Theo Van Gogh, greatest patron of his brother Vincent, often complained about his older brother for one reason: his paints cost too much. Vincent Van Gogh painted in thick layers of paint, a classic style called impasto, and because of that Vincent went through paint at an alarming speed. Parents of young children may be able to relate. You may buy your child a complete art kit today and have them asking for more tomorrow. But encouraging art in your young people doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, your local dollar store is packed with supplies that can keep kids busy and still creating. Here are some art projects you can do with your child that won’t take more than a few materials from the dollar store.
You might not think you can paint with salt, but this common kitchen find can create beautiful pieces of art. Your child won’t be painting with salt but on salt for this activity. Start by grabbing a piece of paper. Anything will work, but you will get the most dramatic effects on a dark color. Then give your child some glue to make lines on the paper. A realistic painting or a bunch of squiggly lines – anything goes for this activity. Before the glue dries, cover it with salt and then let it dry.
Once the salt lines are dry, get out some simple watercolors. Dip your brush into some water, load paint on the brush, and then lightly touch the salt where you want to place that color. It will seep into the salt and spread along the line. Have your child repeat until their salt is completely painted. Their final piece is sure to be beautiful and unique.
Dollar stores cater to all kinds of interests, but you can almost always count on an aisle with some fake flowers and picture frames. In that same aisle you’ll almost certainly find some glass stones used to fill flower vases, and that is the key material for these one of a kind magnets. Have your child make some fingerprints on a piece of paper. If you have a stamp pad, use it, but paint works well too. Let the prints dry, and that is when the fun starts. Using these for inspiration, make little doodles on the fingerprints to create unique pictures. Older kids can make their own doodles while younger ones will need your help. Once your doodling is done, have your child place a glass stone over a doodle and trace around it. They should be able to see the doodle through the glass. Have them cut their doodle out. Then glue the doodle to the back of the glass stone. You can leave the piece as is or add a little magnet to the back and put it on the fridge. These make great gifts for grandparents and anyone else who loves the look of little fingers.
Pipe Cleaner Animals
Pipe cleaners are one of the most flexible art materials imaginable (both literally and figuratively). Grab some dry pasta pieces from the food aisle of the dollar store and some pipe cleaners and you have all you need to make some creative creatures. Shape each creature and use pasta pieces to define and strengthen limbs, bodies, heads, etc. These reindeer sculptures are a great example. Not every part of your animals needs to be covered with pasta. Try getting inspiration from Why Can’t I Fly? or another favorite book. Then encourage your kids to act out the story with their pasta animals as you read.
Colorful Rain Sticks
If you don’t already know, rain sticks are percussion instruments containing rice that sounds like rain falling during a storm. They’re surprisingly easy to make and a fun find that only requires supplies available at the dollar store. Start by having your child decorate an empty cardboard tube. One from the inside role of aluminum foil or wax paper works well. Have your child decorate the tube. Depending on the age of your child, you might give them crayons, paint, markers, or colorful tape. Let kids finish their decorations and then prepare the tube. You’ll be putting rice into the tube to make the sounds, so you’ll need to get your tube ready or the rice will just make a mess. You’ll need to close one end before putting anything inside. Fit a piece of wax paper around one end of the tube and then tape it in place. You also need something inside the tube to slow the rice as it falls and make that beautiful rain sound. Have your child crumple up a long piece of foil or wax paper and put it in the tube. Then add a handful or two of rice into the tube. Be sure to let your child help. Then seal up the other end of the tube the same way you did the first end. When your child turns the rain stick over, you should get a soothing and beautiful sound as the rice falls.
These are just a few fun crafts you can make with items from the dollar store. If you make a habit of keeping items such as pop poms, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, glitter, tissue paper, ribbon, and buttons on hand, the creative possibilities for your child are endless.