Storing Kids Artwork


A friend of TwoCleverMoms asked how we manage the artwork/projects in our houses.
Here are our responses:

I have to admit I have a terrible system to keeping track of the art. The contents of the weekly preschool take home bag was dumped in a pile in a corner of the playroom. This summer I went through it and used a brown paper shopping bag as a container to fill with the best stuff.

My editing was based upon redundancy and the artistic process. I mostly saved different stages of development in drawing a person and different stages of development in adding details. I think the process of the preschool projects that came home (using different objects/textures dipped in paint, gluing things together for the bigger picture) is so important to do, but not necessarily to save.

Many home projects are turned into cards to send to family. I do frame some art (from school and home) to display in our hallway gallery. I use frames that are very easy to take pictures in and out. We also have a ribbon in my big boy’s bedroom with clothespins to display what he thinks is his best.

I try to keep in mind what our house can hold, what is important and what will still be important as the years go by, and enjoy the process of creating, but not necessarily keeping the rest.

I have two elementary and one preschool kid, so there are plenty of papers coming in from school and produced at home to manage. The main thing I try to ask myself with each thing I might want to save is “How would I feel if I had made this and my mom brought this to me today?” The quick response helps let go of 99% of projects that come into or are produced in the house.

Most papers (artwork or classroom stuff) that comes home in kids’ bags, I look over within 10 minutes of it walking though the door. I ask the child who brought it home a few questions or give a few comments about (“What were you learning here?,” “I love how you printed so neatly.” “Oooo! That blue looks great.” “Looks like you have been working really hard.” And a lot of “What is this?!”) and then when the kid leaves the room, I drop it right into the recycling bin.

If papers/artwork are particularly exceptional, cute, something showing a new skill, or a representation of something a kid is obsessed with doing (for example, if they draw 100 octopi in a week for a few months), then I sort the paper into bins currently kept on a closet shelf. I write the date and the kid’s name on each paper going in if it didn’t already have it on, sometimes with a note about where it was made or a comment or quote with it. Each kid has their own color bin. My oldest daughter has two bins because she spends a whole lot of time drawing and writing, she also has trouble letting go of things and I wasn’t as good at filtering with the first kid. Meanwhile, my four year old has just a few things in his. The kids and I have a great time looking through the bins once or twice a year, remembering past projects and thinning it out a little more each time.

Some artwork get taped on my bedroom wall, put into a frame, pinned on a bulletin board in the kitchen (regular cork boards painted to blend in a little more), or up on one of the many magnet boards around the house. This is work that is either exceptional, or not exceptional (daily coloring pictures) and after a while it gets cleaned off and sorted into the recycling bin or the “save” bins. Most of the many at home projects made for me (think half colored papers) sit on my desk, nightstand and next to the coffee maker for a day or so with an occasional “That was so nice of you to make that for me” sort of comment and then are dumped into the recycling bin or occasionally put up somewhere. I’m generally honest about where it went if it is asked about later.

I have recycled preschool painting projects (on the big newsprint easel paper) as wrapping paper. At certain times of the year I’ll collect artwork for thank you notes or birthday cards, either writing directly on them, gluing them to the outside of a card, or just putting them in the envelope with another card. We also send snail mail fairly often and include artwork in the envelopes.

I have friends who take a digital picture of all of their kids artwork and then recycle the originals. At the end of the school year they make a photo book of some of the best work.

At home, if my kids are looking for something to do, I try to gear them towards making things functional or with someone in mind so that I’ll have a use for it or can mail it on. I also believe in having good quality art supplies for the kids and not just all kids washable stuff. The “real” stuff makes projects generally turn out nicer, look better and last longer and are a lot of times easier or more enjoyable for kids to use than the marketed for kids supplies. By good supplies, I mean things like sharpies, card stock, glass/stone beads, sculpey, strong scissors, tacky glue/hot glue gun, pastels, paint brushes with some quality, etc.

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