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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best arts and crafts supplies

Last Updated May 2020

Whether you’re 3, 33, or 83, there’s something supremely satisfying about unleashing your creativity with a stash of arts and crafts supplies. There are so many options — paper or clay, painting or drawing, making jewelry or home décor — the only limitations are the borders of your own imagination. Perhaps that’s why even adults who haven’t indulged in crafts for decades feel a wave of nostalgia at the smell of a box of crayons or tub of Play-Doh, or can’t resist joining their young children at the crafts table.

But while we firmly believe that everyone can enjoy arts and crafts — whatever your age or gender, there’s some sort of craft you’ll love — it can be tricky to decide what supplies you’ll need, especially if you’re buying those supplies for a young child or for an adult who isn’t quite sure what art or craft will hit the spot. 

That’s why we’ve written this handy buying guide to choosing the right arts and crafts supplies for a wide range of ages and interests. Check out our recommendations and keep reading to find lots of ideas for your next project.

Young or old, it’s always enjoyable to exercise your creativity with an arts or crafts project.

What’s the difference between arts and crafts?

While there’s a great deal of overlap between arts and crafts, and many people consider the two to be the same thing, each word has a meaning of its own.

In general, an art form requires more creativity and talent, whereas a craft relies more on teaching and technique. Art is usually inspired by feelings, ideas, and experiences, whereas crafts often serve a utilitarian function as well as decorative purpose. Art is not easy to replicate, but crafts can be reproduced, even in mass quantities.

Examples of arts include painting and sculpture. Crafts cover pottery, jewelry making, basket weaving, sewing, embroidery and other needlework, knitting, paper-mache (papier-mâché), wood carving, and many other handiworks.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Keep an eye on very young kids while they craft, and step in as needed to assist with glueing or cutting.

Key considerations

Age range

Because the category of arts and crafts supplies is such a large one, it’s helpful to answer a few questions before deciding what to buy. The number one question, of course, is the age of the craft-supply user, but it’s also good to consider whether you want a kit that includes everything needed for a specific type of project, a mixture of craft supplies that can be used in any way desired, or arts supplies to further an already existing talent.

Preschoolers: If you’re buying supplies for very young children, perhaps hoping to have on hand some fun activities for rainy days or long summer breaks, it’s best to have a wide variety of simple yet versatile craft supplies, rather than focus on one or two project-specific kits. Let your preschooler’s imagination run wild with a selection of items such as the following: 

  • Colorful pom-poms

  • Popsicle sticks

  • Nontoxic clay

  • Nontoxic paint

  • Nontoxic glue sticks

  • Googly eyes

  • Stickers

  • Felt squares

  • Large pads of drawing paper

  • Colorful construction paper
     

There are many craft supply kits that include all of the above, plus much more, for hours of open-ended fun.

Elementary age: These children are typically at their peak of love for all things crafts related. This is the best age for project-specific arts and crafts kits because most elementary-age youngsters are able to follow simple kit directions on their own, and there is a huge array of crafts kits designed for kids ages 6 through 11. Many kids in this age group especially enjoy beading, loom weaving, paper crafts, woodcrafts, painting, and simple model-making kits.

Preteens: They might not want to admit it, but it’s still true that many preteens enjoy arts and crafts projects. When it comes to this tricky age, you’ll generally find two groups: those who have discovered a talent or liking for a specific artistic pursuit, such as drawing or painting, and those who simply enjoy making something creative, especially if the end result is an item they can wear or display. 

If your child is in the first group, a good-quality set of paints, colored pencils, charcoals, or pastels, along with a sketch pad or pad of watercolor paper is sure to be appreciated. If your child falls into the second group, they’re likely to enjoy a crafts kit for making jewelry, decorating clothing, building a model, or creating a perfume, soap, or other beauty supply.

Teens: By this age, the majority of kids have left arts and crafts behind in favor of their social life, the pressures of high school, and perhaps a part-time job. Still, there is a significant percentage of teens with a talent for drawing, painting, sewing, jewelry making, or some other handicraft, and they still enjoy pursuing their hobby when time permits. Professional-quality paints, paintbrushes, paper, drawing pencils, and ink pens are the best choice for kids with a flair for drawing or painting, while a box filled with colorful beads, a model-building kit, or a “make your own” kit are all options for the rest.

