Updated on October 14, 2020 by By Kat Russo
Easels are a staple you will find in most playrooms of families with children ages two and older. The reason being is it’s a versatile toy. Not only do most easels come with both a magnetic dry erase board and a chalk board, they typically come with a paper roll for added fun. Use it for imagination play, home schooling, art projects- you’ll put miles on it.
Moms and pediatricians agree easels encourage fine motor skills, expression, and imaginative ideas.
If you are planning on watching your little Rembrandt create and play, here are my top seven easel recommendations.
The best toddler easels
(Best budget & portable option – $)
The dual-sided easel features a magnetic dry erase facet and a chalkboard facet. For a compact toy, it has endless possibilities with five colored chalk sticks, a 50-foot-long paper roll, 36 letter and number magnets, and an art supply tray.
The versatility of this easel combined with the quality manufacturing Melissa & Doug is famous for makes this easel the kind of toy that will last from your first kid to your last.
Keep in mind those little accessories, (that will end up between your couch cushions and under your furniture) are also a choking hazard. I would not recommend this toy for a child under three.
This is a safe buy if you’re not sure if it’s worth it to invest in another toy your kids will forget about quickly. It’s not a costly easel, so if all else fails; keep it in your car to keep them busy on long drives.
(The standard – $$)
Why it’s great: I rank this product as my top recommendation. As you read on you will notice that I have blatant favoritism towards anything made of natural products. It’s rare that I sing praises for a plastic product, but here we are.
When you find something that’s simple, easy to assemble, and works with no frustration- you need to hop on that deal.
This adjustable easel has all the standard features of a dual-sided easel. Aside from being the only easel on my list made of plastic, it is also the only easel that swings from one surface to another. Parent after parent praised it for its easy assembly.
I know these may not seem like super exciting features, but children’s toys should have simplistic designs. If it’s too hard for a 30-something parent with a master’s degree I’m not expecting my toddler to get far with it.
I was surprised that a product of this construction would be priced similarly to a Melissa & Doug version of the same thing. Being plastic, this will not stand up after a playdate will several rambunctious kids. Luckily, it somewhat folds up so if your kids are resembling a hurricane you can tuck this out of their path.
(Longest life span – $$)
It has all the standard features, adjustable height, a paper roll, chalkboard or white erase board, handy storage, and paint compartments- it has it all.
I know I’m not the only mom who asks, “Is this toddler proof?” when shopping. I envision my toddler throwing his trucks at it, and try to guess if this product will survive his meltdowns.
That is why I put this product high on my list. I’m a big believer in investing in products made of real materials, (bonus points if it’s made in the USA but sadly this was made in China). This easel is made of pinewood and metal bolts. Some accessories are plastic, but that is to be expected. The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Easel is known for its complicated assembly, but if you’re patient and handy you can manage.
I would recommend spending this much on an easel if you know your child will use it, and if you are looking for something that will last.
(Best for small spaces – $$$)
I wonder if toy manufacturers know that parents don’t have an infinite amount of space for toys.
This easel comes with all the bells and whistles, three paint pots, a tray for more workspace, a paper roll, dual faceted chalkboard, and a magnetic dry erase board. I give it bonus points for growing with my kids, as I’m a sucker for anything my kids can play with for more than a season. Its height adjusts from 37.5″ to 43.5″.
At $79.99 this easel is one of the pricier options. At this price point, I was disappointed to find the compartment for the paper roll is too small to fit standard easel paper rolls. Similar easels fit an 18” paper roll. Finding a 15” in paper roll to refill the existing one will be a challenge but if you’re prioritizing sturdiness and a compact design then this is the easel for you.
(Best basic option – $$)
At this price point, I was surprised there wasn’t a distinguishing feature. How can they justify a standard product at $69.99?
Then I read the description. Constructed of real wood, this is a durable purchase that even the most DIY-challenged parents can assemble.
Before I was married, my “tool kit” was a Prada shoebox with crazy glue and Allen keys from Ikea. Simplicity and longevity? I will gladly spend a few extra dollars for something I can assemble in less than 30 minutes.
(Most stylish – $$)
Why it’s great: The number one requested paint color at this time is grey. If you’re looking for an easel that will match your decor then look no further. This light grey easel also comes in a dark brown or white finish.
This no-frills easel does not come with much. At $49.99 that seems more than fair. Store the included magnets and your other accessories in one of the two included storage bins. Paint, color, or draw in chalk on either side of the dual-sided easel. It also comes with a roll of paper for added fun. Constructed from real wood this easel will last, making it worth every cent if you’re buying this for your first child.
Note that this easel does not fold. I would not recommend this piece for a home that needs to convert play spaces into adult spaces.
(Most versatile – $$)
This sit and play station comes in different styles in case you do not have a princess fanatic at home. I was surprised to see the jackknife of easels at only $54.99. Upon a little investigating I discovered that it is made of solid wood and medium-density fiberboard.
I would not recommend this product for children older than five. Unlike other easels, this product does not have an adjustable height feature. It can convert into a bookshelf but unlike a transformer, you will have to take it apart to put it back together.
This is a safe buy for someone who is not confident their child will use an easel after the momentum of a new toy has passed. If all else fails, you can never have too much storage. This easel is a safe buy.
FAQs about toddler easels
1. Should I buy an easel?
Whenever I’m about to buy a toy that takes up a considerable amount of space or is over $40 I factor in a few things. At this price point will this get handed down from my first child to my next? Is my child going to play with it? Is it safe?
There isn’t a one size fits all answer but if you’re not sure it’s worth the expense buy the tabletop easel by Melissa & Doug or something small and cheap to test the waters. Generally speaking, yes, I think this should be in all homes. Especially now, with so many people sheltering in place, it’s a staple for a reason.
2. Is my child old enough for an easel?
I would recommend easels for children over three years old. There are little choke-able pieces with most easels. Depending on your child’s energy levels painting on an easel can quickly go from a fun calming art project to a catastrophe of shredded paper, and paint-splattered walls.
3. Are easels educational?
Yes! Easels hit so many targets. They encourage hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, color mixing, creative independence- the list goes on. If anything it will keep them busy for enough time for you to get something done. It’s the cheapest babysitter I ever had.
An easel is a staple in any household of little ones for good reason.
The importance of drawing on a vertical surface has benefits that are often overlooked. Drawing on an easel encourages core strength, sensory, and assists with spatial awareness.
I hope my in-depth look at these popular easels helps you find the best match for your little artist.
Giving your little one the the ability to paint and explore their creativity is the gift that keeps giving. We seen it over and over with our kids that when they paint they get excited to explore the world more and seeing their enjoyment is priceless. Enjoy helping bringing in the next generation of artists! 🙂
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