorite, My Town.
(5) Priddy Preschool Color & Activity Book: There are lots of simple puzzles (matching, connect the dots, counting), pictures to color, and stickers in this activity book which is perfect for 2–3 year olds. High‐quality thick paper and educational content made it a parent and toddler favorite.
(6) Usborne First Sticker Books: These beautifully illustrated “complete the scene” stickers books were easily one of the stars of our testing. The colors are bright and the stickers are just the right size for toddlers to handle (and most could peel them off by themselves – woohoo!). There are a variety of different themes available including Zoo, Under the Sea, Airport and Princesses.
(7) Melissa & Doug Wooden Stamp Sets: Melissa & Doug have a huge assortment of fantastic wooden stamp sets that are great for building fine motor skills and for jump starting your child’s imagination. For toddlers we suggest the Happy Handles and “My First” stamp sets which are all super easy for little fingers to hold (without getting them covered in ink!).
Best Arts + Crafts for Kids Age 4–7
We admit, the amount of arts and crafts options for this age group is pretty darn overwhelming. But that’s where we come in – we’ve done all the leg work and included only the best items to make your decision quick and painless.
We tested countless products, and when making our final selections for this guide, we took many factors into consideration, including:
- Duration – how long did it take our testers to complete the craft. Ultimately we looked for the “sweet spot” that was in between being too quick (where you don’t feel like you got your money’s worth), and too long (where kids’ lost interest before finishing).
- Independence – were there age appropriate steps that can be done with minimal grown‐up assistance?
- Fun factor – did the kids want to keep doing it?
- Longevity – was it a one‐and‐done craft, or one that they can do over and over again?
- Usability – bonus points for crafts where the outcome was actually useable!
Orb Factory Plush Craft (5+)
This is one of our favorite crafts for kids in this age range and one that is so universal that we always stock pile them for birthday party gifts. Kids absolutely love creating these plush pillows/stuffed animals, and because there is no sewing involved, they can complete the whole project by themselves.
The pillow comes printed with a numbered legend which corresponds to different colored fabric pieces. Kids use a special stylus to punch the fabric into the pillow – it’s simple, but highly addicting…you’ll want to do it too! And the end result is something they’re not only proud of, but can be used to decorate their room.
Perler Beads (6+)
These colorful beads are nothing short of genius for craft‐loving kids, and our testers were transported away for hours (seriously!) creating trinkets and treasures with them.
There are many different sets to choose from to cater to your child’s interests – from rainbow ponies to race cars, but we’ve found the Tray ‘n Cards Pattern Kit for Classic Beads to be the most attention‐holding product. This set comes with a large see‐through pegboard and 32 patterns that fit underneath in a sturdy tray. Snap them together and your child can add the corresponding bead colors based on the pattern. They can make awesome detailed creations while working on hand‐eye coordination and fine‐motor skills.
We suggest investing in a large bucket of beads to accompany this set like the Perler Beads 11,000 Count‐Multi‐Mix. If your child becomes a little bead‐a‐holic like ours, you can purchase additional Pattern Pads for extra designs and the ultimate Bead ‘N Carry activity center which has a snap‐shut lid for protecting any unfinished projects and mini compartments for color sorting the beads (which alone can keep your child busy for hours!)
Perler also has a Junior Tray ‘n Cards with larger “Biggie Beads” that are a perfect introduction for younger kids (recommended 4+), especially those with older siblings working with the classic beads who just want to be part of the fun.
These Perler Beads also make great necklaces and bracelets by threading them onto string or pipe cleaners. Another great activity for quiet time!
We tested A LOT of bracelet making kits, and the Loopdedoo was one of the only ones we felt was simple enough for this age group to fully enjoy. Although the manufacturer’s recommended age is 8, with only a little grown‐up assistance to tie‐on/off the bracelet, our 5–7 year old testers were easily able to use this cool spinning tool to make really impressive looking friendship bracelets.
