Kids Art Cart, Storage System, and Organization Tips

Art is one of the best hands-on learning activities for kids, but organizing art often takes planning and practice. Without a consistent system, stress from mess can spoil the joy of creating. After attempting a few different arrangements, we finally have a logical art set up that works for our family! I’m excited to share our kids’ art cart, organization system, and tips for minimizing art clutter.

Kids Art Cart, Storage System, and Organization Tips - combined with mid-century modern dining room
Left: Side table for our kids’ water/snack/cleaning station (similar here and here); Right: art carts and storage cabinet

When you go through this post, please keep in mind that it’s normal for a kids’ art space to be a work-in-progress. Organizing children’s craft and school supplies as they grow takes brainstorming and practice, so I hope these ideas can help!

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Modern kids art carts and storage cabinet in our open concept dining room
Left: Side table for our kids’ water/snack/cleaning station (similar here and here); Right: art carts and storage cabinet

Benefits of an organized kids art cart and workstation

Independence: Like most busy parents, I don’t want my kids to ask me to help them open or find materials 100 times a day! This is why every art supply is in an open container and has a designated spot in our art cart. The more they can do for themselves, the more they learn, and the more time we all have for other important tasks.

Creativity: Having easily accessible art supplies encourages my kids to have fun making whatever they want. They don’t have to ask me for permission, because I leave age-appropriate materials in their art station and reinforce where their “yes space” is for artwork.

Simplified clean-up time: By having consistent places to put things, my kids understand where things need to go. Of course, they sometimes need reminders and positive reinforcement to clean up. But even at a young age, organization makes it possible to give them this responsibility.

How our kids art station changed from toddlerhood to the elementary years

Before I share our current set up, I’ll show you how the area has changed over the years. Our kitchen, dining, and living rooms are part of an open concept floor plan. We don’t have space for an extra art or play room.

Although my kids could easily leave a panoramic mess (and sometimes do), my husband and I are adamant not to let “kid stuff” take over the house for our own sanity. Therefore, organization is the foundation of our kids art station!

Kids art table and baskets when my kids were toddlers
Kids art table and baskets when my kids were 1 and 4 years old

Simple art baskets for toddlers

When my children were younger, we set up a little art station next to their small kids table. This was the original mini art station which you might remember from our homeschool tour a few years ago.

The simple set up worked well when both of my kids were under 5 years of age.

By placing the basket atop a shelf, my son could not reach it when he was in the crawling and mouthing stage.

However, in hindsight, I would actually nix all markers so they could focus on using colored pencils or crayons. Limited options are better for younger children.

Pencils and crayons give proprioceptive feedback with use; depending on the pressure applied, kids will discover light versus dark results. This feedback teaches cause and effect and also encourages coordination and concentration.

Simple art baskets for toddlers

From left to right:

  1. Paper tray
  2. Small baskets with handles so that little hands could carry independently to table
  3. Small paper cups provided separation for some of the supplies so that they would be easier to find.
  4. Basket with limited favorite drawings and crafts to minimize hoarding and clutter

Despite this designated station, my daughter ended up carrying everything back and forth between this little table and our dining table.

In addition, my older child was constantly asking for more “grown up” art supplies.

Small kids table and art cart

Writing cards with a cute wood mailbox toy and art cart
Kids art station when my daughter was 5 years old

Then we tried moving the little table closer to the main dining table and got a rolling art cart.

The art cart was a game changer (details below), but my kids continued to prefer our dining table which gave them more space!

Mid century modern dining room and kids art space

So for the past year, we’ve come to accept that our dining table is also our kids desk, homework, and art area.

Now, we have 2 art carts that live beside our kids self-serve water, snack, and cleaning station.

We’ve since relocated the little table to my daughter’s room (stay tuned for her bedroom library tour).

Children's art caddy with most commonly used art supplies
Rolling art cart (similar here and here)

Kids art storage essentials

3 secrets to our successful dining room art center:

  1. Kids art cart
  2. Labeled art storage compartments
  3. Regular de-cluttering system

Compartments are absolutely necessary for organization, and these are the bones of our art storage system!

