7 Essential Centers For Your Art Room

As art teachers we have a love-hate relationship with the clocks in our rooms. Sometimes, students need just a bit more time to finish up the projects they have been so diligently working on. Other times, the hour-long project we had planned finishes early, leaving us with a few minutes of class to fill. You’ve got to think quick in order to make the most of the time you are given. Whether you teach full day kindergarten and have some extra instructional time or you have a class you need to slow down because they are light years ahead of their peers, art centers are a great way to keep your students engaged in the art world when you end up with a few spare minutes.


Here are 7 essential centers for your art room.


1. Jewelry Making

Jewelry Making

What we love: These foam shapes are perfect for creating patterns and practicing lacing skills. Students can also create designs with them.

What you’ll need: Foam beads, plastic needles, and thread.

2. Art Concentration

Picture 3

What we love: Students start to recognize famous artworks simply by playing a fun game. It’s great prep for their future Art History 101 class!

What you’ll need: Two sets of matching cards with images from art history. Make your own or see the available choices here!

3. Straws and Connectors

straws and connectors

What we love: Lightweight straws let students build BIG. Anytime a student is allowed to build a skyscraper in the art room, it is a positive experience!

What you’ll need: A straw and connector set. Find the set I use in my room here.

4. Imaginets


What we love: Self-contained magnets, board, and design challenges make this an easy center for all ages to enjoy.

What you’ll need: A magnetic surface, colorful shape magnets, and photos of different design challenges. Get creative or buy this all-in-one game here.

5. Free Draw


What we love: The students get a chance to be creative without necessarily following the step-by-step instructions.

What you’ll need: Plastic shoebox, stack of scrap paper, and the media of your choice.

6. Color Match

Color Match

What we love: The students go beyond the world of red, yellow, and blue to discover colors like crimson apple, buttery gold, and seaside swell. Plus, it enhances memorization skills!

What you’ll need: Clothespins, paint chips and a few other things. Learn how to make your own version here!

7. Play-Doh

Play doh

What we love: It’s a type of clay, (which is a win for students) but it’s easy to clean up (which is a win for teachers)!

What you’ll need: Laminated construction paper for placemats and Play-Doh.

What is your favorite activity to pull out for students when you have extra time? 

What things would you add to this list?


Jennifer Borel

Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • Karen Lundgren

    I would love to see some center ideas for high school students

    • Ms. P

      I agree with this so much!

      Jewelry making, art history games, and free draw could definitely be translated into a high school room, but I would l would love to see someone tackle more centers ideas for older students.

      Right now I give them options like those but also continually have an “when you’re free” project that they work on continuously each grading period.

      • Check out some of the replies below! I think there are some potential high school centers!

  • Emily Valenza

    the most popular activities in my room are: calligraphy, modeling clay practice, architecture magnets & legos, and tessellating shapes. thanks for the great ideas!

    • Oh man! Thank you for the great idea! Calligraphy would be awesome!

  • Amy Hartman

    origami, a collaborative weaving loom and Art Rage on the smart board

    • LOVE! I want to see pictures of the collaborative weaving!

    • Emily

      Nice! I would also love to see the collaborative weaving. I literally have been planning out how to do a collaborative weaving as of today. If no pics, could you describe it?

      • Amy Hartman

        Here are photos of two collaborative stations: The Lego wall I designed for the front lobby and the collaborative loom. There is a loom on the playground as well.

      • Amy Hartman

        Here is the collaborative loom woven with reused t-shirts and the Lego wall I designed for the front lobby. There is also a loom on the playground.

  • The most popular center in my classroom was blocks (actually they are Keva Planks)! I wrote about it here (along with strategies to keep students from rushing in order to get to the centers). https://www.theartofed.com/2012/08/16/the-best-way-to-engage-boys-in-art-class/

  • Ann

    With all these great centers available, how do you prevent students from rushing just to be “done”, just to get some “free draw” time?

    • Well my students know that centers are a privilege. They have to show good behavior and work hard on their projects before I would even get them out. Plus, I never pull out these centers unless the whole class is done (because I use these with Kindergartners). So it helps keeps the pace. For my older students we occasionally get these out, but mostly they ask to help out friends when they are done.

    • Amy Hartman

      I struggle with this as well.

    • Tara Brenno

      I struggled with this. The quality of work was slipping so I had to limit my what to do when your done centers to free drawing and white boards. But my kids love finger knitting and making gods eyes.

  • Cheryl Arden

    Marble run! I only have one set and use it as a center with 3rd, 4th and 5th. They are supposed to work together to build a run that carries the marble all the way from the top to the table. It encourages collaboration, planning and persistence! They love it!

  • Mandy

    My students enjoy shape sculpture and modeling clay with a laminated mat. I also have foam blocks. This year I added small white boards and visa markers. The shape sculpture was found at the local community college at the Art museum store. My students also like thumb print characters. I have a few ink pads and ideas for how to create different characters.

    • Very cool idea about the white boards and expo markers! I like the idea of ink pads, but I have some students who have celiac disease and believe it or not some ink pads have wheat products in them! But a pair of non-latex gloves just might solve that! :)

      • Laura

        Ink Pads, REALLY??? Thank you, I had no idea! I will have to check that out.

        • Ya! My nurse informed me of this. I couldn’t believe it!

  • Elizabeth Rubenstein

    MAKER space!

  • K. Braun

    Not road tested, but one I brainstormed on was a two part station. Part one- a marker drawing. Part two- a station with water and a brush and they can add water to make their marker drawing a painting! After the introduction of painting of course :) Can’t wait to get stations going in my world, esp with kinder!

  • Terri

    I started to do centers last year and the students love it…Their favorite is Lego walls…I wrote a couple grants and got some lego bricks and some lego plates and had them hung on my walls in 4 different area…The students LOVE them

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