Fill your environment with exciting hands-on art materials and children will use their imaginations to explore the colors, forms, lines, and textures around them.

How to Set Up the Art Center

Provide a good light source to enhance children's work. Natural light from a nearby window is ideal. Also, try to locate your art center in a low-traffic area to cut down on accidental bumps, spills, and interruptions. Use low, open shelves so it's easy for children to get supplies by themselves. Make sure adult items like sharp scissors or permanent marking pens are safely out of children's reach.

Several child-sized tables with easy-to-clean surfaces can be used for daily clay play as well as rotating activities like cutting or collage. Keep at least one easel so children can paint every day. Make sure there's enough room so children can work on large projects and also come back to their work over a period of time.

If the floor in your room isn't washable tile, use a drop cloth or plastic shower curtain to carpet the art area. You'll need drying racks near the easels and a mop and a small broom near the smocks. Place a box for recyclable paper next to the wastebasket. Try to set up near a water source so children can wash their hands as well as clean the tables.

Provide lots of places where children can display their work. Feature works by famous artists to expose children to a variety of techniques. Just make sure they don't feel pressured to reproduce them.

Basic Supplies and a Little Bit More

Rotate a selection of materials including a variety of paper, drawing implements, paints and brushes, printmaking materials, adhesives, collage materials, clay and modeling tools, and accessories such as scissors, pipe cleaners, containers, and popsicle sticks.

Art Around the Room

Block Area

  • Supply cardboard boxes in many sizes, paint and brushes so children can create miniature or child-sized vehicles and buildings.
  • Offer construction paper, markers and scissors in case children want to make props.

Sand and water Area

  • Add water to the sand and provide containers children can use to mold and sculpt the damp mixture.

Woodworking Area

  • Offer glue so children can create lasting wooden sculptures. Place a basket of stickers and collage materials nearby.


  • Encourage children to create designs and patterns with parquetry blocks.
  • Offer snap blocks so children can make long, curvy outlines.
  • Supply crayons, oaktag, and scissors so children can design their own puzzles.

Dramatic Play

  • Keep a supply of construction paper and markers to design place mats, wall hangings, and so on.
  • Put only play dough, rolling coins, plastic knives, and plates so children can model and decorate baked goods.

Scientific Area

  • Supply colored pencils and index cards for children to sketch and document science experiments.
  • Display prisms so children can marvel at the changing colors.

Library Area

  • Put out markers, felt, and scissors so children can make favorite story characters for the flannel board.
  • Offer colored oaktag and crayons for children to make bookmarks and book posters.

Writing Centers

  • Have all sorts of art materials available so children can decorate special letters and illustrate dictated stories.

Outdoor Area

  • Offer big brushes and buckets of water to "paint" buildings walls and fences. (Just make sure children have waterproof smocks to wear!)
  • Use fat colored chalk to create murals and designs on the sidewalk.