I used to teach two daily arts and crafts classes at a school that had practically no arts budget. I got exceptionally good at finding and creating projects that the kids loved but that cost very little. Here are some of my most resourceful ideas for arts and crafts.
I think my favorite project started by chance. I was driving down the road and saw someone selling plants. They had just thinned out overgrown flower beds and had tons of baby plants. I stopped and explained that I was a teacher. They gave me enough plants so that each child would have one.
I then got an okay from the school to clear out an overgrown area of the school yard. The kids helped me to do this. We divided the land into individual small garden plots using stones and sticks for boundaries. Now the fun began. The kids started bringing in their own little seedlings to grow and creating miniature pieces of art to decorate their plots. Parents helped out by bringing more plants. Soon we had an amazing garden project.
This craft is the savior of every budget-strapped art teacher. All you need is a piece of paper. I have taught origami using gum wrappers or pages of magazines. There are many levels of origami from a simple origami dog face to a complex grand piano. Many excellent instruction sites exist on the web and there are lots of books in the library on this subject.
If you need to teach your students to draw and can only get one book, get . Even better, borrow it from the library and photocopy it. The author gives you permission to do so. This author is passionate about teaching people (especially kids) how to draw in 3D. He starts from a simple hat and works up to super complicated scenes. Teaching Draw Squad is slightly more expensive than origami because you need blank paper (cheap photocopy paper is fine) and a No. 2 pencil with a good eraser. I think this is still within the most limited of budgets.
Art from Recycled items
In today’s world of eco-awareness, it is getting easier and easier to find industrial and business “waste” that you can use for art projects. Businesses want to appear green and there are tax incentives to donate for recycling instead of sending waste to the landfill. Almost every major and many minor cities have organizations to help businesses recycle their usable waste. is a great place in the Los Angeles area to get items for recycled projects for your students like this frugal juice carton wallet.
By the way, do not feel like YOU have to create projects for the kids to make with this stuff. If you bring the material and have a means to fasten them together (tape, staplers, glue, etc) the students will make the most incredible pieces of art. Yard sales, thrift shops, and swaps are a great source for free or cheap art supplies.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg so please don’t tell me we need to cut art from our schools because there isn’t enough money. You don’t need money to teach art. You only need someone that will allow the children to be the natural artists that they are.
If you need help coming up with more art ideas, let me know. I’ve got millions.