Watching Ellerie make stuff will always be near the top of my happiest parenthood moments. I've talked about this a bit before...toddler crafting time is a lesson in patience more than anything else. But the fact that she is taking interest (and starting to take interest for longer) is so fun and exciting to me. I can ALMOST see the future where she has a little art table in my office and she sits for 25 minutes and MAKES while I sit and MAKE next to her. (Don't even get me started on the sometime in the future days where I get to teach her how to sew and knit and use 700 coupons at Jo-anns.)
Our craft supply philosophy around here is pretty relaxed. Nothing in her reach is off-limits. There are no "good supplies" or "kid supplies." There is no "special paper" or "scratch paper." I pretty much assume that if I am writing on something near her, she's going to want in on it (much of our personal mail goes out the door with scribbles). I have a bad habit of leaving Sharpies laying around so I can hardly blame her for using said Sharpies.
On the whole, this has worked for us. We've had a lot of pen on the wall encounters (easily painted over), but our rugs, carpet and furniture has somehow remained mark free. As she's gotten older I have consistently enforced that we color on paper and overtime, this has sunk in (she now knows where the computer paper is stored in my office and goes and gets a few sheets when she wants to color).
There are three go-to supplies that have really worked well for us and today I wanted to share them in case they're the right fit for your toddler or older child too. We use these daily here.
Alex Toys Jumbo Paints - I finally found a source for our watercolors! The amazon review is bad and I agree, the big plastic case is way too big. But. Ellerie LOVES it. We have used other watercolor sets and this one gets the most use for sure. I think she likes the huge circles to get the paint from. I love the color saturation and use this set too. I can't speak for stains because if we've gotten them on our clothes, I haven't noticed.
Melissa and Doug Jumbo crayons - this set is great. We have small Crayolas too but at this age they break or the paper gets in the way. For some reason Ellerie seems more excited to use these. She can also easily put them away which sort of becomes an activity in itself. Nothing beats the color saturation of Crayola, but until she's a bit older I'm happy with this set.
Whiteboard and whiteboard markers - we gave Ellerie an Ikea easel (chalkboard on one side and whiteboard on the other) for Christmas last year but it didn't really start getting use until I removed the paper and bought some whiteboard markers. She loves to color on this and I love how easy it is to wipe clean and start over. Because we've always just had pens out, she's used to them and we've been lucky that she keeps most of her drawing contained to the whiteboard. The dry-erase pens are not exactly for kids (though they are non-toxic) so they work best after the "stick everything in my mouth" stage.
The other thing that comes up with kiddo art is what do you do with it?! The best idea I've seen yet is this one. But in our house, we hang some, take photos of some and recycle a lot. Yep, recycle as in discard. I've always been a big believer that most of the joy of crafting comes from the crafting itself, more than the end result. Of course I love Ellerie's art wall and there are pieces we will frame and keep forever, but there are also many, many scribbles that we'll celebrate in the moment and then let go of. It's all good.