The Best Art Sets for Kids in 2021

Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNED
Reviewed by Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNEDWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on August 12th, 2021

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Expressing creativity through arts and crafts can offer cognitive, emotional, and motor skill boosts to our kids, and, for most, time spent having fun with art is something to jump at.

Art sets and project kits that offer kids something inspiring to do, along with the chance to tackle new skills, tend to be favored by creative kids while knowing what to look for, how good the supplies are, and how appropriate a kit is for your child’s needs, goes a long way in helping make a smart purchase. 1Graham, C. (2020). Benefits of the arts in early childhood development. Early Childhood Commission.
ecc.gov

If you’re on the hunt for the best art set for kids, why not take a look at our buyer’s guide? We’ve covered some important points for you to consider and assembled a list of great art sets and project kits worth checking out.

What are some factors I should consider when shopping for an art set for my child?

  • How well is the kit designed? Art sets that come in sturdy storage cases and provide room for you to separate individual components, (e.g., paints in one area, crayons in another,) help kids to stay organized while not damaging or losing anything. Hard plastic and wooden cases are often the best choice, though even soft plastic zippering cases are better than nothing. Likewise, project kits should have sturdy components that can hold up to robust treatment, as it’s no fun being unable to complete a kit because an essential part is broken!
  • What materials are included? If you’re looking for the whole package in a general art set, you’ll want to know what’s actually included. Some are happy to stick with basics like crayons, markers, and colored pencils, while others like to branch out with more complex mediums, such as watercolor paint and oil pastels as well as paper to suit various painting options. Those on the hunt for a serious art set for their child will probably go for the latter.
  • How much entertainment will it provide my child? While a general art set will include supplies that can be tagged into most of their creative endeavors, a project kit is a bit more ‘one-note’; meaning that, once completed, they’ll have something they can display or use, but won’t be able to assemble or design again. Project kits are sometimes cheaper than full art sets for this reason.
  • Is it age appropriate? Most art sets aren’t designed for kids under three, as they include components that can be choking hazards for tots. That said, kits are still usually ranked by age groups to indicate difficulty level and the presence of components that require caution, like pins or needles. Check out the age guideline offered by a kit before deciding whether or not it’s safe for your child.
  • Does it mesh with my child’s interests? Whether or not your child enjoys and uses the set you choose will partly depend on how it plays into their interests. If they’re into drawing and coloring, a simple set with crayons and markers will offer endless entertainment. If they prefer working with their hands, they might find rubber stamps or craft kits to be more entertaining, even if it’s only short term.
  • Is it appropriate for sharing? If you have more than one young child, family art time is a fun way to spend a rainy day or weekend evening. Kits that cater for more than one child, whether general or project-related, allow kids to enjoy the social benefits of group art projects; possibly including an increased desire to participate in group projects, while improving their ability to receive constructive criticism.

Editor’s note:

Make sure the contents of these kits are non toxic. This is very important if you have little ones at home who tend to place objects in their mouths.

How can I encourage my child’s interest in arts and crafts?

While many kids naturally gravitate toward arts and crafts projects, others need a little more prompting. If they aren’t naturally inspired, a project kit could possibly help spark up their creative energy, helping them learn some new skills.

For naturally creative ones, a good quality set of general art supplies could enable them to unleash their imagination; if they seem to wait for your encouragement, set some time aside every day or two to sit with them and paint or draw, even if you’re not terribly artistic.

Your presence is far more inspirational to your children than the quality of your work!

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I’m running out of scratch paper to give my creative kiddo — what are some novel ideas for alternatives?

If your stash of printer paper is dwindling and you’re feeling guilty about the impact on Mother Earth, there are a few alternative drawing and painting surfaces you can consider for upcycling purposes.

