Ask Design Mom: Organizing Kids’ Art Supplies

Ask-Design-Mom Question:
Help Design Mom! We can’t figure out how to organize our kids’ art supplies! I don’t want to use those catch-all plastic bin/drawer things, but we need to come up with something to (A) tame the clutter of reams of paper, notebooks, crayons, markers, stickers, paints, googly eyes, et al, and (B) keep it where the kids can get to it without our help (in other words, store it in such a way that it doesn’t stifle creativity). Any and all suggestions (from you and your awesome readers) would be so greatly appreciated. I’ve only recently reached the end of my rope with our current non-methods. Thanks a million, in advance, Laurie

Design Mom Answer:
What a great question, Laurie. I’ll bet 90% of moms have had to deal with art supply organization in one way or another. So I’ll start, but I’m positive Design Mom readers will have loads of smart ideas.

At our house we happen to have an old built in pantry cupboard in the dining area that houses all kid’s art supplies — Mom’s art supplies are in a completely separate space. The papers, a ream of white and a pad of construction, sit in neat stacks, and next to them are assorted bins for markers, crayons, feathers, glue, etc. Everything is on the lower two shelves providing easy access for all ages. Some of the bins are cute, some are practical. Some have lids, some are open-faced. Because I can hide it all behind the cupboard doors, I haven’t had to think hard about my containers.

Aware that most moms are not going to have access to a handy cupboard, I’d love to tell you about the best looking art supply storage I’ve come upon thus far:

In a friend’s home I saw a row of medium size galvanized buckets (similar to the ones pictured above) sitting happily in a row on a shelf. The buckets were maybe 7 or 8 inches tall, with handles, but no lids. The children of the home had done some quick and dirty decoupaging of the buckets with crepe paper, stickers, tissue papers, etc. Each one was bright and cute and random, endearingly done by small hands. In the buckets went the art supplies.

The buckets actually made two rows. One row sitting on the shelf, and one row hanging above the sitting ones. The homeowner attached a wooden dowel to the upper shelf to make a hanging rod, then just slipped some s-hooks onto the rod and hung additional buckets using their handles.

The hanging buckets ideas is so clever — easily adaptable to a storage situation where cupboards or shelves are not available or feasible. Just hang a cute café curtain rod on a wall within your child’s reach and hang the buckets there.

Not into decoupaging? The buckets would also be cute as their unadorned matte silver selves. Or, you could get them pre-decorated. 

For paper storage, you could install a wall-mount organizer next to the café rod.

That’s a start. Now for the good stuff: Dear Design Mom Readers, how do you handle your art supplies?

17 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom: Organizing Kids’ Art Supplies”

  1. I love the fira storage drawers at ikea–really beautiful birch, and 4 different configurations for 9.99 each. I just waxed them to let that luminous birch shine, but I’ve seen others paint them, and one blog (wisecraft maybe?) had paper glued to the front of the drawers. They can be wall-mounted or stacked.

  2. For very small items, I have wall-mounted metal strips (also ikea) and magnet-bottomed, clear-lidded spice jars (target clearance, but I’ve seen them elsewhere). I recently picked up a big printer’s type drawer at an antique fair that has tons of little compartments, but still need to decide where to use it (possibilities…)

  3. You mean the day will come when you can have all things accessible and not worry about little ones drawing on the walls etc? Happy thought indeed! Until then the plastic bins are in an out-of-reach cupboard.

  4. yet another ikea item we use: stainless steel cylinders–originally for utensils, i think. they’re perforated, look cool, and can house many, many markers, pencils, scissors, etc. you’ll find them with the kitchen stuff.

  5. i love the idea of using a plastic tool tote for crayons, pencils, pens. my sister does this and it works great for her 3 art minded kids. she arranges crayons by color for easy spotting and clean up.

  6. For the buckets I love the look of those empty paint gallons (and quarts and smaller sizes) available at Home Depot, crafts stores, etc.

    My little artist is still only one year old, and wasn’t too crazy about his first fingerpainting last week… but I’ve got plans for butcher paper rolls. I plan to have a pull-down roll attached to the wall, and another to a desk.

    I also love the idea of revamping the toy box with drawer dividers and cheap plastic boxes to hold crafting stuff. I’ve seen people using those hanging sweater storage things or shoe organizers on the back of a door.

  7. But the real storage challenge? Feeding tools and implements for the under 4 y old set.

    Not to mention the challenge of finding non-lame highchairs without spending more than a minivan payment.

  8. We found some really great stuff at IKEA in the Kitchen department. They have metal strips that you can attach to the wall and you can get all kinds of accessories that “hang” from the. They have shelves, metal buckets, boxes, etc. I put the crayons and pencils and paintbrushes in the silverware holders and use the boxes for smaller things. There are a million possibilities.

    We also us old formula cans that we put fun paper over the top of. These “live” in a closet so I don’t worry about them being cute…but we had fun doing them. The IKEA kitchen stuff that we have is hung on the wall, pretty low down, above the kids play table, everything is easy access (and when I don’t want it to be, I take it off the strip and put it away..)

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