I’m often asked where we get our tinkering, science, and art supplies such as paint, tables, and tools, so I created this resource page where you can find everything you need to get started with your own maker space…or TinkerLab®.
I’ll add to the list as I review new products and inspiring articles, so please bookmark this page for future reference! For your convenience, I added prices to some items. I also share featured supplies that are great deals, which you can find here.
Please keep in mind that prices are subject to change.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, I may earn a commission, but that won’t cost you a thing! I only recommend these products because I find them useful and/or I think you’ll enjoy them, not because of the small commissions I could make if you click a link. Thanks, Rachelle
MAKER SPACE SUPPLIES
Tinkering Table and Chairs. I’m often asked about the table that my kids have (featured on the blog and in my book). It’s the Carolina Table from Pottery Barn Kids, and it’s been our durable tinkering backdrop since 2010. $199. We also have the Carolina chairs in grass green, which have been sturdy enough (and quite comfortable, actually) for adults. $69.00.
Storage Cube System. The big storage system that we keep our art supplies and baskets in is also from IKEA. It’s a discontinued model (Expedit) that’s been replaced with Kallax (almost identical).
Laminator. The Scotch Laminator will laminate items up to 9 inches wide and pouches up to 5 mil thick. $31.69
Pencil Sharpener. The Xacto School-Pro Heavy Duty Pencil Sharpener is a work horse of a sharpener that’s designed by teachers. I like to sharpen all of our 100’s of colored pencils in one fell swoop, and this sharpener does the trick. $31.05.
Paper Cutter. The Swingline Paper Trimmer (12″) is a high quality trimmer that’s up to cutting card stock and construction paper. You can cut up to 10 copy-weight papers at once. $26.44.
Glass Storage Jars. These jars are great for storing pom poms, craft sticks, and other bulk supplies. From the Container Store.
Light Table. We made our own light table (verrry economical). If you’d like to give this a go, details are over here. Otherwise, the ultra bright LED light panel is a winner ($119.99). A bit more economical,
Translucent Pieces for the Light Table. Once you have a light table, you’ll want translucent pieces to place on it for exploration, composition, and design work. This 147 piece set of pattern blocks is economical at $19.99. This set of 49 pieces is only $4.00. We love this set of 250 counting chips for just $4.79. And I adore this set of 12 beautiful agate light table slices (14.99).
Light-up Tracing Pad. Crayola makes a really cool tracing pad that’s great for taking to restaurants or long trips. Place your blank paper on top of a paper you want to trace, and you’re well on your way to making your own drawings. These come in blue and pink. $24.99. One step up for the Crayola pad, yet still affordable, is Artograph’s Light Tracer that enables young artists to turn their ideas into reality.
Create a Sticker Machine. This machine from Xyron is something that my kids use often. They design their own stickers as drawings and then crank them through this trusty machine that adds an even layer of sticker glue to the back. $14.99. Be sure to grab a refill cartridge or two for when you run out of sticker paper.
Spin Art. Alex Toys makes this spin art machine that’s hand-powered, so no batteries are necessary. $15.44
Kinetic Sand. This addictive sand that’s wonderful for sensory play (for kids as well as adults) can be pricy, but you can find a 2 pound bag of kinetic sand for $14.00.
Sewing Kit. Grandma found My First Sewing Kit for my older daughter when she was five, and at age six, she still uses it to store all of her sewing essentials. A great starter kit for the beginner sewer. $17.99
DESIGN AND ART SUPPLIES
Cardstock Paper. Heavyweight paper is good to have on hand for painting and water-based projects, and Neenah Exact Index is 110 pound paper is heavyweight and excellent for painting on and rubber-stamping. 250 sheets. $14.00
Glue Sticks. I’m a fan of Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks. $5.40
Clay. This air dry clay from Activa, Air Dry Clay, is a favorite and lasts a long time if sealed well. $8.04
Permanent Markers. My kids LOVE Sharpie Markers (24-pack). Be sure to supervise if you’re worried about wall and couch marking. $15.70
Watercolor Set. The gorgeous Gansai Tambi set from Kuretake is my favorite. It’s not cheap but worth it for semi-serious art journaling. They also make a mini set with fewer colors that’s more affordable.
Watercolor Set, option 2. More affordable and also a favorite is the Pelikan Opaque watercolor set with 24 colors. My kids LOVE this set and are always able to find the just-right color.
Tempera Cakes. These have a similar effect to watercolors, but they come in nice, large cakes and are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. I like the Sax non-toxic set in these vibrant colors.
