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Art Teacher Budgets and Supply Ordering

Congratulations! You landed your dream job as an elementary art teacher. Great! Awesome! Amazing! I'm so proud of you. Now you need supplies. Wait, what? What do you already have? What do you need? Where do you order from? Are you taking over for a teacher who retired? Are you entering a brand new position? You often don't know what you need until you're really in it. Year after year, you build up a supply list and know the things you need to order, but what do you do about this first year?

Budgets. This is a crazy topic that differs in every single school. Sometimes your school will give you a specific art class budget. It could be under $200 or $5000 or more! What a wild range. Other times you have no budget at all and you have to fundraise, which can be frustrating. You might end up spending your own hard earned money to pick up the slack. Don't worry, we all do it, just be careful. $20 here and there is no big deal, but it will add up fast.

There are schools that will tell you the budget has no limit, just order whatever you need and they got it. This one seems like a dream, but can be a nightmare. What if I want to spend $10,000? I could do it. Is that too much? Should I get lesser quality or bargain hunt? I need to know a limit! It's easier to order what you need when you have some kind of parameters.

I am extremely lucky at my school. I have a generous art budget plus more and I'll be really open about it. I usually get between $2,000-3,000 a year for around 380 students for my regular art classes. This last year I got even luckier. Since I facilitated a club, we got an unlimited budget for club supplies. You better believe I bought some awesome stuff. I also got the opportunity to refurnish my class with an unlimited furniture budget. It was a dream come true, but that won't happen every year.

Places to order from. Once you know your budget and what you generally need, where do you order it all? Each school has a list of places you are able to order from. Sometimes you can go to your local Wal-mart or in person stores and get reimbursed. Other times it's all online. I typically order all consumables from Amazon and Blick art supplies. I can usually find everything I need on those two sites.

Nasco, Lakeshore, and School Specialty also have art supplies and furniture and you'll probably get catalogs for them in your school mailbox. Sometimes you choose a place to find the best deals, or other times it's just easier to order bulk from one place. Furniture can be different and I've branched out to other sites to find the best fit.

What to order. I've put together a list of the favorite supplies I’ve purchased from glue sticks to tables for my own classroom. I understand that everyone has a different classroom set up, budget, and style so some items may not work for you.


Top 6 Items

If you don't feel like opening the link above, but I think you should, I'll just give you the top 6 items I would recommend for any elementary art classroom. These are not affiliate links and I am in no way making money on these items... for now. I just want to be helpful.

1. Visual timer clock. Young students don't always understand the concept of time if you tell them you have 10 minutes left. For all they know, that's an hour! This one time purchase will save your sanity class by class. Seriously. This specific timer is battery operated, so it will not tick and has a beeping alarm everyone can hear. I also have three non-battery operated timers that just tick away in the background and it drives me crazy.

2. Vinyl tape in rainbow colors. This is the best solution for labeling anything, especially if you color code. This tape is water proof and easy to peel off with no residue. I label my floor lines and all tables with this stuff.

3. 6-ply Railboard. It's like poster board, but thicker. It's like mat board, but thinner. It's the perfect thickness to mount artwork to without it being too heavy, but it also doesn't curl or bend when it's propped up. Each sheet can be cut down to make four 11x14 pieces that will mount 9x12 artworks. I simply hot glue artwork to these boards for display.

4. Stable water cups. These are the best type of water cups for painting. Sure, they can still spill a little bit in odd ways, but it's very difficult to tip over once it's on the table.

5. Canson Mixed Media Paper. If I could only buy one single type paper for my classroom, it would be the 12x18 canson xl mixed media paper. It's versatile enough for drawing and for paint. It is a much pricier paper than most, but it is probably my favorite choice.

6. Faber-Castell Connector Paints. They come in sets of 12 or sets of 24. They call these watercolors, but they are more like tempera cakes. The colors are vibrant and easy to use at every age, even preschool. Each pack comes with a nice paintbrush and you can buy individual refills when they run low. They are super easy to clean and kids love them. Blick used to sell the entire sets, now they only sell the refills, which is all I need at this point.

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