A Toy Story (Art Room Style)



I know art teachers who have TONS of fun toys, gadgets, gizmos, manipulatives, examples, cultural pieces and just “STUFF” that help us teach art and also to display around the room.  So many art teachers I know are true collectors who like to hoard anything “Art” related.  They  just can’t pass it up!  Surprise surprise, I am not exactly one of those teachers, however, I do have a few fun things to share with students in the art room.

My art teacher Barbie comes from my dear friend Katie, (don’t tell,  but we did play Barbies until we were in 7th grade)… Call us creative… She gave me the art teacher Barbie as a memento of our childhood days. The kindergarten girls always ask “Are you ever going to open that?”  I also have a fun Van Gogh sculpture I got at the National conference a few years back. These are just a few of the things I have to share- I also have some Oaxaca sculptures and even some Russian nesting dolls that are on display in my classroom. Kids love to see all of the items and comment on them.

Share with us your best “Art Room Toy” the kids and you go nuts for!  What have you been collecting for years? What catches their eyes these days? What helps you teach your lessons in an even more interactive way?

I can’t wait to hear.  


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Kim

    I am ashamed to say…I am the toy hoarder! My favorites and the ones that generate the most art conversation are the tiny little finger puppet artist made by “Magnetic personalities”. I have them scattered over a blackboard that is used only for displays and with each finger puppet, I have examples of their works. The puppets catch the kids eye and open up the conversation about the art and artist styles. When I introduce a project based on one of the artist; they are highlighted once more.

  • Amy

    I have the new Smurf artist toy from the McDonald’s Happy Meals!

  • Toys. . . well we started the year creating a block city and drawing it to connect with the classroom teachers “community project.” Now all the blocks are in a bin and when they finish early they take them to the carpet. At first it was a fiasco! Then I put down about 5 tape squares. All the blocks have to stay in the squares. There have been no arguments since. The blocks are a huge incentive for cleaning too. If they clean up quickly they will have a few minutes for blocks or books.

  • Some of my favorites are a 4 sided LiteBright, a tote of Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads, Lincoln Logs, Cranium Board Game, any silly glasses I can get my hands on, and my favorite Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls for still lifehttp://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?exhibit=415439 . That is only the beginning of my toy addiction. Starting a vintage tupperware toy collection. Great topic!

  • Anonymous

    My students are always asking me what my toys are for. I usually ask them “What do you think I do when you are not here?” I also have an art teacher Barbie and a Van Gogh action figure. I also have a small Frida bobble head and a small bust of Jack Skellington. And my favorite is my large inflatable red crayon :o)

  • Rross1111

    My nieces and I used to play with our Barbies into early high school! Except by then we were creating stop motion films with them, maybe it is an indicator of a creative mind!

  • Dfisher

    I love the book, “The Pot That Juan Built” because is shares so much on so many levels.  It shows the how and why art is important, not only to look at, but to make a living.