12 life changing classroom art tricks

This post originally appeared on the blog Pocket of Preschool

You want to do more art in your classroom but you don’t want the MESS. You know all the reasons why you should do more art in your classroom. You know your kids love creating, painting, and using glitter. But the aftermath of an amazing art project can look like a tornado went through your classroom. Check out these 12 amazing life changing art tricks, and you will be excited to do art in your classroom again!

1. Baggie Paint Cup Liners

So simple and so amazing. Just line your paint cups with a baggie, fill it with paint, snap on the lid, and put the brush in. When you are ready to change out the paints, just wash the brushes and lids. The paint cup will be CLEAN!

I keep my brushes in my paints for a week. I just can’t find the time to wash them daily. This set of brushes has lasted me for over 2 years. The brushes are made by Crayola and I found them at Target.

Paint cups lined with plastic bags make cleaning up after art class much easier.

2. Trash Buckets and Supply Buckets 

Kids don’t have to leave the activity to throw away trash or get another supply. It is all on the table! 

You can keep kids at their activity tables, and make sure they're tidy, by providing them with buckets for trash and supplies.

3. Shape Paper Punches

You will NEVER have to cut out tiny shapes again! Start collecting paper punches NOW! They are a life saver. I buy mine from craft stores when they are on sale. They come in all kinds of different shapes, sizes, and fun designs. Keep them in your art center for kids to use too. It is a fun way to sneak in fine motor work, and kids LOVE them!

Collect shape paper punches so that you never have to cut tiny shapes again–you'll save yourself a ton of time.

4. Keep Extra Shapes from Craft Projects

 Don’t throw extra shapes from projects away. Keep a bin of paper shapes for students to use in your art center. They come in handy when you only need a few shapes or for shape collages!

If there are leftover shapes (from your paper punches or students' work), store them in a plastic bin for future craft projects.

5. Keep Glitter in Salt Shakers (or empty sprinkles containers)

I found these plastic salt shakers at the Dollar Tree a year ago and they are amazing! They work great for colored sand, too! If you want less glitter to come out when they shake it, just hot glue a few of the holes closed at the top. 

You can use old salt or sprinkle shakers (or pick them up for cheap at the Dollar Tree) to keep your glitter tidy and easy to use.

6. Keep Tubs of Collage Materials ready to GO!

Save prep time and keep tubs of various collage materials in bowls in a cabinet. I keep cut ribbon, tissue paper, paper, string, small foam objects, and eyes in plastic tubs in my art cabinet. I make a ton at the beginning of the year (the buckets were full) and they last ALL year! These tubs are just are food containers I found at the Dollar Tree. Bonus… they come with lids, too!

Keep clear tubs of collage materials, like googly eyes and confetti, so that they're organized and ready to be used for your next craft project.

7. Keep Drawing Tools in Buckets

Need makers for a table activity? Just grab a few buckets to set on the table. Want to take small group outside? Just grab a few buckets and go outside.  The buckets are easy for teachers and kids to grab when they need them. I keep colored pencils and markers in buckets. I keep crayons in clear food containers so you can see the colors easily.

Keep drawing tools, like colored pencils and colored markers, in buckets for easy organization.

8. Keep Large Trays at the Drying Rack (so the small things don’t fall through)

It is so frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking to a child (and teacher) when they worked so hard on an art project and it falls. I keep trays next to my easel for all the tiny treasures kids make.

Keep large trays, like a large baking sheet, in your drying rack to make sure small crafts don't fall through.

9. Paint Tablecloths

Find an old sheet and turn it into a paint tablecloth! When you lift up the tablecloth, all the paint and glue is on the tablecloth and NOT the table. Don’t worry about setting it out to dry. I just fold it up —wet paint and all — and put it on the shelf. It easily pulls apart when you go to use it the next time.

Keep your craft table free of paint and glue by using a paint tablecloth every time it's time for art class.

10. Keep Art Smocks at Kids’ Level

Set the environment up for students to be independent! Put the art smocks in a place where kids can get them out and put them away by themselves.

Keep the students' smocks at a level where they can reach them, so that kids can independently grab smocks when it's time to get ready for art.

11. Cover the Art Easel with Plastic

You can find it at a fabric store (some Walmart stores have it, too). I was covering it with a plastic table cloth and changing it at the beginning of each school year. Then I found PreKinders’ tutorial and she used thicker plastic. You can read all about it here.

I taped a border strip to the back of my easel (the middle part is not attached). Some of my kids can’t reach the top of the easel. They always need help clipping their paper on and clipping it off the easel. Not anymore! Students clip their paper to the border! It is at their level and they can do it independently! WHOOO!

Cover your easels with plastic sheets, and affix clips so that students can easily pin up their canvases before painting.

12.  Drying Rack at the Sink

No more water puddle from your art supplies air drying! Just plop the tray, brush, etc. in the drying rack to air dry. So simple and so wonderful!

Use a drying rack at the sink for your art supplies–no more messy drying station.

I wish I new ALL these tricks when I first started teaching! Oh well —better now than never.

Remember these life saving art tips… Pin this on Pinterest!

Keep these art classroom tips at the ready by pinning this to a Pinterest board.  

Thanks so much for reading until the end. Go grab your Art Easel Routine FREE from my TpT store. Just click on the cover below!

Download easel routine posters that you can print and hang around the art studio to ensure students know what to do when it's time to use art easels in class.



With TpT for Schools, your administrator can review, purchase, and send TpT resources directly to you.


pocketofpreschool-jpgJackie Kops is the Teacher-Author behind Pocket of Preschool. Her passion is to inspire early childhood teachers with play-based activities, thematic centers, and engaging classroom environment ideas that nurture and challenge little learners. AND to help teachers find easy ways to embed character and teach social skills throughout their day. After over 11 years of teaching full day preschool, she is here to share best practices, activities, and supports that excite and challenge students in an early childhood classroom. You can find her resources on her blog and in her TpT store. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.