Gathering up simple materials for creative art

Explore unconventional materials in new and interesting ways!

We are always looking for unique art materials to make the art process interesting and fun for our students and one of our favorite types of materials to use are things the children would normally see or have at home…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

For this process based art activity, we used cotton swabs for painting and egg cartons as our paint palettes.  First, I would like to tell you about our upcycled egg carton paint palettes…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

Using Upcycled Paint Palettes

We have a great pharmacy in our town that likes to save recyclables like egg cartons and cardboard tubes and discarded envelopes for us.  Deborah stops in on occasion to see what they have saved for her and brings all of the treasures home to use at a later time.  You may be wondering why a pharmacy would have discarded egg cartons.  Well, this pharmacy also has some grocery items like milk, eggs, and ice cream.  You know, all the necessities!  A store can save up a lot of interesting things in a hurry and they will save them for preschool teachers like us or anyone else crazy enough to want to store a hundred egg cartons or a huge box of envelopes in their garage to use at a later time.  All of our egg cartons hold one dozen eggs, so there are 12 separate little spots, perfect for holding paint, sorting beads, or counting tokens.  We cut our egg cartons in half and washed them out well before filling them with paint. For styrofoam egg cartons, they can be washed in some dishwashers as well…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

Exploring with Cotton Swabs

After filling our egg cartons with paint, we set out another simple but unique art material: cotton swabs.  It’s always interesting to see how the children will use a new tool…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

The children dipped the cotton swabs into the paint and then dabbed it onto their paper.  Some of our children began exploring their cotton swab paint brush by just making lots of dots on their paper…

Two unique art materials by teach Preschool

Enjoying the Creative Process

Others used the cotton swabs to swipe the paint on their paper, as they might with a paint brush…

Two unique art materials by teach preschool

Valentine’s Day Inspiration

Two of our girls were feeling the Valentine’s day spirit and chose to paint hearts with their cotton swabs…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

Experimenting with Colors and Mixing

And our one little guy who started out making dots on his paper soon realized that those colorful dots could be smeared all over his paper with a few swipes of the cotton swab.  The dots and colors mixed together to create lines and beautiful blobs…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

Deborah saw how much fun the children were having with their two new art materials and decided to have a go at it herself…

Two unique art materials by Teach Preschool

Introducing new art materials can be hit or miss with our class.  But these two simple, inexpensive tools really seemed to be winners for us!  Do you have any unique art tool ideas that you would like to share?  Leave a comment below letting us know your favorites!

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By |2019-01-30T16:48:55+00:00February 1st, 2014|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. F.D. February 1, 2014 at 7:09 am - Reply

    This idea is a keeper! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kimberly February 1, 2014 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Great and simple idea! Love that the local pharmacy saves things for you!


  3. Amy February 1, 2014 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    I love cotton swabs. I also love giving them pipe cleaners(chenille stems) to paint with.

  4. Debra Gomez February 1, 2014 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Painting with walnuts my kids had a blast with them

  5. Marcia Fowler February 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I like how you use the egg cartons. We tend to use apple sauce cups or kid’s yogurt containers but the egg cartons hold more colors.
    I tried your color wheel last week. It was fun. I labeled every other section A, B, C and modeled how to put a color in A, another color in B, then in C. After that, they could mix neighboring colors. It was interesting to see the difference in 4 year old’s ability to follow, or not follow, those directions. Some kids mixed just two colors together, some mixed them all. Everyone had fun. Thanks for the idea.
    As for fun items to paint with, we tend to use a lot of monster trucks, Hot Wheels and potato mashers.

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