The Loopdedoo instruction booklet is easy to follow (there’s also online videos which our testers found helpful) and gives you several different styles you can create. Kids have free reign to choose the thread colors and thickness they’d like, and just by twisting the tool’s knob (no batteries required!), they can make a bracelet in just a few minutes – no repetitive weaving or heavy concentration needed.
There’s also separate add‐on sets available including fun charms, a necklace/belt kit, and a headband expansion kit. If you’re buying this as a gift, include this amazing rainbow pack of embroidery floss (over 100 skeins!) so they can keep on creating.
Crayola Light‐up Tracing Pad (6+)
The Crayola Light‐up Tracing Pad was one of the most universally enjoyed items we tested, appealing to a wide range of ages and abilities, and both boys and girls. It gets cool‐points for looking like a tablet, and is super easy to use. Simply turn on the bright LED light, place one of the included tracing sheets on the surface, then use a blank sheet and pencil to trace over the image. Each Tracing Pad comes with 10 themed tracing sheets (sports/concert or fashion/horses) which include a main scene plus “accessories” (think different clothing items, hair styles, etc.) that can be added on top to create a customized picture.
There’s also a wide selection of additional tracing sheets available to print for free at Crayola.com/tracing. But really, you can use any image on the tablet to trace – a page from their favorite story book, coloring book or other website printable…the LED light is so bright that it can penetrate even a high‐quality paper thickness.
Our kid testers were really proud of the detailed pictures they were able to create and spent a long time working on them – a wonderful quiet time activity that can be used over and over again.
Make Your Own Stepping Stone Kits (6+)
Want a fun and engaging craft that won’t end up in your trash can? Make your own stepping stone! These mix, mold and imprint kits create beautiful stepping stones that become personalized keepsakes for your garden. Some of our favorite sets we tested were the Mosaic Star (includes real stained glass), Garden Mosaics, and Made By Me Mix & Mold (great bang for your buck with enough to make 4 stones).
Now if you’re not up for the mess of molding your own, these Paint Your Own Stepping Stones from Mindware are equally fun and come out looking great. These stones are ready to paint straight out of the box, and can then be baked in your oven for a weather‐resistant finish.
Consider making several stones and have your kids give them as gifts – they make a special meaningful present for Grandparents or other family members, especially if they include your child’s handprint and name!
Illustory Book Making Kit (4+)
If you have a budding author or illustrator, the Illustory Book Making Kit will be a massive hit. This kit allows your child to write, illustrate and then publish their very own, full‐color, professionally printed hardcover book. You should see some of the masterpieces our testers made, and they were SO proud of the finished product (and their moms were equally excited to have such a beautiful memento to keep forever).
Illustory includes ready‐to‐use cover, story and illustration template pages, 10 markers and a postage‐paid envelope to use when sending in your story to be printed. If your child gets stuck on where to start, it also comes with a writing guide with book ideas, story planning, and additional tips to help spark their imagination.
One of their favorite parts: the “About the Author” feature on the back cover.
There’s also a Comic Book Making Kit for those that would prefer to create a graphic novel!
Pirasta Really Big Coloring Posters (3+)
Super‐size your child’s coloring with these Really Big Coloring Posters from Pirasta. Roll them out on the floor, dining room table, or hang it on the wall for hours of detailed coloring fun (if you’re anything like us, you’ll find it hard to resist helping too!).
And bonus – they’re made in the USA and printed with vegetable ink on recycled content paper!
ALEX Toys Color a House (4+)
Talk about a craft that’s fun to play with – just look at this adorable little hideaway! ALEX Toys Color a House is super easy to assemble (although it will likely require your help), and your kids can then color and doodle away for hours upon hours, decorating it to their hearts‐content.
It doubles as a fun playhouse with interactive features like an open/close mail slot, birdbath and peekaboo skylight. Put this in their playroom and you may not see them until dinner time.
It comes with 6 twin‐tipped markers, but you could use any marker, colored pencil or crayon that you’d like (our top recommended Kwik Stix were also fantastic for covering larger areas).
