I learned fairly early on in parenting that poor quality art supplies just weren't worth buying. Instead of paying 99c for a packet of pencils that broke and split and gave a mediocre result on the page, I invested in German-made Lyra pencils for our children. These have lasted years, being topped up from time to time with a new packet or some metallics or skin tones for variety. I used to sell Lyra pencils when I owned Spiral Garden, so was lucky to buy a stash of them at wholesale rates. Years on, though, I don't hesitate to pay full price when it's time to restock the pencil jar, because they are awesome! They're still available from Spiral Garden, as well as most art supply stores and even Officeworks.
We mostly use the Super Ferby range - they're thick, so they're strong. They smell good, and they feel good in our hands. Most of the Ferby range have only natural wood on the outer case, which is good for smalls who like to chew pencils (we almost always had toddlers and babies on board for art sessions). There's a four-colour "rainbow" pencil which I've had to buy dozens of over the years as kids just LOVE them! They make a great little gift with a small notebook and a Lyra sharpener - the simple wooden one is great.
Because the Ferby pencils are smooth to use and give vibrant results, I've found we've been able to avoid using felt-tip pens quite often. Felt-tip pens do give a lovely solid colour result, but there's so much plastic in the packaging and casing! When we do buy them, we generally buy Crayola brand as I find the lids snap on well, they often come in cardboard packets, and they seem to last awhile. I'm not aware of anywhere in Australia where pens can be recycled, and we prefer to avoid unnecessary waste.
We use lots of recycled objects for art, make our own playdough and some other supplies, but it's one area of homeschooling that I've liked to invest a little extra in with some items, for the joy it brings the children to get a good result, as well as for better value and less waste over time.
Next week, I'll tell you about our favourite crayons!