  • Junk mail: Like the rest of us, you probably receive a fair amount of junk mail and generic inserts addressed to “resident”. Once any identifying information has been removed, the reverse side of these form letters and envelopes makes a great doodling surface or practice paper for their paper bin.
  • Newspapers and magazines: They’re not ideal for drawing, but opaque acrylic and tempera paint looks just fine on top of words from a newspaper or magazine page. In fact, fancier paintings like these done by pro artists often fetch big bucks when sold!
  • Whiteboard: A good set of washable markers can be used on a whiteboard and repeatedly wiped clean; it’s not paper, so you can’t frame it, but it’s a great alternative for kids whose budding art career is becoming way too prolific in terms of paper use!

Editor’s Note:

If you are going to purchase paints for your child, make sure they’re washable. This will protect furniture, clothes, and surfaces.

Our top picks of the best kid’s art sets

Editors choice

Our opinion

Recommended age: 5+
General art set or project kit: General art set
Type of project/contents of set: Crayons, short colored pencils, washable markers, paper
Includes paper: Yes
Has choking hazards: Yes

If coloring is a beloved activity in your home, having quality supplies on hand can make it an anytime activity. That’s why we recommend the Crayola Inspiration Art Case (check price on Amazon), which also includes most of what they’ll need for elementary school art class while sporting a funky, cute rainbow briefcase-style enclosure with latches and a convenient handle.

64 crayons, 40 washable markers, and 20 mini colored pencils are secured within the recessed plastic trays built into the case. It’s also great for keeping tools organized when not being used and allows kids to group them by color if desired. 15 big sheets of paper are also included with this kit (fewer than that of some others,) but enough to get them started.

What we love
  • It’s a great selection of high-quality Crayola art supplies, bundling crayons, markers, and colored pencils into one price
  • The carrying case is cute and makes organization simple, preventing loss of art materials
Watch for
  • Very little paper included.

Upgrade choice

Our opinion

Recommended age: 5+
General art set or project kit: General art set
Type of project/contents of set: Colored pencils, oil pastels, watercolor cakes, wax crayons, mixing trays, paintbrushes, pencils, sharpener, ruler, three types of paper, palette, and color wheel
Includes paper: Yes
Has choking hazards: Yes

Art supply cases have long been a popular pick loved by creative kids; the style so beloved during our own childhoods sees a serious upgrade with this wooden art case, featuring both the supplies they’ll need to get started and the high-quality paper needed to create their masterpieces.

They’ll be able to choose from crayons, colored pencils, oil pastels, watercolors, or drawing pencils when picking a medium, and tools like mixing trays, a palette, sharpener, ruler, and even a handy color wheel to guide them on their artistic journey.

The inclusion of a field sketch journal with a quality sketch pad and watercolor paper makes this 162 Piece Wooden Art (check price on Amazon), Painting & Drawing Box especially budget-conscious, as each of these items can fetch a decent price if bought independently.

What we love
  • All the tools and mediums kids need for starting out are housed in a high-quality latching wooden box with handle
  • A field sketch journal, sketch pad, and watercolor paper are included, all of which would be pricey if bought separately
Watch for

Best budget buy

Our opinion

Recommended age: 8+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of set: Spirograph components, pens, paper, guide, spiro-putty
Includes paper: Yes
Has choking hazards: Yes

The interlocking wheels and rings of a Spirograph Set (check price on Amazon) create mesmerizing geometric drawings that would be virtually impossible to achieve without it, so it’s not surprising that it’s been a favorite with kids since its launch in 1965.

No artistic skill is actually needed to make the magic happen; enclosed spiro-putty, a mild adhesive, holds the ring to the paper, and a pen inserted into one of the holes of any of the gear-line wheels creates the axis that rotates it.

Colorful pens make designs even more exciting, and the set includes both a red and a blue pen to get kids started, along with a 24-page design pad and a 10-page design guide to help them get started with their projects.