Made By Me Create Your Own Window Art (6+)
Your kids will love decorating their bedroom windows with the colorful sun catchers and window clings they make with this Create Your Own Window Art kit.
It comes with enough supplies to create 2 different ways. First, your child can use the included paint tubes to fill‐in the pre‐made sun catcher templates – the raised outlines keep the paint in place so they turn out quite professional looking. They can then be displayed using the enclosed suction cups and cording on any glass or mirrored surface.
The second way is to use the black paint to trace illustrations from the design booklet onto an acetate sheet. Once the outline is dry it can then be filled in with colored paint and peeled off the sheet to become a window cling.
The sun catchers are definitely easier for younger kids to master, but with a little practice the window clings were what our kid testers came back to create multiple times. Overall a solid kit that is great to keep in stock for a rainy day.
Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics (5+)
The final outcome of these Sticky Mosaics projects are pretty impressive, with hundreds of small tiles being used to fill‐in large cut out designs. Kids can work on them independently thanks to an easy‐to‐read number legend, and easy‐to‐peel, thick foam mosaic stickers (some sets even include gems and jewels).
Each set comes with 4+ projects and they come in a variety of themes, including Puppies, Unicorn Magic, Ballerinas, Jungle Animals, and this really cool Dinosaur one where you can make 3D figures. They even have Sticky Mosaic jewelry boxes!
Melissa & Doug Decoupage Made Easy Sets (6+)
We were really impressed with the quality and outcome of these Decoupage Made Easy Sets…and yes, they actually live up to their name! We had 5 and 6 year olds easily creating these super cute paper‐maché looking animals all by themselves.
The set comes with pre‐cut stickers in a variety of sizes and coordinating colors/patterns that can be stuck on and overlapped to completely cover the animal figure. After a coat or two of decoupage glue is spread on, and eyes and nose stickers attached, the craft is complete and ready to use or display.
Creativity for Kids – Wee Enchanted Fairy Garden (7+)
Everything your child needs to create their very own Enchanted Fairy Garden is included in this set, which got rave reviews from our testers. You start by painting the potting dish, fairy house, and toadstools, and then add soil, gemstones, flowers, butterflies, and fairies of course! With just a little water and sunlight, kids can watch the “magic bean” and wheat grass seeds begin to grow in just a few days.
The kids became very attached to their gardens, and enjoyed watering them and rearranging the components for their fairy. Once the vegetation got tall enough, they also found it pretty fun to give it a “haircut” with scissors! Overall, the plants seemed to last about a month before they had to be tossed – but the dish and accessories can be used over and over again.
Ed Emberley’s Drawing & Art Books (6+)
Ed Emberley’s drawing books are pure genius. Kids love following his easy‐to‐follow instructions on how to draw anything from a lowly ant, to an elaborate monster – all by adding simple lines and shapes one at a time.
You’ll be blown away by the pictures your kids will draw after using these books, and they are so addicting (we may, ahem, have been caught “testing” them out after bed time a few times). We have tried almost all of Mr. Emberley’s books and recommend Ed Emberley’s Complete Funprint Drawing Book as a great starting point as it ups the fun‐factor by requiring a finger or thumb print for every drawing.
Usborne Sticker Books (4–6+)
For some reason, all kids seem to be enamored by stickers, but we’ve found that most sticker books fall short on truly engaging them for large chunks of time. Not these, however, from Usbourne – who make many of our favorite high‐quality, gorgeous activity/sticker books for kids.
For older kids (recommended age 6+) the “Build Your Own” series are totally engrossing. Pick your child’s favorite thing‐du jour (cars, trains, dinosaurs, robots, etc.) and you’ll find a book that lets you “construct” them with stickers – adding different parts and details to complete the picture.
