Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Theory and Resources

Displaying Art Materials For All Ages

Diana MacKenzie

As The Carle’s Every Day Art Program Educator, I have the unique challenge designing the drop-in art activities for The Studio’s ongoing Every Day Art Program that change every 4-6 weeks.  We regularly offer a variety of projects: bookmaking, painting, sculpture, collage, drawing and printing to name a few! Whether our guests are novice art makers or seasoned veterans, anyone can try their hand at our current activity and use the materials at their level of expertise.

One of the often overlooked details of designing each art project is figuring out the best way to organize the art materials guests will use at the tables in various sized baskets. 

Three baskets with markers divided into warm, cool, and neutral colors, with Eric Carle images on the labels to match the colors.

For one of our recent projects about map making I designed some fun new labels to organize the drawing tools into warm, cool and neutral colors.  To help our young guests learn the different color families, the paper liners match each family.  There are small dots matching the drawing tools’ hues and familiar images from Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar also in warm, cool or neutral colors.  We use brass fasteners instead of tape to stick the cardstock labels to each basket. We prefer to use brads instead of tape or glue so the baskets don’t get as sticky over time.

The photos below are the basic steps we follow for labeling our baskets. 

1. Stick the label to a precut piece of cardstock that fits snugly on one side of the basket.

2. Use a bookmakers awl or another sharp tool to make a hole where you want your brass fastener to go.

3. Secure the fasteners to the back of the basket and add the materials. 

For wet or messy art materials we even laminate the labels to make them last longer. When the labels are not in use we store them in drawers by category, then they’re easy to find the next time we want to reuse them.

A guest sitting at an Art Studio table making a collage using tissue paper.
Whenever we can we add a small photo next to the words for our non-reading guests. That way children can help cleanup by matching the pictures. Since we use a lot of paper for our activities we try and change up how we prepare and display them on the trays. Sometimes we organize it by shape (triangles, squares or rectangles for instance).
A materials tray including different colors and shapes of paper, oil pastels, and glue sticks.
Other times the labels are more general, like “drawing tools” and “collage papers” so we can reuse the same labels for future projects.
Several baskets with art supplies in them including scissors, collage papers, and watercolor paints.
We also design signage for specific projects to help guests take their projects further like, “How to make an accordion book.”
An Art Studio table with an Eric Carle book, art materials, and a folded sign on how to make an accordion book.

How do you organize the art supplies in your classroom or at home for children?


Diana, smiling wearing an orange scarf and brown shirt.

Diana MacKenzie

Public Art Program Educator from 2007-2016, Diana has a BFA in Printmaking from Syracuse University and creates mixed-media works inspired by her travels, combining her interests in printmaking and sculpture. She received her M.A.T. from Mount Holyoke College in June 2017, and continues teaching visual arts to children and adults.