You might think an easel for kids is just a surface (that isn’t your dining-room table) for them to draw on. But artists and educators say that is just a surface benefit of getting one. As painter and arts educator Kate Mangold explains, “The point of an easel is to get a child standing up and moving their marks” — or the squiggles, lines, and dots they make with whatever drawing utensil or paint they’re using — “to engage large motor skills like shoulder rotation and core strength.” Using an easel can also help kids develop hand-eye coordination and, of course, “expressive language, as well as social-emotional and cognitive skills,” she adds. But with lots of easels on the market — most of which can provide all of the aforementioned benefits — you might be looking for a little assistance finding a style for your budding Basquiat or adolescent Kahlo. To help, we spoke to Mangold and six other artists, teachers, and art professionals — many of whom are also parents — about the ones they’d recommend. Their nine favorite easels for kids below include a range of options at a range of price points, from a $20 (art-teacher-approved) easel to one with plenty of storage to a model more appropriate for teens who are getting serious about their work.
This easel from Melissa and Doug is a favorite of Tze Chun, the founder of online gallery Uprise Art, and artist Dana Bell. The adjustable-height easel has a dry-erase board one one side and a chalkboard on the other, with a dowel between the two sides that can hold a roll of paper. (Bell notes that the dowel is “easily refillable with paper from Ikea,” so you don’t have to splurge on fancy stuff.) It also comes with a child-safe paper cutter, clips, and two large plastic trays for storage. Chun notes that the easel has three height settings, “so it’s one of the rare kids items that they’ll use for a number of years.” She says the easel’s “lowest setting worked really well for our daughter at age 2.5,” adding that “a year later, we still haven’t moved on to the second height.” She also assures this easel is fairly compact. “We were nervous about how much space it would take up, but we’ve actually been keeping it expanded and in the living room since all the art supplies are neatly tucked away in the included cup holders,” says Chun. But “if you do want it out of sight, it folds up pretty compact and can fit in a closet,” she explains.
This easel from Ikea got a couple of mentions for its affordable price of just $20. Mangold says it “has everything you need to get started” and Rebeca Raney, an artist and arts educator, calls it a “a great product for the price,” adding that it “makes a lovely birthday gift.” The easel made of solid pine has a blackboard on one side and a dry-erase board on the other, and comes with a built-in storage tray and a dowel to add a roll of paper (sold separately). “Every nursery school has multiples of this one,” says Raney, who notes that “Ikea does a super job with their art products.” While it doesn’t have an adjustable height, Raney says it can be easily folded up and “tucked into a coat closet” when you need to store it.
As Mangold reminds us, “many people forget about art stores,” but “they have great easels for young artists.” Case-in-point: This adjustable-height model that she recommends. Like the two easels above, it has a chalkboard on one side, a dry-erase board on the other, and trays below either to hold supplies. A roll of paper is also included, as are three additional storage fabric bins that hang between the legs. Removing those legs allows you to convert it into a tabletop easel, making this one even more versatile. Mangold adds it’s made to last: “A wooden easel like this will age really nicely,” she says.
“The Beka easel is made in Minnesota out of sturdy maple,” says Raney. “This is something you would keep and pass down.” Beyond its hardy material, this easel stands out for its ability to be customized. The standard model comes with two wooden storage trays, a green chalkboard on one side, and a whiteboard on the other — but, for no fee, you can change parts of this design by choosing to have two whiteboards or two chalkboards, or plastic trays instead of wooden ones. For an extra $20, you can also add a magnet board. The paper mount on this easel is positioned on the top (rolls of paper are sold separately), and there’s a storage shelf between the two sides that you can pull up to fold the easel when it comes time to store it.
If you’re looking for an easel with a smaller footprint, Monique Aiuto, an artist and early childhood educator, recommends this wall-mounted one that she uses at home with her son. “It’s a space-saver; we have it installed in the kitchen, which is good because there’s a water source close by,” she says. Made of lightweight natural wood, it comes with a magnetic dry-erase board (“good for Magnatiles,” says Aiuto), magnets for holding paper up, a built-in paper rack (paper is sold separately), and a deep tray for art supplies.
Here’s another ingenious hanging easel that’s made for multiple kids and outdoor use. Aiuto used it at her school and says the design works quite well for “two children who want to paint together.” It comes with S-hooks you can use to hang it from a chain-link fence (or another sturdy base), plastic storage caddies, and clips for attaching paper to it. It also comes with skid-resistant rubber bumpers, so that it it can be used on a surface as a tabletop easel. Aiuto adds “it’s easy to clean” and that the easel’s generous size “allows for big expansive work, which is important for early childhood development of fine and gross motor skills.”
If you’re looking for an easel that your kid can use sitting down, Allyson Feeney, a project lead at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, suggests what’s called a drawing horse or art horse. Often found in studio classes, she says they can be better “for getting up close to the drawing.” Shaped roughly like a horse, the chair has a narrow seat that a child can straddle and an upright back against which an art board (like this one) or sketchbook (like this one) can be propped. This model has grooves in the seat that keep whatever board or sketchbook your kid uses in place. Feeney says a piece like this works for both painting and drawing, but cautions that it is best for 5-year-olds and up “because they aren’t bouncing from one activity to another so quickly.”
While this isn’t necessarily designed for kids, Raney recommends it to any young artists who come from artistic families. “It has a low enough base” for a child to reach, allowing them to try their hand at painting on a canvas, but is adjustable enough that “the whole family can use” it, she says. The easel can hold canvases up to 50-inches tall and has an adjustable leg that can vary its angle. Raney recommends it to anyone who “doesn’t want to spend too much on a child’s easel because they will outgrow it just by getting taller,” adding that it has a simple frame made of European beechwood that “won’t be ugly in your house.”
Kristy Castellano, a studio coordinator and art instructor at the Art Studio NY, told us this single-mast easel from Blick is what she’d recommend for teens who are more serious about creating larger-sized artwork or working on their portfolios. She calls it “a high quality, professional-grade, and long-lasting easel,” noting it’s one of the many easels used at Art Studio NY. Unlike the other easels on this list, this one is made of aluminum, which she says “makes it strong and light.” It has non-skid feet, a swing-out palette holder with a brush rest, and an adjustable screw-type base that Castellano says helps “young artists feel comfortable while creating artwork in both sitting and standing positions.” She admits that the easel is quite large, but assures it can easily be folded flat for storage.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.