For the younger set (recommended age 4+), we love, love, love their Sticker Dressing series, which takes the idea of paper dolls to a whole new level. Your kids can use the detailed stickers to dress up anyone from Knights to Pirates to Sports Players.
best art books + small sets for kids age 4–7
We also highly recommend the following smaller arts and crafts sets and books for this age range:
(1) Melissa & Doug Stained Glass Made Easy Kits: Another great peel‐and‐stick type craft are these Stained Glass Kits from Melissa & Doug where kids can create framed art or sun catchers using gel‐like puffy stickers. Note that there seem to be 2 different versions: some include the stickers laid out in the same position as the design, so kids just need to transfer them over. Others have a number legend that needs to be followed, which makes them slightly trickier for younger kids.
(2) Paint by Sticker Kids: These cool sticker books allow kids to create modern pieces of art simply by adding geometric stickers. Think of them as a no‐mess “paint”-by-number craft. They come in various themes including Zoo Animals, Unicorn Magic, Bugs and Under the Sea.
(3) Fold ‘n Fly: Paper airplanes have been around since, well, paper – and they’re great fun for kids once they know all the secrets to making fast flyers. This Fold ‘n Fly kit teaches them how to make 6 different kinds of planes, and includes fun paper, stickers and a folding tool.
(4) Great Pretenders Color‐a‐Cape: These awesome Color‐a‐Capes give you two presents in one: a detailed coloring project, and a fun prop for imaginative play. The cape comes printed with outlines of images (from Fairies, to Superheroes, to Princesses), that your child can bring to life with the 8 included markers.
(5) Melissa and Doug Wooden Bead Sets: Your budding jewelry designers will be in heaven with any of the Melissa & Doug bead sets – they all come with a variety of different sized/shaped beads, and strong cording with plastic ends that make it easy for kids to thread themselves. The Bead Bouquet was a favorite for the bright colors, and kids loved that they could use the Alphabet Beads to create personalized necklaces and bracelets.
(6) Doodle Books: For kids who are always asking “what should I draw?”, we found a fabulous selection of doodle‐style books which offer fun prompts and pictures to complete. Some of the favorites included the Star Wars Doodles, Marvel Doodles, and the Girls’ and Boys’ Doodle Books.
(7) Mudpuppy Make‐A‐Mask and Color‐In Crowns: We love the top‐quality puzzles from Mudpuppy so we had high hopes for these adorable color‐in masks and crowns, which we’re happy to report lived up to our expectations. The Make‐A‐Mask sets come with 8 themed masks with plenty of details to color, and the Color‐In Crowns include 8 crowns (2 designs). These make for great playdate or birthday party activities too!
(8) Dan Green “How To Draw 101…” Books: We tried a lot of the “how to draw” books for this age group, and few truly broke down the steps into simple enough strokes for them to enjoy. We previously mentioned Ed Emberley’s genius series, but Dan Green’s “How to Draw 101…” books are a close rival for providing easy to follow step‐by‐step instructions. Whether it be animals, funny people, or fairies, this series will give your kids oodles of confidence in their drawing skills.
(9) Mudpuppy Coloring Roll: Forget your run‐of‐the‐mill coloring books, grab one of these Coloring Rolls for 10 feet of beautifully illustrated designs. Our kid testers thought it was so fun to roll it out on the floor, and as parents, we loved that it can easily be rolled back up and stored in the box once they are done. Also check out Mudpuppy’s Activity Rolls which incorporate mazes, drawing and puzzles.
(10) Kid Made Modern Paint a Picnic: This creative kit includes 27 wooden food shapes and all the supplies you need to paint and decorate them. You can even paint the picnic basket and then use it to store your “food”. A fun craft and great addition to any kids’ play kitchen.
Best Arts + Crafts for Tweens + Teens
This age group is always tough when it comes to finding gifts and activities they’ll get excited about (that aren’t connected to a screen). However, we found some wonderful craft kits that kept them highly engaged, and allowed them to unleash their inner creativity. Here are the ones that topped our list:
Craftster’s Woodland Friends Sewing Kit (7+)
We tested several different “beginner” sewing kits, and the Craftster’s Woodland Friends was by far the best. The #1 advantage: pre‐punched holes in the felt which acted as a guide for stitches and made it easier for the needle to glide through. This kit comes with everything you need to make 5 adorable little stuffed animals (including pre‐cut felt) and easy‐to‐follow instructions – all in a portable carry case that’s great for storage.