  1. Art cart with wheels for portability; similar here and here
  2. Open containers for access and compartmentalization
    1. Upcycled tin cans painted with a few coats of acrylic paint (buy from Michaels or Amazon). These are perfect for holding writing and drawing utensils upright so you can easily find the necessary color
    2. Recycled fruit baskets from the farmer’s market
    3. And of course our favorite cotton rope baskets!
    4. If you don’t have these recyclables on hand, here are some inexpensive solutions:
      1. Slim basket trays
      2. Rectangular storage trays
      3. Wide mouth glass mason jars
  3. Zipper storage bags – Although we have many supplies stored in plastic Ziploc bags, we have been transitioning to these durable, reusable silicone bags
  4. Labels – Essential for organizing and also reminding my kids to speak Chinese, their minority language
    1. Free printable art and school supply labels in English, Chinese, Pinyin, and Zhuyin!
    2. DIY with painter’s tape and Sharpie marker
      1. I’ve tried several brands and like this brand the best. The smooth surface is easy to write on, and the tape can be removed and re-adhered if needed.
      2. Fine point Sharpie marker is easy to read; ultra fine point is helpful for small words
    3. Multilingual label maker (for those who prefer not to write)

I’m going to show you what we have inside everything now!

However, please do not feel like you should need to get all of these materials. Honestly, we would have far less if we completely refused all gifts from friends and family!

Inside our kids art cart

Art Cart #1: Commonly Used Kids School Supplies

Art carts are one of the best inventions because they have a small footprint, and my kids can easily wheel them to any seat of the table.

Our first art cart contains the supplies my kids use every day for homework, writing, and doodling.

Depending on your child’s age and developmental level, I strongly suggest limiting options so that they are not overwhelmed and have a better chance at cleaning up.

I also only include items that I can trust both of my children to use independently.

Therefore, Sharpie markers and paint are stored far, far away.

Until my toddler son becomes more mature, those art supplies require adult permission and supervision.

Top of kids art cart with scissor caddy and cans holding art supplies
Rolling art cart (similar here and here)

Top art shelf:

  1. Regular scissors and set of fun edger scissors with spinning caddy that we received as a gift (similar here)
  2. Prang groove triangular coloring pencils for my 6-year-old daughter
  3. Lyra triangular coloring pencils for my 3-year-old son
  4. Sharpie highlighters
  5. Glitter gel pens
  6. Black and blue pens
  7. Assorted markers
  8. Rock crayons and regular crayons
Rolling art cart (similar here and here)

Middle art shelf:

  1. Rulers
  2. Erasers, pencil sharpeners
  3. Stamps and envelopes (eg, handmade greeting cards for writing practice and pen pals)
  4. Multi-purpose glue, craft tacky glue, glue stick, single-sided and double-sided tape , painter’s tape, white out
  5. Hole punchers and stapler

Bottom shelf:

  1. Shape stencils
  2. Various stickers (eg, bilingual sticker learning activities)

Art Cart #2: Special Kids Craft and School Supplies

Here’s a close-up look at our second art cart!

These supplies used to be stored away, but now I feel comfortable offering more materials to both children.

Rolling art cart (similar here and here)

Top art shelf:

  1. Dot markers
  2. Tempera paint sticks
  3. Watercolor brush pens
  4. Various small and large shape punchers

Middle art shelf:

  1. Cotton string
  2. Various glitter glue
  3. Washi tape
  4. Puffy paint (see examples and tips for creating tactile Chinese and Korean words here as an alternative to Montessori sandpaper cards)
  5. Oil pastels
  6. Craft books:
    1. Fun and Easy Crafting with Recycled Materials
    2. Cardboard Creations

Here’s another view of the art cart where you can see the middle shelf more clearly.

Rolling art cart (similar here and here)

Bottom art shelf:

  1. Recycled cardboard pieces, some cut into interesting shapes (eg, hearts, tree, cross, numbers)
  2. Cardboard toilet paper roll in a tray

Whenever possible, we encourage the kids to make recycled crafts and limit paper waste.

By putting recyclables in this visible, open shelf, they are more likely to use it compared to new paper that is stored in our art cabinet.

Labeled art storage system with compartments

If you have limited space like us, a dining cabinet is a sleek way to hide art materials in an organized, functional, and stylish way.

Our mid-century modern dining cabinet is from Room and Board, very similar to this one from Amazon. If you’re looking for smaller modern cabinets, check out this and this.

To figure out the most logical placement for my kids, I’ve moved things around a few times!