Adults: Who said that adults can’t enjoy arts or crafts every bit as much as children do? By adulthood, you probably know what you want to focus on, whether it’s something you’re already skilled at or a new hobby you’d like to try. Many adults are drawn to needlecrafts, including knitting and crocheting. Others love to quilt or sew their own clothes. Still others paint, draw, work with clay, or make jewelry

If you’re just giving a new hobby a try, consider a kit that includes all the necessary supplies along with clear instructions. If you have an established hobby you’d like to kick up a notch, such as drawing or sewing, treat yourself to professional-quality supplies and perhaps a lesson or two. Many colleges, community centers, and art-supply stores offer classes in a variety of hands-on arts and crafts.

EXPERT TIP

When choosing arts and crafts supplies, first consider the ages of those who will be using the supplies.


Staff  | BestReviews

Arts and crafts supply prices

Because the category of arts and crafts supplies is so large, it’s hard to define price ranges. Factors include whether the supplies are sold individually or as part of a kit, the quality of the supplies, the age range the supplies are intended for, and the type of item. 

Preschoolers: As a general rule, a big box of varied arts and crafts supplies for preschoolers costs between $15 and $30

Elementary age: Craft kits targeted toward these children cost anywhere from $10 to $30.

Adults: Craft kits for adults can cost $20 to $40.

EXPERT TIP

While young children tend to enjoy open-ended play with craft supplies, older kids and teens usually prefer a kit that creates something to wear or display.


Staff  | BestReviews

Simple craft project

While there are limitless craft projects out there, the following project for decorating a hanging mirror — an easy way to add a pop of color to the bedroom — is simple enough for elementary-age kids yet still very appealing to preteens and teens. Depending on the colors or patterns of tape you choose, the resulting mirror can fit with any décor and in either a girl’s or a boy’s bedroom.

Supplies: 

  • Large mirror designed to hang over a closet door

  • Scissors

  • 2 rolls of decorative duct tape

Choose duct tape (found in just about any crafts supply shop or online) that suits the user of the mirror. The colors and patterns are up to you, but make sure there is enough contrast between the two rolls of tape to clearly show in the finished project. One good method is to choose one roll in a pattern and the other in a solid color found in the pattern.

Once you have your two rolls of tape, there are a few different methods you can use to decorate the mirror.

  1. Cut different-size pieces from both rolls of tape, and randomly place the tape pieces around the mirror’s frame until the entire frame is covered. This is the best choice for younger kids or anyone who likes a wilder look.

  2. Measure the width of the mirror frame, and then cut pieces of tape the same length from both rolls. Alternate smoothing the two colors of tape in place along the mirror frame until it’s entirely covered in colorful horizontal stripes.

  3. Create tape stripes running vertically down the mirror frame. Start by cutting several long pieces of tape from each roll. Then cut the pieces in half lengthwise, and then in half again to create very skinny strips. Align alternating colors of tape side by side across the mirror’s frame, continuing until it’s completely covered.  

Working on a craft project is a wonderful way to relax. Unlike passively staring at a screen, you are actively engaging your mind and imagination.

FAQ

Q. What’s the best way to store my arts and crafts supplies?
A. It’s undeniable: craft time can be mess time, particularly when younger kids are hard at work. But it’s easy to keep arts and crafts supplies under control. Save any original boxes or canisters that serve to contain the supplies. If you don’t have the original box and want to keep supplies handy, a small rolling organizer cart with drawers holds all manner of small supplies, and rolls right up to the crafting table when it’s time to get creative. Baskets are another option, as are plastic storage tubs. Beading, drawing, and painting supplies are best kept in multi-compartment carrying cases.  

Q. Is it better to buy a kit or buy the supplies individually?
A. That depends. If you just want a big box of mixed supplies to keep your little ones entertained, it’s far cheaper to buy a kit than to purchase the items separately. Likewise if you’re just investigating a new hobby and need to start from scratch. But if you’re an accomplished artist or crafter who already has a stock of basic supplies, you’ll do best by buying just the items you need individually.

Q. Where can I find craft ideas?
A. Your own imagination is a great source of ideas for both arts and crafts, but it can be helpful to jump-start your imagination with an outside source, especially if it’s a new hobby. While many craft kits come with project ideas and directions, you can find plenty of inspiration online, including many videos demonstrating art and craft techniques for both beginners and experienced artists. There are countless websites devoted to all manner of arts and crafts, especially for children. And, of course, there are books on just about any craft imaginable, most with lots of project ideas.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Erica
    Erica
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michelle
    Michelle
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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