For our 7–9 year old testers, each animal took about 45–60 minutes from start to finish, and boy were they proud of their creations (as they should be)! This makes a lovely gift and teaches kids a useful skill they can use throughout their lives.
There is also a Monster version where kids can create 5 little monsters and an iPhone case/wallet.
ALEX DIY Friends 4 ever! (8+)
This clever kit allows kids to make woven friendship bracelets by performing simple repetitive motions on the included foam tools. Using these color‐coded looms kids can make bracelets with 8 different patterns and it comes with over 20 colors of string, beads, and a storage case.
A few things to note: you will likely need to walk your child through the instructions to set‐up the looms, or have them watch the step‐by‐step videos on YouTube. But once they get the hang of how to move the strings, they can easily repeat them over and over again and watch the bracelets form. We will admit, the progress is slow‐moving. For many testers it took several rounds of working on the bracelet before it was complete, but all of them shared the sentiment of one of our 8 year olds who said “this is SO fun!”.
ALEX Guy Gear DIY Cobra Bands (8+)
When it comes to craft kits, it’s most definitely a girls’ world – the majority are full of pink, sparkles and jewels – so it was refreshing to see the ALEX Toys Guy Gear DIY Cobra Bands kit, geared specifically to boys. And much to our delight, this kit won rave reviews from the boys we had try it out (despite some of their initial moans and groans about bracelets being for “girls”…once they saw the box and how cool they turned out, they quickly changed their tune).
Once the kids learned the “cobra” knot, they were able to quickly finish a bracelet, complete with a nifty buckle closure. The kit comes with enough materials to make 5 bracelets, which the boys proudly wore after they were complete.
And yes, there is of course a version for girls as well.
STMT Ultimate Jewelry Set (8+)
The trouble with a lot of the jewelry making kits for this finicky tweens/teen age group is that the end result isn’t something they actually want to wear. Luckily, however, that is not the case with the sets from STMT, which include premium materials and modern designs, that turn out pretty darn professional.
The STMT Ultimate Jewelry Set makes for a really impressive gift due to its sheer size, and is loaded with all sorts of fun materials, including spiked beads, cowrie shells, colorful tassels, suede cording and alphabet beads. There are 15 different projects to create and we love that there’s an organized case for keeping all of the tiny beads under control.
These sets do require manipulation of very small beads, jump rings, clasps and pliers so we found that kids younger than 10 needed some assistance for some of the projects, but teens were able to do them independently.
Faber‐Castell Pottery Studio (8+)
If your kids have graduated from Playdoh, try them with the Faber‐Castell Pottery Studio which introduces them to the art of hand sculpted pottery. It comes loaded with clay, tools, paint, glaze, brushes, an apron and table cover, illustrated instructions and ideas galore. The pottery wheel spins with a battery‐powered foot pedal which kids looooove to use (but warning, it is loud!).
It does take some practice, but kids have a blast creating everything from pinch pots to figurines. It’s irresistible fun – so much so that you’ll want to get your hands messy and give it a try too (and we will say, it can get pretty messy). Old clothes and the table cover are definitely necessary!
Melissa & Doug Created‐by‐me Flower Fleece Quilt (6+)
Talk about a useful craft! This Flower Fleece Quilt starts as 48 square fabric pieces, but after a little patience and many knots, it can be transformed into an extra‐large, super cozy colorful blanket! If your child can make a knot, they can complete this project independently – and once they start, they’ll have a hard time stopping…the progress is exciting as their quilt takes shape and grows and grows. All they have to do is tuck the fringe pieces into slits, tie them together, and repeat.
If your child becomes as hooked as our testers, they may also be interested in the Make It Real Unicorn Hoodie Blanket which is made using a similar technique.
Rainbow Loom (8+)
Rubber band bracelets exploded onto the craft scene several years ago, and even though the craze has subsided somewhat, the fun of creating them has not. There are numerous different “looms” on the market to make these bracelets, but the one to get is the original Rainbow Loom. It not only comes with the loom, but a sturdy metal hook, a mini hand‐held loom, and over 600 bands to get started.
