The ultimate art station for the whole family
Is doing an artistic project your worst nightmare? Are supplies thrown all over the house, making it difficult to even gather the right supplies? Do you dream of an autonomous solution?
Having a few creative art supplies available at all times can keep that little one busy, the budding artist blossoming, or the advanced artist perfecting their craft. Keep reading to learn more about the art station system that worked for our family (and add your own suggestions in the comments below!).
How to Organize a Family Art Station
I’ve tried a million and one systems over the years, but this is one that challenges my kids’ ability to scatter art supplies all over the house in a minute! We keep this art station close by for creative projects at the kitchen table or when we do something artistic in our homeschool day.
Family organization is still a work in progress, but this system also works for our wide age range. Try it and tell me what you think! What worked? What would you change?
Step 1: Get a 10 drawer rolling cart
This is the biggest expense for this project, but also the most important. You need a good quality 10 drawer rolling cart. Don’t skimp on it! This cart will be rolled and used often, so we want something that will hold up.
I still use the souvenir cart we bought at Michael’s Craft Stores years ago (bought with a coupon of course) and it still holds up great! You can order a similar version on Amazon here.
Step 2: Choose containers
The cart is the perfect filing system for art supplies, but we need a few other tools to pull it all together. Since I wanted this art cart to be a colorful and inviting space, I used clear divided containers to add another layer of organization to the cart. To add our color feature and make the most of the small space we use, you will need two of these split containers.
In these containers I can put more than 100 markers/colored pencils/crayons or gel pens. Thanks to the separators, you can even sort them by rainbow, which makes it even more visually appealing. They also have handles, perfect for little hands.
The other containers I recommend are these little tubs. They’re adorable I know, but they also serve a great purpose! You will need a set to divide your media drawer allowing each item to be in a specific place in the drawer.
If he has a designated home, the chances of the kids putting him back where he goes increases dramatically!
Point: Be sure to have your cart before ordering them to verify proper fit.
Step 3: Gather art supplies
It’s time to gather some art supplies! Chances are you already have tons of them at home! We rounded up the kids and asked them to chase all the art supplies from the house. We all want markers, crayons, crayons, water paints, pom poms, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, erasers, rulers…. everything.
We used the dining room table as a sorting station and separated them into stacks and sub-stacks according to this list:
- Writing utensils – subdivided into markers, pencils, colored pencils, gel pens, pens/pencils and others
- Tools – subdivided into cutting tools, adhesives, stencils and others
- Paper – subdivided by paper type
- Books/Kits – subdivided into coloring books, sketchbooks, stand-alone kits and others
- All Things Sticky – subdivided into stickers, decorative tape, jewelry, googly eyes, foam shapes and others
- Painting supplies – subdivided by acrylics, watercolors, brushes
- Everything else – subdivided by item
Milestone: Go through and discard all unusable items. Markers without a cover, small bits of pencil or colored pencils, torn stickers, coloring books without usable pages, etc.
Now we are building our Joy Creativity Station!
Step 4: Build your system
Our goal is for each item to have its own home, making it easy for children to use, enjoy and store. Can I get a Hallelujah!
Preparation writing utensils
Start by placing all of your writing utensils in the two divided containers. Depending on how many of each subcategory you have, you have several ways to approach this.
- If you have a large number of markers, place them all in a divided container, sorting them by color.
- If you only have a handful of each subcategory, you can create one subcategory per section.
- Or you can sort strictly by color.
Point: For younger kids, start by sorting the colors so they don’t have to wonder which section something goes in. The subcategories make sense to us, but younger people don’t always understand the difference between a gel pen and a writing pen!
Now place these beautiful colored bins on top of the rolling cart.
Fill the drawers
Next, we’ll start placing the rest of our supplies in the drawers.
Point: If you have more supplies than these drawers can hold, I suggest purging or creating a spare drawer. A stash bin is simply a plastic or fabric storage crate/bin that is used to store any extra art supplies in a more out of the way place. Once every few months you can check your art station and refill it from this stock bin. Having in-stock storage allows you to take advantage of all the great deals you find throughout the year without needing to know your immediate needs. It also helps kids use the old before they see the new.
Label the drawers as follows:
- Mixed media
- To paint
- ask first
Drawer 1: Tools– This includes all items like scissors, hole punches, stencils, large erasers, rulers and glue sticks
Drawer 2: Paper– This is where you will store the art paper for the kids to use. You can have a variety, or I suggest sticking with a bulk media paper that works in all areas, or for budding artists, card stock works great, is inexpensive, and easy to find.
Drawer 3: Ideas-This drawer is a spark of imagination. There should be a wide variety of guided activities in this draw in which children can create and explore. Think things like Finish This Picture, Destroy This Kind Of Diary, step by step drawing tutorials, color by number, just add water color pages, etc. Have 3-5 options for each type of activity and store the rest in the trash return stock. Too many options can be overwhelming and we want to keep it fresh and new by updating/rotating items in this drawer every 6-8 weeks.
Drawer 4: Tapes/stickers/self-adhesive supplies– This one is pretty self explanatory, it will have washi tapes, stickers, sticky foam shapes, googly eyes and anything that is already sticky and can be added to their art. Use these baby bins in that drawer to make sure it doesn’t become a messy mess.
Drawer 5: Mixed Media Supplies– Sort out all these crafting supplies and put them in their own homes. Think pony beads, popsicle sticks, pom poms, pipe cleaners, feathers, bits of string or yarn, anything crafty. Give them each their own trash can or space in the drawer. To note: Some families may need 2 mixed drawers. Also for advanced artists this drawer will be very different. It can be Indian inks, ink pads, pastels, graphite, wooden objects, etc.
Drawer 6: Paints and Brushes– This one is pretty self-explanatory! If you buy your paints in bulk or have a wide variety of different brands, it may be helpful to move them all into the same containers, something similar to this. Use these baby trash cans for your brushes here too. Point: If you have younger children, label it as “Ask the first drawer” as mentioned below.
Drawer 7: Storage of masterpieces– This is where all finished and in-progress masterpieces go after creation. Once in a while, schedule a time to sit down and go through that drawer with your artist. Send the masterpieces to friends and family, or use one of these ideas to preserve and display them for the family to enjoy!
Drawer 8: Ask first– This drawer is for the nifty stuff that tends to be a little messier. I like to use the bottom drawer for these items because kids tend not to see anything outside of their direct field of vision. It’s the one drawer in the whole cart that they have to ask an adult about before using it. Depending on the age of your children, this drawer may hold water paints, glitter, glitter glue, slime making supplies, or any other variety of supplies that they should only use with supervision.
As you may have noticed, this leaves you with two drawers for stock/overflow or other areas you find your family needs. Here are some other options:
- You may want 2 paper drawers, one for plain papers and one for printed and colored papers.
- If you have 2 or 3 children who often use the same station, have a Masterpiece drawer for each of them.
Of course, flexibility is important in any system. As children grow, their needs may change, so adjust this system as needed!
Voila, your glorious art cart is ready for your artists!
May your family have many creative adventures together!
Do you have an art station in your house? How do you organize art supplies?