About a month into the school year, the amount of artwork being brought home can start to feel a bit overwhelming. On the one hand, we love to see what our children have drawn, painted or assembled. On the other hand, there are limits to how much we can hang up and enjoy. Most parents feel guilty about throwing children’s artwork away, and yet they aren’t sure how to manage the pile-up.
Here is my suggestion:
- DISPLAY THE NEW
Begin by selecting a location to be your “home gallery.” The space should be easy to reach and large enough to hold multiple pieces. Spaces that work well include hallways, stairwells, and kitchen walls. The refrigerator, though an old favorite, is limited in size, and quickly becomes cluttered.
You can add some utility to this space by installing corkboards, metallic strips, or even a line of string with clothespins. Trying to “frame” all of the art can be tricky, as pieces tend to be different sizes, so unless you have a passion in this area, just keep it simple.
Here are a few images to get your creative juices flowing, but remember that items taped on a wall works fine. If you are concerned about damaging your wall, use sticky tack.
When new pieces come home, select the best and hang them in the gallery. You don’t need to do this every day, but instead focus on hanging the pieces your children seem particularly proud of or excited about.
2. “HOLD” THE REST
Since most parents struggle to decide which pieces to keep, I suggest that you keep it all – at least temporarily. For the duration of the school year, allocate a space to put all pieces that are not hanging in the gallery. Great temporary holding locations include plastic bins, cardboard banker boxes, and under the bed bins. You can also make a cheap “potfolio” by using painters tape and two pieces of poster board.
Make sure you choose a container that you can access quickly, because if it is cumbersome, you are likely to avoid using it, and the artwork will pile up on the kitchen counter.
Another option is to photograph each piece of art and upload it to your computer, or an organizing app like Artkive. Apps offer great functionality, such as the ability to identify each photograph by child, age, and grade level, and even to add a title or text (e.g. “This is Mom dancing at the party.”)
3. REVIEW & PURGE ANNUALLY
At the end of the school year, it is time to do a purge and sort.
If you have kept the physical pieces in a bin, take everything out and put “like” pieces together. Seeing all of the art together makes it easier to decide which pieces you want to keep. For example, when you realize you have 67 rainbow drawings, you can just pick the best one or two and let the remainder go without any guilt.
Items you can feel good about shedding include:
- Anything made with food (e.g. pasta, beans…) as bugs are likely to arrive
- Giant paintings made with poster paint, because the paint will crack and fall off
- Scribbles on pre-printed images, because these won’t retain sentimental value
- Pieces that are simply an assembly of items made by the teacher, as they aren’t personal to your child.
Take the remaining pieces and move them to a long-term storage location, such as a box in the attic. Having conducted the purge means you will have less to keep, and can now keep multiple years of artwork in one location. Be sure to label the boxes by name and year(s). The temporary boxes should now be empty, and can be used again next year.
If you have kept photographs of the art, conduct a similar process with the digital images. Choose the best ones, and consider printing a photo book (the Artkive app makes this simple to do.) Or, move your chosen images into a folder labeled by name and year, such as “Artwork.Kindergarten.John”
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Painting, drawing, crafting and creating are fun activities for our children. Seeing the results gives us a window into their day and their mind. But artwork should not be a burden or something to dread. As with all belongings, establishing a system for moving them through our space will ease stress and keep the clutter at bay.
What tricks have you used to keep and display your children’s art?