What we love
  • Even kids who aren’t naturally artistic will be able to create cool drawings they’re proud of with this set
Watch for
  • It doesn’t really encourage or contain supplies for traditional art, so it’s a bit in 'left field' for an art set

Best for younger kids

Our opinion

Recommended age: 3+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of set: Components for 16 small themed crafts
Includes paper: n/a
Has choking hazards: Yes

If your kiddo loves arts and crafts but needs a bit of direction or a project idea to get started, My Giant Busy Box by Alex (check price on Amazon) has the inspiration they’ll need to channel their inner crafter. Included in the kit are components for creating 16 cute and simple projects, including paper bag puppets, dough animals, sticker art pics, and more.

Everything in the kit is safe for kids over three, so it’s a perfect pick for entertaining younger ones on a rainy day. Each project results in a cute craft for them to display on the fridge or in their room, so they’ll have a lasting memento they can be proud of.

What we love
  • It’s a perfect set for younger kids who might not get full use from a general art kit
  • It provides guidance and inspiration, prompting them through craft projects they can then keep and enjoy
Watch for
  • Older kids may find these projects less interesting

Best Starter Art Kit

Our opinion

Recommended age: 3+
General art set or project kit: General art set
Type of project/contents of set: Markers, crayons, colored pencils, washable watercolors, paintbrush, safety scissors, washable glue, storage case, paper
Includes paper: Yes
Has choking hazards: Yes

When childhood art supplies come to mind, the Crayola brand isn’t far behind, and for good reason; they’ve long excelled at offering high quality, kid-friendly art tools at reasonable prices. With this budget-friendly Ultimate Art Case With Easel (check price on Amazon), they’ll have access to all the basics as stored in a durable, hard-shelled plastic carrying case that latches to secure closure and includes a handle that makes toting this kit a breeze.

Even cooler — the kit converts to a tabletop easel, giving them a surface to work on. Inside, they’ll find a 24 pack of Crayola’s famous crayons, 12 colored pencils, 8 markers, a watercolor tray, and a paintbrush. Also included are 30 multicolored sheets of paper as well as safety scissors and glue to jump-start their creative projects.

What we love
  • The hard plastic case makes it easy to store their supplies in one secure place, but also makes toting them to school for art class a breeze
  • The case also doubles as a tabletop easel, offering a fresh perspective while drawing or painting
Watch for

Best for four-year-olds

Our opinion

Recommended age: 4+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of set: Fairy-themed rubber stamps, colored pencils, stamp pad, storage tray
Includes paper: No
Has choking hazards: Yes

If their regular art supplies just aren’t keeping them entertained, learning to use a new, but simple, tool like rubber stamps can breathe new life into your little one’s creative pursuits. Rubber stamps are one pick that kids often find fun, like those included in the Stamp-a-Scene Fairy Garden (check price on Amazon) by the experts at Melissa and Doug.

The pieces are just the right size for little hands, and 20 unique fairy and garden-themed stamps let them create a new scene to color every time they stamp. The kit comes with a two-toned ink pad in pink and purple and is compatible with any stamp pad.

A wooden storage tray helps to keep this fun rubber stamp set together when not being used, solving the problem of keeping the small parts organized.

What we love
  • It’s a little bit of a twist on their usual coloring activities, as they get to create a new scene with their stamps each time they create
  • Even though there’s lots of small parts, they’re easily organized via the included wooden tray
Watch for
  • You’ll need to provide your own paper, as the set doesn’t include it
  • There’s a learning curve to rubber stamping, especially when using multiple inks; kids having to master cleaning a stamp before using it on a new ink color in order to avoid ruining their stamp pad

Best for girls

Our opinion

Recommended age: 8+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of set: Mini magnetic tile art; includes tiles, magnets, paint, brush
Includes paper: n/a
Has choking hazards: Yes

You’ll need a few good fridge magnets to hang up all that great art your little ones are creating, so why not let them design those too? It’s a simple process with the Magnetic Mini Tile Art Kit from 4M (check price on eBay), which contains all the supplies they’ll need to design twelve 2″ x 2″ hand-painted magnets. The fridge isn’t the only gallery space that’s perfect for these mini-masterpieces, which can also make a great addition to lockers and magnetic whiteboards.

