Do your offspring have a designated place to draw, color, do Play-Doh, paint watercolors, and work their way through activity books? If not, they need a kids’ art table.

No, you don’t need a huge space to do this. Our kids’ art table fills a small corner about 2 feet x 3 feet. It’s a little nook tucked under our (gasp!) old-fashioned land line, between the hutch in our breakfast nook and the entrance to the front hallway.

And while some of you may have easels for your kids to scribble on, this is optional; our easel lives in the dining room during winter, and the garage during summer. (We use it for homework as much as art, if not more, and homework takes place in the dining room.)

Why a kids’ art table?

If your kids DON’T yet have a designated art table, consider adding one if

  • Your kitchen table constantly gets defaced by stray marker and/or crayon marks;
  • You constantly find yourself tripping over crayons, markers, etc. spread out all over your floor;
  • When it’s time to eat a meal, step #1 is always clearing the kids’ latest creations off the table;
  • You’ve had one too many incidents involving stray crayon/marker marks on walls in your kids’ rooms, bathrooms, and/or any other place where they’ve done their art out of your sight;
  • Or, for that matter, your kids have used EACH OTHER as their work surface a few too many times.

For the record, we answered “yes” to all of the above. But it took us awhile to get our kids’ art table truly functional. Now that it is, the girls LOVE using it. Even better, they do so consistently.

Ready to set up your own kids’ art table? You don’t need much, but here are our five must-haves:

Five Must-Haves for a Kids’ Art Table That *Works*

Watercolored Essie

1) A centrally-located spot

Why “centrally located”? Well, unless your child is old enough to breeze through hours of homework unsupervised, you’ll want your kids’ art table where you can keep an eye on them.

I learned this the hard way. For a brief time when Essie was a baby, I thought I’d set up an art table for Kimmie in the basement, so she could use it while Essie was napping. Bad idea.

Instead of doing art projects on her table, Kimmie snuck her sister downstairs and did art projects on Essie. On more than one occasion. Watercolored Essie, permanent-markered Essie – you get the idea.

Magic-Markered Essie

Thus Essie concluded that the basement was the place for artistic expression. The basement is also home to our wrapping station, only I can’t leave any tape or scissors there anymore. Otherwise, Essie (even now, at age 5) finds them and gives herself unauthorized haircuts, makes patchwork creations out of every piece of wrapping paper and ribbon she can grab, or ventilates her clothing.

Our basement carpet also now sports a number of acrylic paint decorations that weren’t there when we bought the house.

Hence, a high-traffic area is your best bet for a kiddos’ art table. Along with a strict rule that art supplies aren’t allowed in ANY other part of your dwelling space. (Unless your children have a lot more self-control than mine do.)

2. A table and chair(s)

Or a raised surface on the floor, if you prefer. Just so long as your kids have a (non-sibling) surface on which to create.

Yes, you can go out and get lovely new kid-sized furnishings for this project, if you don’t have access to any others. (My kids use a vintage 1970s set with plastic chairs that came from my mom’s attic) You can spend as little as $50 for a table plus two chairs. Just make sure that you pick something a) sturdy and b) easy to wipe clean. (And if all else fails, keep some Magic Erasers on hand.)

Want to spend less than that? This is where thrift stores, yard sales, Craigslist/Freecycle, and children’s consignment sales can really be your friend. I just searched for “kids table” on our local Craigslist and got over 90 hits. (Yes, some were sand tables/water tables/picnic tables, but plenty weren’t.)

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For my ill-conceived effort to set up a basement art space, I found a simple modern-design end table at a yard sale for $1. It weighs a ton (translate: kids can’t tip it!), and its laminated surface cleans up way easier than wood.

3. Storage for coloring books, workbooks, and notepads

When our kids were still toddlers, this wasn’t a problem. But their collection of coloring books and such has grown right along with them. Having a nearby place to store these books was a challenge.

I finally realized that as long as we have kids using the art table, storing their workbooks on the bottom shelf of the adjacent hutch was more important than the junk I had been storing there. I outfitted the shelf with several thrift-store stacking file trays, and it’s now perfect for holding most of their book-type supplies.

4. Storage for papers and worksheets

Once Kimmie entered elementary school, I noticed another type of clutter entering our house: “practice” worksheets and the like. Essie LOVES doing these practice sheets; and given how much she’s learned from them, I really can’t complain. So keeping these sheets until they are “finished” has benefits.

But the growing flood of worksheets created another storage problem. Piling them on the table took up precious surface space on an already-small tabletop. At first I put them in filing folders inside the hutch shelf, but that didn’t work; the folders kept falling over, getting crushed by workbooks, etc.`

So I bought a clear, unbreakable, wall-mounted file pocket. (The unbreakable part is key!) Then I hung it on the side of the hutch with damage-free, removable 3M Command hooks. Now the folders are right there by the table, but not ON the table. Problem solved.

5. Storage for office supplies

Finally, your kids need a place to store crayons, markers, pencils, erasers, etc. This is another area where supply has grown right along with my kids, and we’ve had to adapt over time,

When my girls were younger, I used a small school-supply caddy from a thrift store to contain their coloring implements. But as they and their collection have grown, this no longer works – partly because it takes up too much space on the table.

So a few weeks ago, I took several used cans from canned goods, washed and dried them well, crimped down any sharp edges on the insides, and spray-painted them white. Instant storage for practically nothing! (More on this storage solution in my next post.)

Now that they have space for everything they need right at their fingertips, my girls have fallen in love with their art table once again.

Now that I’m no longer stepping on broken crayons and finding mealtimes delayed by kitchen-table coloring marathons, my life is a little calmer, too!

Do your kids have a designated art table? What are your must-haves to make this space work for YOUR kids? Let us know in the comments!


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