Although it comes with instructions, we recommend having your child watch a few YouTube how‐to videos so they can easily visualize what to do. This kit will allow you to make numerous different patterns, but if your kids get hooked (ahem, literally!), the Loom Band It book is fantastic for additional ideas.
Pair it with a massive refill bundle with over 11,000 bands in a neat storage container, plus beans, charms, clips and more!
Craft‐tastic The String Art Kit (10+)
This unique craft kit had one 12 year‐old girl exclaim, “I’m totally hanging this in my room!”. And we can’t blame her for wanting to display the final outcome – the String Art designs are colorful and just plain cool.
The kit comes with 3 different canvases with pre‐printed dots where you place your pins. You then wrap your string around the pins and repeat several times with different colors.
Learning to sew can inspire so much creativity in a child – having the skills to make their own clothes, toys, quilts and anything else their imagination dreams up can be so powerful. For children learning how to use a machine, we recommend the Janome Derby Line. It’s simple to use, includes 10 built‐in stitches, and has a nifty built‐in finger guard to keep them safe from the sharp needle. It’s light‐weight so kids can bring it anywhere, and they all love the bright color combinations.
And if you want to pair the machine with some inspiration, we highly recommend the amazing guide, Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make. The instructions and cut‐out patterns are simple enough for children aged 5 and up, and the projects include fun items like pillows, dolls and blankets. It’s all you need to get a child excited about sewing.
ALEX Toys My Chunky & Funky Scarf (7+)
The best learn‐to‐knit kit we’ve found for young kids is this My Chunky & Funky Scarf from ALEX Toys. The instructions are as simple as it gets, and the included knitting needles are shorter and thicker to make it easier for kids to maneuver them. The yarn is nice and chunky so they can see their stitches, and it can be used to knit a scarf and matching hat. A great simple set to get them started on their knitting adventure.
Best art books & small craft sets for tweens + teens
Looking for even more crafts? These books and smaller sets also tested highly with our tween/teens.
(1) Fashion Sketch Portfolio books: For kids with a love of dressing up and fashion, these Fashion Sketch Portfolio books will allow them to design countless outfits using the included sketch sheets, stencils and stickers. For those that are into American Girl dolls, be sure to grab this version!
(2) JustBe Charm Bracelet Kit: Perhaps the easiest jewelry making set on our list, all you need to create an impressive looking charm bracelet is to unscrew the clasp and slip on the charms and beads. There are enough supplies in this kit to make 3 bracelets, but they can be remade with different combinations over and over again. The set even comes with a really sweet little bamboo jewelry box to storage the charms and bracelets when not in use.
(3) Klutz Paper Flying Dragons: This book is a dragon‐lovers dream! Think of it as paper airplanes on steroids: with it kids can make and fly 12 really cool‐looking paper dragons. Although the instructions are very good, you’ll probably have to help those younger than 10, or those that may not have the patience to concentrate on the various steps. The book also includes neat dragon facts/stories. There are also Harry Potter and Star Wars versions!
(4) Kawaii Doodle Class: Cuteness abounds in this book which breaks down the steps of how to draw adorable little tacos, sushi, flowers and many more Kawaii characters. There’s also tips and inspiration for giving your drawings different facial expressions and accessories. Just try and get through it without saying “awwww, cute”!
(5) Coloring Washi Tape: Kids love decorating their school supplies with this awesome washi tape featuring detailed designs that they can color‐in. This one was really popular with the 8–14 year olds we shared it with, and even made it on our Stocking Stuffer Gift Guide! Pair it with an awesome set of gel pens so they can get straight to work.
(6) Melissa and Doug Stitch by Color: Thanks to the large pre‐made holes, colored lines and sturdy, easy‐to‐hold wooden board, these learn‐to‐stitch kits were by far the best we tested, and didn’t frustrate the kids like many of the other more advanced embroidery sets. The plastic needle has a rounded tip and is easy to thread with the included threader. Kids will learn 2 types of stitches and have a cute finished piece to display.