Here’s the “behind-the-scenes” of an organizing frenzy!

Organizing dining room and art station

And here’s the calm after the storm!

Dining cabinet art storage system for kids

Inside our dining cabinet-turned-art storage system!

Here’s a peek inside our art cabinet!

Like our art carts, everything is labeled clearly in Chinese and sometimes English.

Left side of cabinet

Labeled paper storage tray and craft supplies in art cabinet
Left side of art cabinet

Top shelf:

  1. Animal stamps
  2. Chinese reward stamps (simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese)
  3. Paper corner cutter
  4. Craft beads
  5. Spirograph set
  6. Pipe Cleaners
  7. Mini Velcro Dots
  8. Magnetic tabletop white board

Bottom shelf:

  1. 5-tier paper tray (similar here and here)
    1. Colored construction paper
    2. Blank white paper
    3. Lined paper for English writing
    4. Grid paper for Chinese writing (printable Chinese writing worksheets here)
    5. Chinese coloring sheets from my website
  2. Korean Hangul alphabet magnets
  3. Chinese character magnets
  4. 3-tier clear storage latched box
    1. Pom poms
    2. Paper clips
    3. Paper fasteners / copper brads
    4. Buttons
    5. Craft sticks
    6. Large clothespins, mini clothespins

These materials were intentionally moved to the left side of the cabinet so that they are closer to the art carts and dining table.

Previously, these craft and school supplies were on the opposite side of the cabinet.

After observing my kids more carefully, I realized they were wasting time walking back and forth.

The simple switch has saved time and energy and prevented complaints about something being “too far”!

Center drawers

Bottom drawer of art cabinet
Bottom drawer of art cabinet

Bottom drawer: dot stickers, googly eyes, bottle caps, baby wipe lids, and more cardboard!

My kids reuse the plastic googly eyes by removing them from old crafts.

Middle drawer of art cabinet with scrap paper and origami
Middle drawer of art cabinet

Middle drawer: Since the middle drawer is at eye level for my children, I put the most commonly used paper supplies here:

  • Origami paper for my daughter
  • Scrap paper and paint chips for both kids
  • Index cards
  • Post-It Notes

Colorful paper scraps are in a cute, heart-shaped tray to make upcycling more attractive.

Soft and stiff felt and felt scraps for kids crafts
Top drawer of art cabinet

Top drawer: This is filled to the brim with soft and stiff felt plus felt scraps for crafts. Honestly, I have a feeling that we will never finish all of these and will end up donating this to school someday!

My children are strongly encouraged to check the scraps bag before cutting a new piece of felt.

Right side of cabinet

Homework organization
Right side of dining cabinet: top: daily routine chart; wood Chinese Calendar;
top shelf: black vertical organizer; bottom shelf: baskets for art storage

Related: Homework Organization for Elementary Kids: Before and After Pictures!

How we organize and declutter art with the “one basket rule”

As I often mention, regular decluttering with my kids is necessary for maximizing efficiency and minimizing frustration in all spaces.

Here, although not perfectly, we try to minimize duplicates and remove things the kids rarely use.

One art basket rule

One basket rule for storing kids art

To teach my children how to prioritize and not hoard, they each have one art basket where they can store their favorite crafts. We use this cotton rope basket, because it’s lightweight with handles.

As the basket fills up, they must figure out what to discard to make room for more crafts.

This teaches them to practice letting go of sentimental clutter.

We’ve had this “one basket rule” for a few years, and my daughter sorts through her art basket almost every week. My son is trying, too.

Cleaning before eating

Modern dining room and kids homework area

Since this table is used for everything, before each meal, my kids are encouraged to clear the table by putting completed projects in appropriate baskets.

Incomplete projects can be placed on a large bowl atop the dining/art cabinet.

Occasionally, work can be left on the corner of the table, but this can become a slippery slope to clutter.

Then the kids spray down the table with mild dish soap mixed with water and microfiber cloths.

Stubborn Sharpie marker stains are removed with the Magic eraser, which truly is magical!

Kids art cart and organization tips

We’re still figuring out what to hang above the dining/art cabinet, and I’m open to any suggestions you might have. I’ve been considering framing some of my kids art pieces or hanging family pictures, but I’m waiting for the right inspiration.

