2 Keys to Keeping Your Young Child’s Art Supplies From Taking Over Your House

2 tips for keeping your toddler's art supplies from taking over the house

My Lydia is an artist.

It was apparent from the start. She knew all her colours names before she was two. From the day she figured out she could make marks on paper she has been producing artwork like it’s her job. Sheets and sheets of paper, every single day.


The girl loves to draw. And paint. And sculpt. And colour.

But like many artists — especially those under four feet tall — she’s messy. She’s careless.

It used to drive me insane to find all her markers and their caps scattered all over the floor every day. I’d pick them up and return their caps — making sure the colours matched, tossing the ones that had dried out — just to turn around and find they were all over the floor again.

Crayons, markers, coloured pencils, pens, paintbrushes, printer paper, construction paper, ALL OVER THE PLACE, ALL THE TIME.

Finally, I decided to make some changes.

Here are my two main tips for keeping your toddler’s and preschooler’s art supplies under control.

1. Strictly limit colour options.

marker holder made with plaster of paris. Keep markers off the floor and capped!Kids three and under don’t need that many colours. They don’t need the four different shades of purple that come in many packs of markers or crayons. (Why always so many shades of purple??)

For kids aged 2-3, I find that limiting colours to the primary and secondary colours (i.e. the six colours of the rainbow), plus black and brown, is sufficient. That’s 8 colours total.

Add pink and grey if you want to be generous and you’ve got an even 10.

One of each. No duplicates.

When you limit the number of crayons that are available, I believe you give yourself and your child a certain amount of freedom. Neither of you will feel overwhelmed by the prospect of tidying up the art supplies after a vigorous art session.

You can look at your kid’s whole stash and go, “Hmm . . . where’s the blue?” And then go hunt for that one crayon. It’s very satisfying to know you’ve got every single one.

It can help encourage your child take responsibility for her supplies, too. She won’t want to lose track of her only blue crayon, because how will she draw Elsa without it??

drawing 2

Does it sound like I’m being anal, rationing out colours like a miserly crayon fairy? I don’t care. It feels great to be able to keep track of every single crayon in the house. And she never complained.

Note: when Lydia turned four, I found that she was interested in exploring different shades and hues, and she had become much more responsible with her art supplies. At that point I increased the number of colours available to her so she had at least one light and one dark shade of each colour, making a grand total of 12-15.

(Now that she’s almost five she has access to almost 20).

2. Have an exact place for every item.

As you can see from the marker holder at the top of this post and the crayon roll here, I made a system so that every item had its place and could be accounted for.

The plaster marker holder is a brilliant idea I got from Jean Van’t Hul of the Artful Parent (detailed DIY instructions come from her book of the same name). The lids are embedded in the holder and therefore can’t get scattered on the floor. It really encourages kids to put their markers right back where they belong. It also reduces the number of items you have to pick up by half.

Same with the simple felt pencil crayon holder. I would tell Lydia her pencil crayons all had to go to sleep for night in their own bed. (Of course she tried to bunk several pencils together at once but you do what you can.) When you notice one “bed” is empty, you know you have to hunt down one single crayon somewhere, and you can quickly narrow down which one it is.

When it came to wax crayons, I was delighted that my very favourite ones — Melissa and Doug’s jumbo triangular crayons — come in a beautiful, high-quality container with divided compartments for each of the crayons.


So there you go. With these two tips you can reduce the chaos that comes with raising a little artist.

Now go make some art!

5 Things I Learned After 6 Months in the Hospital

children's hospital

(This draft has been sitting around for close to a year. I finally decided to go ahead and publish it. These are reflections on the things I learned after living in the hospital for six months with my critically ill child. Forgive me that they’re a little gloomy.)

1.I’ve glimpsed hell. And I’ve learned that it’s possible to walk through it and come out alive.

Before you do it, it seems impossible. But you can survive it.

I didn’t have to walk into the darkest depths of the inferno — actually losing my child — but I did come very close, and I’ve seen other families do it.

And somehow, despite what it felt like at the time, we survived.

2. Hospitals are truly horrible places to spend any amount of time. But they are full to the brim with wonderful people.

I have never met so many smart, interesting, kind, devoted people in one place as I met in the hospital.

I want to give a special shout-out to nurses, who are some of the most superhumanly kind and selfless people on the planet. Turns out, you simply don’t go into nursing if you’re a crappy person. And we all benefit from that.

3. I can do things that I previously believed unfathomable.

I never could have guessed I could hold down my precious, innocent baby and allow people to hurt him.

Not only that, I can hold him down and hurt him myself.

Not only did I have to ignore his cries, I made him cry.

(Inserting Felix’s feeding tube, over and over and over again while he screamed in anguish, was and is the worst thing I have ever had to do in my life. I had to do it so many times. It goes against my every instinct, belief, and philosophy. My entire being is bent on protecting him from harm; and here I was, invading his body, working against his thrashing and screaming. Over and over again.)

If I can do these things, who knows what else I’m capable of — for good or for evil.

Could I sacrifice my own life for someone else? Could I kill a person? Maybe. Nothing seems impossible anymore, under the right circumstances. I now know that I’m capable of anything.

4. Six months in the hospital is not that long a time.

Before I lived it, I would have balked at the idea of staying in the hospital for one month. A whole month of my life spent in a sterile hospital room?

Then we did five. Then we got to go home for a few months; and after that, when we knew we were going in for one more month, we considered that a very short stay. Practically nothing. Just a couple of weeks.

In the long run, those six combined months were a short time in my life.

I know families who have been stuck in the hospital for a year or longer.

My whole perspective on time has changed: really, no amount of time on this finite earth is that long. Nothing we experience here is eternal.

A lifetime isn’t really even all that long.

5. All feelings have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

ALL feelings.

That current emotion that feels like it’s going to swallow you whole? It won’t. It will end. It will eventually be replaced by another one.

An emotion is an event. It will pass.

Any time I feel like my emotions are going to end me, I remind myself that I can practically put that feeling on a timer: the seconds are ticking away, and that emotion will come to an end. In the end, I will still be standing, but that feeling won’t be.

I Will Blog Again When I Am Able to Sleep at Night Again.

I promise. I miss you guys and I miss this space.

But right now too much of my time and energy are gobbled up by sitting around in the dark with a cranky toddler at 3am.

In the meantime, know that I am savoring our gorgeous summer weather and being at home with my two healthy children.

Life is good.

summer 2016