(7) Klutz Sew Mini Treats: For more advanced sewers, the Klutz Sew Mini Treats set gives you 18 small projects to stitch and stuff to create the most adorable little food plushies.
(8) Shrinky Dinks 3D Flower Jewelry: While we would recommend any Shrinky Dinks set, this 3D Flower Jewelry one stands out from the crowd. It comes with a special silicone mold to shape the Shrinky Dinks into flower charms that can then be added to the included necklace or bracelet chains, or made into earrings.
(9) On‐The‐Go “Adult” Coloring Book: These 8”x5” mandala‐style coloring books are the perfect size for taking on‐the‐go, and are available in a variety of fun themes including Christmas, Animals and “Fun”.
(10) Friendship Bracelets 101: Forget the looms, if you want your kids to make Friendship Bracelets the “old fashioned” way, this book will teach them how with clear step‐by‐step instructions and dozens of different ways to knot and twist patterns like chevrons, stripes, waves, zigzags, diamonds and more.
Best Arts + Crafts Subscription Boxes for Kids
For kids that are craft crazy, what could be more exciting than receiving new all‐inclusive crafts in the mail every month? These make amazing gifts (that really do keep on giving!).
We Craft Box
Every month the We Craft Box comes loaded with a themed story, coordinating craft materials, and easy‐to‐follow photo directions – essentially everything your child needs to start immediately creating. There’s a new theme with each box – from outer space, to Llamas and lollipops!
As a parent, it’s a completely stress‐free experience – no trips to the craft store, no searching online for creative activities, everything is already set‐up and thought through.
For older kids, these boxes can be completed independently, for younger children (under 6) they are fun to sit down and do together.
You can pay month‐to‐month or save with 3, 6 or 12 month prepaid subscriptions. They also sell single one‐off boxes that are great for keeping on hand for when you get hit with the “Moooom, I’m booored”s.
Kiwi Crate’s Doodle Crate (9–16+)
From one of our favorite subscription box companies for kids, Kiwi Co., Doodle Crate provides hands‐on craft ideas for kids ages 9–16+. They provide all of the necessary high‐quality materials and detailed instructions with each box – plus some fun design inspiration. But what really sets Doodle Crate’s crafts apart, are the creative techniques they teach – from Sumi‐e Ink Wash Painting to candle making. It’s like an art class in a box!
KiwiCo is very flexible and allows you to switch which crate your child receives at any time. Subscriptions are available on a month‐to‐month, 3‐month, 6‐month or 12‐month basis.
We hope we helped you find exactly the right arts and crafts supplies or kit that matches the interests of your child. If you’re still on the hunt for other gift ideas, be sure to check out our other Non‐Toy Gift Guides:
- Non‐Toy Gifts To Spark Creativity, Imagination &Special Interests
- Non‐Toy Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
- Non‐Toy Gifts For Making Memories
- Non‐Toy Gifts To Receive In The Mailbox
- The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
And don’t miss out on our awesome coupon book (from our Making Memories guide) — these are always a kid favorite! Click on the graphic below to download:
But wait, there’s more! If you love the idea of non‐toy gifts, but would still like to give something that IS a toy, you’ll want to head over to The Ultimate TOY Gift Guide For Kids. We’ve given our top recommendations based on extensive testing for functionality, longevity and fun (all based on your child’s current obsession!)
- The Best Vehicle Toys For Car, Truck and Construction Junkies
- The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
- The Best Gross Motor Indoor Toys For Active Kids (To Get That Energy Out!)
- The Very Best Babies, Dolls & Doll Accessories For All Ages & Stages
- The Best Doll Houses &Accessories For Your Doll‐Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
- The Best Princess‐Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
- The Best Gift Ideas for Super Hero & Star Wars Lovers
- 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies To Teens (That Aren’t Junk!)
And we’re always working on more (coming soon: The Best Personalized Gifts for Kids)
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