Travel Paint Set. The 24 color field set from Sakura is my favorite take-along set for painting on the beach. We also took it with us all the way to Italy! It comes with a cool paintbrush that you can fill with water. You have to see it!
Travel Paint Set, option 2. The itty bitty 12 color Pocket Box paint set from Windsor and Newton is smaller that the Sakura set and the colors are equally gorgeous. It comes with fewer colors, but it can truly fit in even the smallest bag. And the paintbrush that comes with it is amazing and one of my favorites.
Fat Paintbrushes. These are good Chunky Paintbrushes for small hands. Melissa and Doug large paintbrush set (set of 4). $6
Watercolor Brushes. Watercolor Brushes. Crayola 5ct Art and Craft Brush Set (set of 5). $3
Detail Paintbrushes. Thin brushes for watercolor or acrylic paint. 15pcs Nail Art Painting Pen Brush. They aren’t the highest quality, but they are REALLY good, and for $2.55 it’s an amazing deal.
Sketchbook. I have two favorites in this category for working with both wet and dry media. Both of these books can handle paint. Strathmore Visual Journal is made of heavy duty paper (90 pound weight), perfect for mixed media, and comes in a few sizes. For easy, on-th-go journaling, I like the 5.5″ x 8″ journal at $6.89. I also like the Canson Mix Media journal that’s 7″ x 10″ for $7.40.
Line Drawing Pens. Micron Pens. Sakura 6-piece Micron Ink Pen Set. These are my absolute favorite. $9.32
Colored Pencils. Prismacolor Colored Pencils. Set of 72 for $79.30 (I’ve seen them on sale for as low as $46!). Prismacolor Colored Pencils, Set of 24 for $25.19 (I’ve seen these for as low as $13.63).
Rubber Stamp Markers. Le Plume II Double-Ended Markers with Brush and Fine Tips, Primary, Set of 12 – Writing Markers. $18.15
BUILDING + TINKERING SUPPLIES
Glue Gun. This Low-heat glue gun from Cool Shot is a family favorite because the tip is designed to stay cool. We own MANY of these 🙂 $13.50
Glue Sticks for Glue Gun. The Cool Shot Mini Glue Sticks go with the low-heat glue gun, although we’ve also had success with other mini glue sticks. $4.16
Power Drill. The Makita DT01W 12V max Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Driver Kit is a strong cordless drill and household favorite. I especially enjoy that it comes with 2 batteries, so you’ll never run out of power. 107.99
Sewing Machine. Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine With 60 Built-In Stitches is an affordable sewing machine that produces great results. I have the older model of this machine and have produced Halloween costumes, holiday gifts, stitched designs, and throw pillows from it. $143.99
Kids Safety Glasses. Kid-friendly glasses, no uncomfortable straps, adjustable arms to fit easily over children’s eyeglasses. $6.19
Pipettes. For grabbing water and other liquids, pipettes (pack of 20) are a handy tool to keep on your art cart. $4.49
Beakers. This 5-piece Plastic Beaker Set. is an affordable beaker option (and safe for kids since they’re not made from glass) with clearly marked sides. $5.49
Measuring Set. Learning Resources Primary Science Mix And Measure Set includes a scale, bowl, 3 self standing spoons, 6 unique cup designs help children visualize quantities, and activity cards. $24.99
Test Tubes. Jumbo Test Tubes. Set of 6 test tubes with different colored lids and a sturdy rack. Plastic tubes are safe at temperatures from 10°-200°F and feature calibration marks (25, 50, 75 and 100 ml). $14.57
Kid-safe knives. Curious Chef 3-Piece Nylon Knife Set. I shared how I used these with my toddler in this post: Cooking with Toddlers. Includes 1 small, 1 medium and 1 large nylon knife, appropriate for children ages 5+, conforms to safety requirements of ASTM F963 and CPSIA lead and phthalate limits; BPA free. $8.95
Beginner Microscope. My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope.We’ve had this for a few years and it’s still holding strong. Features 40x, 100x &400x magnifications, real Glass Optics, battery operated, comes with a small set of starter slides. $63.99.
Prepared Microscope Slides. Set of 25 prepared slides, including plants, insects, and animal tissues, for use in biological education. Smooth edges (no cut fingers!), comes in a nice, wooden box with clear labeling. $14.50
Microscope Slides, single depression. These single depression slides are great for viewing things like saliva and pond water. $5.40
BEST GAMES FOR CREATIVE KIDS
Click here or the image below for the complete list of our favorite toys for little builders.
Obstacles Game by Eeboo. In this game, players take a journey along a path that’s riddled with wild obstacles (blizzard, waterfall, cave, etc.) and must overcome them from an array of unusual tools (siren, jack-in-the-box, propeller hat, etc.). The solutions are often unexpected as this game pushes players to come up with innovative and creative solutions. You can read my review of the game here. $16.99
Snap Circuits Junior by Elenco. This makes for a GREAT birthday or holiday gift for a child who likes to tinker. Learn about electronics and circuits as you build more than 100 exciting project, clear and concise illustrated manual, exciting projects include burglar alarm, doorbell and more. $20.99
Suspend by Melissa and Doug. An exciting balance game for 1-4 players (I would recommend ages 4+), develops hand-eye coordination, cognitive skills and interpersonal skills. $14.16
Makey Makey. Makey Makey is an easy-to-use invention kit that’s essentially a printed circuit board that connects to a computer via a USB cable. Wires connect Makey Makey to conductive objects (i.e. play dough, bananas, aluminum foil, coins), which can then be played much like a joystick or keyboard key.You can read our review here. $49.95.
Enchanted Forest by Ravensburger. A great family game that encourages the use of strategy and builds active minds. It’s amagical treasure hunt in the land of fairy tales. Roll the die to determine the distance you move, making your ways to the trees to see what treasures are hidden under them. Once you’ve found the treasure the king has requested, make your way to the castle so that you can announce where it is. $23.62.
Big box of Lego Bricks. You can’t go wrong with Lego! We have enjoyed the Lego kits, but the plain bricks do wonders for encouraging imagination to bloom. Build animals, buildings, vehicles and much more! This set includes 221 pieces, a sturdy storage bucket, and easy-to-follow building instructions and inspirational ideas. $13.99.
Quadrilla wooden marble run. Quadrilla is the Ultimate Marble Run Building Set with endless possibilities for 3-dimensional thinking, creating captivating structures. It’s non-toxic, and child safe. Recommended for ages four years and up. $88.99.
Mindware Plastic Marble Run. This 123-piece marble run is our family favorite and wonderful for encouraging creative thinking. No two marble runs will be the same! For kids ages 3 and up. 103 pieces and 20 marbles. $29.95
FAVORITE BUILDING TOYS
Click here or the image below for the complete list of our favorite toys for little builders.
BEST BOOKS for KIDS ACTIVITIES
TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors, Rachelle Doorley
Playful Learning, Mariah Bruehl.
150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com!, Asia Citro
101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!: The Entertainment Solution for Parents, Relatives & Babysitters!, Holly Homer and Rachel Miller
Red Ted Art, Maggy Woodley
First Art for Toddlers and Twos, MaryAnn Kohl
Don’t Move the Muffin Tin: A Hands-off Guide to Art for the Young Child, Bev Bos.
Exploralab from the Exploratorium.
PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT ART AND CREATIVITY
Click here or the image below for the complete list of our favorite picture books about art and creativity.
FAVORITE BOOKS for CREATIVE ADULTS
One Zentangle a Day: A 6-Week Course in Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration, and Fun
Wreck This Journal, Keri Smith.
The Art of Tinkering, Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich.
Archidoodle: The Architect’s Activity Book: Steve Bowkett
Creative Block, Danielle Krysa
WHERE I LIKE TO SHOP
- Amazon. I order a lot of our supplies through Amazon because, frankly, I like the convenience and take advantage of Amazon Prime.
- Reuse/recycling Center. In the Bay Area we have two wonderful resources called RAFT and SCRAP where I pick up industry recycled materials at a big discount. RAFT is just for educators and requires a membership. If you like to dig for treasures and make junk sculptures with the kids, I highly recommend finding something like RAFT or SCRAP near you. Here’s a useful list of all the reuse shops worldwide!
- IKEA. A good spot for getting deals on storage supplies and useful kids furniture and art materials.
- Recycling. I “shop” for materials in our recycling bin where we salvage styrofoam, boxes, and tubes for our projects. If you have the space, set a box aside to save the best pieces for your projects.
- Science supplies. Nasco is a good online spot to find just about any STEM or science supply you can dream of.
- Big stores such as Target/Walmart/Drug Store/Dollar Store. Great places to find your everyday school-ready art supplies like glue bottles, paper, pencils, crayons, etc. Target and Walmart usually put all of these on huge discount in August before the school year begins and it’s worth stocking up!
- Ready to Innovate: A research paper from Americans in the Arts in partnership with The Conference Board and the Association of School Administrators
BLOGS FOR CREATIVE KIDS
Harry Porter and Others (my daughter’s website!)