Instructional Strategies

7 Props Every Art Teacher Needs in Their Closet

What first comes to mind when you think of a typical art room? If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about STUFF. It’s no secret that most art teachers love stuff. We’re often asking our students to create from observation or trying to fuel their fire with a little inspiration. Having a wide variety of props and objects in the art room can inspire students to observe, create, and have fun!

rubber ducks in costumes

Here are 7 props every art teacher needs in their closet.


1. Toys that Prank


I enjoy sharing humor with my students. Therefore, I have a special, secret place in my art room where I keep my pranking toys. The best one I’ve found is my squirt gun camera. To the naked eye, it looks completely normal. However, when one of my students uses it to take a photo “for their art project,” the tiny stream of water never fails to elicit laughs. (Note: be sure the student with the camera is in on the joke so nothing important gets wet!) Another fun idea is to reward hardworking students with some of your favorite candy, which just happens to jump! You never know, your students might just get inspired by all the fun they’re having!

drawing of camera with rainbow coming out of lens

2. Photo Booth Props

If you’ve been to a wedding in the last five years, you know that photo booths with funky props are a hit. In my classroom, I also have a photo booth bin. Sometimes it is necessary to have some fun, random, wearable props to help students find inspiration. The photobooth bin has become a staple for my digital art classes–it’s much more exciting to alter an image of yourself in Photoshop when you’re wearing star-shaped sunglasses!

3. Classics


Developing creative thinking and problem-solving skills requires students to ask questions. Having a few dated or vintage pieces around your room is a great way to encourage students to do just that. Unfamiliar props will naturally pique students’ interest and may even inspire them to research something new.

4. Creatures/Animals

dinosaurs sitting on top of a ceramic pot

No matter what grade level you teach, you likely have several students that are very interested in incorporating animals into their work. In these cases, we often direct students to online photo galleries or how-to-draw books for reference. However, I’ve found that if students are able to interact with a three-dimensional model, like an animal figurine, they understand the form much better. As a bonus, you can use those little footprints to create some cool textures!

5. Oversized Objects

giant LEGOs

Objects that are larger than usual generally pique student interest. Think about it. LEGOs are cool, but giant LEGOs are so much better! Having oversized objects encourages students to think about those objects in new ways. Plus, observing and working with objects on a larger scale can be helpful for struggling students.

6. A Bicycle

If I were only allowed one still life object in my room, a bike would be my prop of choice. If you don’t have room for an entire bike, seek out some gears or tools. The intricacies of complex objects are challenging and intriguing for students.

7. Chess Game

drawing of chess pieces on a chess board

I don’t know how to play chess, nor do I have a desire to learn. However, I do own over 10 chess sets. Why? They are challenging and interesting drawing props. Use the chessboard to talk about perspective and the pieces to have students hone their observational skills.

There you have it; 7 props all art teachers should have in their closet. Use them to build skills, to build relationships with your students, and to have fun!

What props are staples in your classroom?

If you could have any prop in your classroom what would it be?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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