Let’s face it, art is messy. And we’ve been taught that art is for talented people. As homeschooling parents, it can be intimidating to consider teaching something we don’t feel we’re any good at.

I would argue that enjoying art gets overcomplicated, especially in the early years. And that you might enjoy it even more than your kiddos do when you simply let yourself get messy rather than worry about perfection.

What should 1st graders learn in art?

First-grade kids study new art tools and learn how unfamiliar materials can be utilized. Young artists are interested in paintings showing familiar subjects like animals and families. If your student is in kindergarten they may begin learning more about sculpture using clay or paper that requires less fine motor skills.

Realistically, the early elementary years should be about exploration and understanding how materials and different concepts work, in my opinion. I believe that our job as home educators is to create a spark.

One of the main reasons I created this site was to help other home educators have the resources and the confidence to create with their students.

Spark Elementary Art Explorations

Often, I think that means putting supplies out there and showing them the different ways they can be used. Watercolor paints are a great example. Using them with salt, with a dry brush, with a wet brush, on different textures, over a crayon.

Once your students have been shown some of the different ways to use the same material, they no longer look at their supplies one-dimensionally. The goal is to get them wondering, what if…

Easily Plan Your Art Lessons

Have you been a victim of the glittery Pinterest Vacuum? I have. It’s beautiful and it sucks me in every time. Instead, plan out your art lessons for the year easily with the printable art planner.

Even if you don’t have the exact details of your art projects planned, at the very least you’ll have a theme for your art lessons throughout the year.

Don’t Separate Art Class

Whether you’re using a boxed curriculum or separate subjects one of the easiest ways is to create a fun lesson each week around your subject. When you’re learning math, if you choose a math storybook to supplement, add in a lesson.

If you, like me, love unit studies. Easy Peasy. Add in some art room time. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Human Body unit…tissue paper hearts. Winter unit…polar bear for the win.

Rather than spend time tracing in a workbook, get your fine motor skills cutting out geometric shapes from black construction paper for rocks. Workbooks or fun art? Which do you think they’ll say is so much fun?

Unit Studies Art Lessons

While you’re planning your unit study, put on your art educator hat.

Studying famous artists is an easy way to add depth to a geography or history lesson. For example, we studied Frida Kahlo in conjunction with Mexico. But again, focus on your interests and comfort level. It doesn’t need to be worthy of the National Art Museum.

For example, our Marie Curie unit study might not seem like it’s got art options built-in. However, we learned about Poland where the famous scientist was born, so we can easily go down that rabbit hole.

Choose Simple Lessons

You can choose winter landscapes after reading up on the geography and climate, Polish folk art flowers, or decorated eggs. If your students are younger, read Locomotive by Tuwim and discuss a basic shape that is represented in the illustrations.

Using literature for inspiration is a fantastic way to incorporate art as we do in our Sacagawea unit study with our “We are the Water Keepers” project.

If you’re not comfortable creating your own drawing lesson, watch our videos that guide first graders through easy art creations.

Don’t Overcomplicate It

Your lessons don’t need to be complicated. Consider starting with a lesson on lines. Remember, the goal in the early years is to teach the fundamentals so they can explore. You can show them that lines can be so much more than just a black outline.

There are bold lines, rainbow lines, straight lines, curvy lines, organic lines, vertical lines, horizontal lines. You can blend colors and use white paint to create different hues.

Use a horizontal line on white paper to create a (you guessed it) horizon… and then add in sky background.

Teach the Basics

First-grade art is sweet on it’s own. Want to take it up a notch? Include a background. Add in a horizon line and bam…you take the wow factor up a notch. Worried that you can’t teach correct proportion? No worries, you don’t need to.

Add in some leaves for jungle aesthetics, a horizon and trees for every day, and a water and sky background for oceanography lessons.

Don’t always feel like it’s got to be fancy. Create an abstract alphabet lesson to go with Chick-a-Chick-a Boom Boom. The important circle art lesson after reading The Dot should be something that all students learn. An underlying message that everyone can make art by simply creating is valuable for our students and for us.

Easy Fun Art Lesson Supplies

The best art lesson supply in my opinion? Art teacher examples that show off mistakes. Don’t be critical, do it next to them, and don’t try for perfection. It can be as simple as grabbing some crayons.

As your budget allows, grab more art supplies. Your art cupboard doesn’t have to be as out of control as ours is, but simply add as your space and funds allow.

Colored Construction Paper

Go beyond simple white and black paper. Grab a stack of colored construction paper in a rainbow of colors. Consider using them for the background, but also for creating art that isn’t simply traditional colors.

Think green polar bears, orange dinosaurs, and blue owls. Stock up on paper in primary colors, secondary colors, bright colors, dark colors…every color of the rainbow lives in our art cupboard. We’ve collected over the last six years, though. It takes time to stock your cupboard.

Other Paper Options

Watercolor paper is a wonderful addition to your cupboard when you can afford it. It can be a little pricey, so I keep mine out of reach and get it down for planned lessons or hand out one or two pieces at a time.

We use coffee filters, tissue paper, tin foil, and magazines. We try to keep all of our scrap paper for mixed media projects (color wheel daisy anyone), although that admittedly brings along a whole different dilemma for storage.

Watercolor Paint

Crayola watercolor pan paints are a great starting point, easy to source, and pretty affordable. When you’re ready to splurge (I put this on my Christmas list one year) we LOVE the Connector Paints from Faber Castell. Best part? Once you have the set, you can purchase individual color refills.

You can glide them on thick like acrylics or water them down for lovely blending.

Liquid Watercolors

Admittedly, these only get pulled out when we have time for some mess. They create beautiful hues but in my opinion, liquid watercolor paint isn’t essential for first and second-grade lessons if they’re not in your budget.

Cake Watercolor paints

Cake paints are a great compromise. We really like the ones from Blick, but you can also find them online at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s.

Oil Pastels

If you’ve never used oil pastels, you’re missing out. They glide on so incredibly smoothly in comparison to a crayon.

Our favorite oil pastel? Crayola. They’re the right size for little hands and they’ll last you through an entire school year easily. If not longer. Your other option, if you’re doing an entire order, is to add a couple of black oil pastels from Blick where they sell the colors individually.

Tempera Paint

You can make almost every color under the rainbow with the primary colors along with a bottle of white tempera paint. If you can swing it, a bottle of black tempera paint for noses and ears, outlining, etc. Otherwise, a sharpie or black crayon will be more than sufficient.


A box of Crayola Crayons can get you some pretty fantastic results. As you have the budget, expand your collection of cool colors with glitter, neon, and skin tones.

For a splurge, I highly recommend gel crayons. They glide on smoothly, you can add water to create a watercolor effect and blend them like a pastel.

Optional Supplies

In all honesty, we have more art supplies than we use on a regular basis. I’m a sucker for beautiful colored markers and glittery glue.

We use colored pencils for facial features and fine-tuning the facial details of our animals. A simple pack of Crayola is more than sufficient for 1st-grade art if that’s your budget for the year. A fun choice is watercolor pencils that you can paint on with water to create blendable hues.

Please follow and like us: