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I used to keep a lot of basic craft supplies within reach of my boys - aged 3 and 5 - (crayons, paper, old boxes, scissors and yarn) but I found that they made a huge mess of it whenever I had my back turned. So now I keep everything up on a high but visible shelf, and get them down when they ask for them or when I think they could use some creative time.
We keep on hand:
crayons washable markers pencil crayons blank paper construction paper scissors glue pipe cleaners beads paint brushes watercolour pains tempera paints masking tape yarn stencils (well, until my younger one ripped them up) rubber stamps stickers one sketch book per kid googly eyes
and they are allowed to get anything out of the recycling that they feel like using.
My older son also collects odds and ends from around the house (milk jug lids, twist ties, broken stuff, buttons, dried pasta, ripped up magazine pages) in a box for his own purposes.
I really needed to get everything organized after the last move. I wanted everything in one location instead of all over the house. My daughter and her friends are always creating things, so this makes it easy. They can pull out the bins and have fun. We have vinyl flooring in the kitchen/dining room/sitting room area, so I don't have to worry about spills. ;) We have lots and lots of big messes. lol!
Great topic! I try to encourage the use of recyclables and/or natural materials for crafts by keeping an Invention Kit, which looks a LOT like your recycling bin. We consider them free art supplies! Rocks, sticks, pressed leaves/flowers, egg cartons, empty cereal boxes, dried beans, and seed pods can all be used for crafts. Just by having the Invention Kit in the house, I noticed my daughter started to think of new uses for things. It's a great way to cultivate creativity.
Okay, here's my question about binging nature inside: how do you keep it from getting everywhere? Or do you just clean up a lot of mess? Like yesterday we brought in some pine branches from our walk, and today they've been pulled apart and there's little bits of pine branches all over our living room carpet. Last week it was pine cone seeds everywhere. Another week I gave them a ball of yarn and they made my entire basement into a giant wool "trap" . . . Some days I'm okay with it, but some days I just feel like I run around picking up / making them pick up all day.
I keep everything in an end cupboard under the counter for the kids. However, it's usually always on the kitchen table. Sure our kitchen is always messy as soon as I turn around, but that is the joy of having little boys and they won't be doing it forever. (Or will they??!!)
We have crayons, markers, pallette paints, colored pencils, scissors, stapler, etc. and I just bought a new ream of paper yesterday. My oldest (7) loves to make paper people and draw a lot, so I find buying a ream of paper to be the cheapest. Everyday there are scraps of paper all over. I also invested in a Roseart 'travel' set that comes with crayons, pencils, markers, paper and a built on clip board. Perfect for the perpetual artist.
I really like the using recycling idea. Kids have so much fun creating stuff out of it.
My favorite place for art and craft supplies is IKEA, believe it or not! Every time I am there I stock up on rolls of paper, markers, chalk, watercolor paints, brushes and a ton of other things. I have found so many great, inexpensive things there.
I love it so much, I wrote a piece about it :) http://www.examiner.com/x-51199-Sacramento-Childrens-Crafts-Examine...
In the kitchen under the microwave stand we keep crayons, markers, paints, canvas, paper, buttons- lots of things that happen to be on sale or clearance. It's messy, and I have lovely drawings on most of the doors (because they are white like paper). We also have paint, a cheapo photo editing software and serif draw on the kids computer so they can create and print.