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April 14, 2012 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend good science sets or paint (non-watercolor) sets for an 11 year old girl? She likes to experiment and dabble in her room, and has asked about them as gifts. Thanks!
posted by Clyde Mnestra to Shopping (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You know what I wish someone had given me at 11?

Not a "paint set", but actual real acrylic paints, brushes, and a few pre-stretched canvases.

I remember constantly being given these junky watercolor sets as a child. They were impossible to use properly, mostly because they were shit quality (especially the brushes) but also because most children are too impatient to paint anything with watercolor that isn't a big muddy mess.

I remember finally taking a painting class in high school and being totally afraid of it at first because of all my bad memories of crap fingerpaints and watercolors. I was sure that, if the kid version produced such terrible results, I must just be bad at art in general. Little did I know...

That said, the real deal is significantly more expensive. But if you can afford it, I'd get a smallish tube of each primary color, black, and white (ACRYLIC, not oil), a few canvases in the 8x10 or 11x14 size range, two or three brushes, and maybe something to use as a palette.

If she can paint outside or on some work surface that can stand a little paint, she shouldn't need an easel. A drop cloth could be handy if she wants to paint in her room.

If you get her a jar of gesso and a wide-ish brush, she can re-use the canvases by gesso-ing over them if she's not happy with her work.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding acrylics, a set of brushes, a jar of gloss medium, some canvas boards and a pad of palette paper. Might run you about $60. If she knows the basics of watercolor, acrylics can be used in much the same way and are water soluble (until they dry), or the gloss medium can be used instead of water as a translucency/extender medium for more versatility.
posted by milk white peacock at 11:05 PM on April 14, 2012

If she is in to art and science, and especially if she is a sewer or could be mentored by a sewer, she might enjoy switchcraft. I have the book and it has some projects that involve simple circuitry combined with simple sewing. Does involve soldering so would need supervision for that part of a project, maybe, or at least the first few times? Although I used to love playing with solder when I was about 12. Use to make art with it, in fact...

Also when I was a kid my dad made me a giant spirograph under the porch. He suspended a big square plank of smooth wood on four ropes so it lay flat, parallel to the ground. And then he made a pen holder out of a post and a piece of pvc tubing that was just the right size to hold a crayola marker. I would tape paper on the plank. push the plank so it started moving in ever shrinking cycles, then drop in the pen to trace the patterns. you could then do another spin to add a different colour/shape ... that was really cool.
posted by chapps at 11:06 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad (who's an artist) always gave my sister and me Caran D'Ache pencils and pastels, starting right around that age.
posted by scody at 11:40 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get her good paints and brushes, not the cheapo stuff. The results are going to be much more encouraging with decent-quality materials. Perhaps get her artist trading card blanks, too? Those are fun because they don't require a big time commitment and they're easy to share with friends.

I agree that acrylics are the way to go. Oils are difficult to clean up and watercolors aren't that forgiving. Point her towards for tips.

You may also want to get her a set of good colored pencils (like Prismacolors) and a sketchpad so she can do preliminary sketches on the fly.

This Magic Science Kit is excellent, too. My 7-year old loved doing the experiments with help from me -- an older child could probably handle the experiments on his/her own.
posted by Ostara at 11:46 PM on April 14, 2012

I bought this acrylic paint kit and I think something like it would be perfect. It certainly wasn't worth the $60 or so that it was originally marked, but I found one on clearance for about $20. If you go this route & are shopping at someplace like Michaels, keep your eyes open for the 40-50% off coupons they put out weekly.

Or pick up one of the many paint sets like this and add some brushes & canvases.

The main benefits of a kit like this:
* FULL-SIZE bottles of paint. So many kits have piddly little bottles that get used up in just one or two painting sessions.

* Lots of different brushes to play with

* REAL canvases! They're more fun than painting on canvas boards. Places like Michaels also sell multi-packs pretty cheaply. I've gotten 7-packs of 8x10 canvases for $15. They also sell the tiny square canvases, which are very cute.
posted by belladonna at 8:54 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would recommend going to your local small art supply store (if you're lucky enough to have one in your community still!) and tell the salesperson who you're buying for and suggestions for quality but entry-level price-range paints and brushes.

I really love acrylic gouache, it's a creamy liquid paint but can be watered down and blended like watercolor. Regular acrylics can do this too, but gouache is better at it and can be used for more delicate effects. M. Graham is a great brand, made in Oregon. Best used on paper, so buy a sketchbook with sturdy paper.

Alternatively, try regular acrylics, as has been suggested. Dick Blick (a national chain) makes a pretty great line of economical acrylic paints for scholastic use and can be ordered online in various sizes. Golden is another good brand for artists acrylics with lots and lots of colors and finishes (funky metallics and that kind of thing, too.) Acrylics like this will give bolder coverage (than a gouache, usually) and are not water soluble after they have dried (like on cloths or carpets or brushes...make sure she washes her brushes well!!) They're great for painting non-paper or canvas surfaces, as well, like if she wants to decorate an old chair or something.

I think this make-your-own-postcards sketchbook is great for beginning artists and I've seen it for sale in many art stores.

Lastly, REAL brushes are just as important as real paints (or more so) for getting a satisfying result. These also don't have to break the bank as most art stores carry little sets of commonly used brushes for $20 or less. Or pick and choose 3 or 4 brush shapes. I suggest synthetic fiber brushes like the white or "golden" synthetic, nylon or taklon.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:34 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

She sounds sort of like me at 11. If she doesn't already have one, a student microscope or a telescope would be awesome. I don't know how many times I asked for one or the other and never got one. I love looking at the weird stuff American Science and Surplus gets but they do have telescopes and microscopes
posted by fiercekitten at 2:25 PM on April 15, 2012

I never should have clicked on the "Kits and Models" section on the AmSciPlus page because it's all pretty awesome. I did find this Water Test Kit which would be super sciency and practical (now you know what's in your water) This bioluminescence kit is pretty cool too.
posted by fiercekitten at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2012

When people talk about "science" kit's for kids, there's a huge amount of play in the word.

The Make Electronics book and an assortment of basic components and a breadboard (the Make people actually put together a pair of components sets that are available in their store) might be just the thing, but depending on how quickly you need this and / or what your budget is, this might work out to be a day late and/or dollar short kind of thing. If you have more than a month, Futurelec's assortment packs are a pretty good deal, but I'm pretty sure they come from Asia by boat.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:06 PM on April 15, 2012

Response by poster: Belated thanks to everyone for your answers. I really appreciate the suggestions.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:05 PM on April 22, 2012

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