The kit includes detailed instructions for assembling the magnets, but it’s really as easy as using the included double-sided tape; parents should note that extra paintbrushes will be needed to make this a group activity since only one is included here.

What we love
  • Cute fridge magnets add pizzazz to the kitchen, and it’s a fun twist on hanging up their artwork
  • The magnets can also be fun for decorating their personal space, and make a cute gift for friends or family members
Watch for
  • There’s only one paintbrush included in the set, so if more than one child is painting, more brushes will be needed

Best paint set for kids

Our opinion

Recommended age: 6+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of the set: Rock painting kit; 10 rocks, paint, designs, stickers, brushes
Includes paper: n/a
Has choking hazards: Yes

In the past few years, the trend of painting, hiding, and collecting colorful rocks has seen a big uptick, and we love it — not only does it motivate creative self-expression, but also encourages healthy time spent outside at play while using critical thinking skills. Everything they’ll need to get started is included in the Hide & Seek Rock Painting Kit by Creativity for Kids (check price on Target), a line established by the art experts at Faber-Castell.

The kit includes eight waterproof shades of paint, a paintbrush, design transfers, and even tracking stickers that let them know their rock has been found if the finder registers it online. They won’t even have to go out hunting for their own rocks to paint when starting out, as 10 are included to get the ball rolling.

What we love
  • It’s a fun way to participate in the rock painting and hunting trend, and there’s even tracking stickers that allow the person who finds their rocks to make note of it online
Watch for
  • There’s only one paintbrush here, so more will be needed if it’s a group project

Best art kit for eight-year-olds

Our opinion

Recommended age: 4+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of set: Stencils, colored pencils, sharpener, drawing pad, pencil case, mechanical pencil, large carrying case
Includes paper: Yes
Has choking hazards: Yes

Stencils can provide a great inspirational tool for kids still working on steady-handed line drawing; they take some of the frustration out of creating perfect shapes and allow kids to work in their own unique design elements each time, so remain useful.

Little Dinosaur lovers will get a kick out of this big Drawing Stencil Kit (check price on Amazon), which features more than 260 different dinosaurs and related shapes that can be traced and colored with the included colored pencils, or the medium of their choice. The pencils are stored in a convenient zippered case, keeping them protected and organized, which, itself, is stored with the stencils in a soft plastic zippered carry case with a handle.

What we love
  • There’s 260+ different stencils in the kit, so the scene creation possibilities are endless
  • Everything is stored in a zippered plastic case to help keep things organized, and a zippered pencil case helps keeps tips sharp and the carrying case intact
Watch for

Best for tweens

Our opinion

Recommended age: 10+
General art set or project kit: Project kit
Type of project/contents of set: String art, snowflake and yeti themed
Includes paper: n/a
Has choking hazards: Yes

Not all art happens with paint, marker, and crayons! Textile art is also lots of fun, and when it takes the form of string art kits like these winter-themed picks from Craft-tastic (check price on Walmart), it’s easy enough for kids to do without a struggle. This set offers both a snowflake and an adorable yeti for kids to pin and weave with their supplies, both of which are fun to display during the winter months and can make cute gifts for families and friends.

While these kits aren’t tough to assemble, they depend on a pattern that’s formed by inserting push pins into the soft canvases, so it’s best to save them for kids over 10.

What we love
  • The difficulty level of this kit is low, but it still produces a cute craft that’s fun to make and that they can proudly display or gift
  • Push pins form the pattern around which the strings are weaved, so this kit is a better pick for older kids
Watch for

And the winner is…

Good quality art supplies in sturdy, highly organized storage are ideal for setting kids up with a positive creative experience, and the Inspiration Art Case (check price on Amazon) has all the Crayola basics they’ll need to get started.

From markers to crayons to colored pencils, all their coloring and drawing basics are contained in this briefcase-styled set that’s perfect for back-and-forth trips to school, grandma’s, or other adventures.

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Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNED
Reviewed by Jennifer Schlette, RN, MSNEDWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on August 12th, 2021

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