Anyway, I hope it was helpful to see the details and thought process behind our kids art carts, storage system, and organization tips!

Do you have a designated art station for your kids?

What does art look like in your home?

What strategies have worked or flopped?

I’d love to hear about your family’s experience!

Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Happy creating and organizing, friends!

15 Comments

  1. Hi!! Love the art cart (and your posts!). Where/how do you store all the artwork that they’ve created? I’m struggling with what to do with the overwhelming amount of artwork I have accumulated.

    1. Hi Michelle! Thanks for your question. Toward the end of the post are photos of my kids’ art storage. They get 1 basket max each for storage. If it doesn’t fit, then they go through and see what to let go. They also hang a few pics on the wall with painter’s tape. Hope that helps!

  2. I love your kids art carts!! i’ve added like half these things into my amazon basket. Thank you so much for taking the time to write these posts, i know it takes up so much time, so I wanted to comment my appreciation. And also your art cart is so inspiring. I love card making and paper crafting and can’t wait till my daughters are older so we can craft more. For now I will order the popular dot stickers and glue sticks and velcro to start. =) Thank you Betty!!

    1. Hi Sophia! I really appreciate your kind note! I hope you and your family is safe during this time especially as you might be working in the hospital. And I’m glad that you were able to find a few things that your daughters can enjoy for now! Praying for good health and protection over your family!

  3. Hi Betty,

    Just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to write and post! I’m so inspired by your ideas and creativity!

    Absolutely love the art carts and the one basket rule! It’s so important to teach them to let go. 🙂

    I’m raising a bilingual kid myself, I can imagine how much effort it takes to raise such brilliant trilingual kids like yours. Hats off to you and your husband!

    Take care and look forward to more amazing posts!

    1. Hi Katie! I just got a chance to catch up on messages and wanted to thank you for your thoughtful note! I’m glad to hear the posts are helpful and excited to hear that you’re raising a bilingual child, too! I hope the ideas can continue to help your family! 🙂

  4. Hi Betty,
    Thanks for all the useful information! We have similar art carts but I’m re-vamnping them of late. I thought about tin cans, but wondered if the edge was sharp? Any suggestions or do you find that the kids do fine with a usual can that’s been opened with stanadard can opener? Sorry for the strange question — just curious.
    Thank you from a fellow PMGer

    1. I had the same question regarding the tin cans especially since I have a fairly large range in ages of my kids with youngest being almost 2. Thanks for asking this question. Will wait for Betty to respond.

      1. Hi Doreen and Jennifer! Sorry for just seeing this question! I was worried about that as well, but our tins don’t have any sharp edges inside. When I was younger and my dad DIY’d these cans, I remember he used a few layers of masking tape to cover the inner edge. If you feel comfortable, you can try using that as a precaution for your little one!

        1. Hi!! I just found you Betty and I am SO grateful!! Thank. you for all of you work! Doreen and Jennifer, I loved this question and don’t think it is silly at all ;). I got this can opener (https://www.pamperedchef.com/shop/Favorites/Favorites/Smooth-Edge+Can+Opener/2759) for a gift and now looking at the price I realize this might sound nuts, but the smooth edge can opener has been sooooooo helpful for us. We use tin cans for all sorts of stuff- play, organization, impromptu drum sets, good old fashioned can phones connected by a string…anyone remember those? Fun to have different sized cans for things- 28 oz cans, 14 oz cans and the tiny tomato paste ones. Cheers!

          1. Also, you are inspiring me Betty! It would be such a fun reward to start integrating more Japanese for us in all things as we enter a new iteration of organizing, decluttering, and streamlining with a move to a new home today! Thanks for showing me how to look forward to it all! Blessings, Kimberly

  5. Thank you for the detailed tour. I have a lovely cabinet in our dining area that came with the house, and I’ve envisioned using it as an art center, so it was great to see how your cabinet is being used!

    We also have a one basket rule for artwork, but I’m thinking I need to downsize the basket. 😛

  6. Thank you for yet another great post Betty! We are in the midst of moving house and I am very excited working on their activity+home-school room! Your posts are precious and I’m carefully reading all of them! I’ll check in with you privately on questions.. but want to say that you are a gem! Thank God for your graciousness in sharing your experiences. ❤️

  7. Wondering if the cart you have is magnetic. Can you stick magnets to the outside for decoration or additional storage?

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