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Alternative Art Materials

Alternative Art Materials

While it’s important to have good-quality art materials around, it’s also important (and fun) to look around for alternative materials of the free, recycled, and edible (yes, edible!) variety. Here are some ideas to get you started from The Creative Family (Trumpeter, 2008) by Amanda Blake Soule.

The Pantry
This makes a perfect opportunity to clean out any food that might be too old to eat (but not necessarily too old to play with). Think beyond pasta necklaces, and head for other grains, beans, and seeds. Think about color and texture as you pick your materials. Your chosen food can become the contents shakers, objects to be glued on paper or wood, or baubles to be strung.

There’s no greater source for materials that out in the world. Look for small rocks, leaves, acorns, bar, pine cones, and more. The hunt for material will become an adventure itself. These items, along with a bit of glue and paper or wood, can become a beautiful collection of mixed media art for your little ones.

Yes, you read that right. I mean garbage–or perhaps a little less frightening, the recycling bins. Take some inspiration from the great recycling artists out there and get creative with the stuff that you (or others) are getting rid of. Keep an art box for the kids full of random pieces that are otherwise headed for the trash: Old newspapers for papier-mache, and magazines and old calendars for collages.

Thrift Shop
Scour your local thrift shop or charity shop for alternative art materials at a good price. Dishes, fabric, leather–so many “thrifted” things can have a new life when you and your children put your creative minds to the task.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


+ add your own
2:26AM PDT on Sep 28, 2012

Thank you.:)

3:39AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Still, I wouldn't like to be a child again.

3:37AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

interesting ideas

12:55PM PDT on Jul 23, 2011


11:15AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

I implemented each of the ideas mentioned in art class for summer camp students. They loved the concept of reusing & being crafty & it kept my projects green & on a thrifty budget.

2:10PM PST on Nov 19, 2010

I like the thrift shop idea, help others while helping yourself. :)

12:22PM PDT on Jun 7, 2010

Great ideas! I do art journaling, and I never even thought to go to a thrift store to find supplies. But, now that you mentioned it, I think I will!

7:28PM PDT on Mar 31, 2010


2:17PM PDT on Mar 31, 2010

Thanks for article.

2:16PM PDT on Mar 31, 2010

Thanks for article.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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