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

Do your kids have an art table? If not, setting one up is easy. Here are five must-haves that make my girls' art table a place where they LOVE to create.

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*

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.

Watercolored Essie

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 u

nauthorized 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 skip the hassle? This is Amazon’s top-selling wooden kids’ table + 2 chairs set. It’s usually priced under $60, but sometimes you can snag it for less than $50. That’s a super value for a wooden set!

Check prices on Amazon’s top-selling kids’ table + chairs set

Want to spend even 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 falli

ng 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.

Honestly, I have these clear storage pockets all over my house – they are SO handy! And with the 3M Command hooks, they’re super-easy to hang, without damaging walls or wooden furniture!

Check prices on these awesome storage solutions!

 

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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38 thoughts on “Five Must-Haves For a Kids’ Art Table That *Works*”

    1. Thanks, Peachy! This is something I never thought about til we started to have problems (see pics 🙂 ) – and now that they have their own “space,” they spend creative time there at least once a day! 🙂

  1. Awesome post! Thanks for all the great organization ideas! We have an entire room devoted to arts and crafts. It used to be our dining room. 🙂 It’s not organized at all though and is pretty much a hot mess! I loved the pictures of your daughter covered in the various art supplies!

    1. Ooh, a whole art room – cool! That was sort-of my idea for the basement, originally, since my sewing machine/photo projects/scrapbooking supplies are down there – but as the girls have illustrated, it’s a better place for me to retreat to when I get a few hours to myself :)…

  2. You did a beautiful job creating an arts and extras work space for the kids. They can play away within earshot of you. I can’t believe Kimmie painted her sister more than once.:)

    1. Me neither! (And those are just the two I have on record!) I have to admit, the first time (Watercolored Essie), I took the pics partly to take upstairs and show my husband so we could have a good laugh over them together, before presenting a united (stern) front on how this was NOT okay.

  3. Rebecca Swenor

    These are all great tips for an organized art area for kids. It is so important that they have a table and chairs they can sit at to do the art. Putting the art supplies in containers and on shelves the kids can reach next to the table is a great idea. Setting rules for the supplies not leaving this area is important too. Thanks for sharing the tips.

    1. You’re more than welcome, Rebecca – all things I had to figure out the hard way, so hope this post saves someone else from having to figure them out the hard way 🙂

  4. This is so neat! It’s always fun to have a space for them like their own little office to have the tools they can utilize to create fun things. It helps keeps them busy, and helps them explore their abilities with these tools better. Awesome post!

    Maria| https://imommy.co

    1. Totally agree – now that it’s truly functional, it seems they spend at least an hour there each day “creating”!

  5. I love that. I wish I had that when I was little. My father was a single dad and bless him; he did the best he could. I had this large circular carpet that he put on the living room floor every time I wanted to paint and when I was done he just rolled it up again and put it back, under the couch. =D

    1. That’s super! We get out a big dropcloth every so often for messy finger-painting or fabric-painting projects – that is totally the way to go for messier/more spread out projects! 🙂

    1. So glad this looks useful for you down the road – do come back and let us know how it works, or if you come up with any additional hacks!

  6. Tran Thi Hoan Chau

    I have 3 siblings at home and they are all going to elementary school, which makes this post the most amazing thing ever. I remember getting stripped over my sister’s crayons after her “work” every time I go the living room because my mother doesn’t want to buy them a table or give them a place to create their own masterpieces. Sometimes, they even go to my bedroom and draw all over my papers on my table. I have been persuading my mom into making them a little place with these necessaries and this post will definitely give me a higher chance and more evidence. Thank you for the lovely post!

    1. So glad you find it helpful! Another commenter suggested just having a piece of old fabric to spread out on the floor, then roll up again after “art time” – maybe your mom could be persuaded into that, if you can’t find/make a small table for free or almost-free? Good luck persuading your mom! 🙂

  7. Thank you for such a great post. Not only is this Great for the kids but I can implement it for my work desk as well

    1. Oh, good, I’m glad that it might work for your own workspace, too! Another hack along these lines that I use for my workspace is those narrow wooden shelves (available in craft stores in the unpainted section, though I get mine at thrift stores) – I have several hanging on my wall right next to my desk. I use the shelf for photos of my kids, and hang rolls of tape, scissors, etc. from the pegs underneath 🙂

  8. My kids love art and crafts. We had a small table like this when they were younger, but it could have been much more organized. Now that they’re older I need to figure out a better set up. Of course, I can always use some of your organization ideas.

    1. I’m hoping they can help you out, Laurie! We’re getting to the age where we may need a better solution for homework than our current one (spread it out on the dining room table with one stocked “homework box” per kid, then pack it all up again before dinner), so maybe I’ll revisit this topic in a bigger-kids version sooner than I’d expect 🙂

    1. Oh, I had to go digging through my photo archives for those. In each case, the damage was already done by the time my camera came out. And they wonder why I’m not crazy about their doing “art” out of my sight, even to this day…

    1. That’s a great idea! That was what I was originally thinking with the downstairs craft table (since that’s where my sewing space is), but it became clear that their time to do art = much greater than my available time to sew 🙁 …

  9. When my daughter was little we had a similar set up, and it was great. She always had everything at the ready, so she would frequently sit down and start drawing and colouring without much parental involvement.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      You’re absolutely right – having everything “at the ready” for them to just do their thing WITHOUT your help (but within your sight!) is soooooo helpful!

    1. See, that’s TOTALLY how I was until I got things set up so it was contained, and in a well-supervised place! 🙂 Must-have #1 is definitely the MOST important, in my experience 🙂

  10. These are great ideas. We had a designated table and chair when we were kids and I remember feeling so happy to have my own spot in the house to play. Definitely something I will be trying for my little one when he grows up.

    1. And since your little one isn’t yet old enough for one of these, Ophira, you can now avoid some of the messy experiments we had to learn about the hard way! 🙂 (see must-have #1!)

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