My son started preschool when he was 3 years old. And with that, came the endless papers, projects, and artwork that came home with him. Not to mention, all of the arts and crafts my son makes on a daily basis here at home. More and more papers come home every year. Each piece of work that he does is a window into his learning. It is so fun to see all of the paintings, drawings, all of the things that he colors and cuts and glues. There is a sense of excitement when he tells me about his favorite items, how he made them, or what the class did that day at school. I will admit, I have my favorite pieces of artwork. It is difficult to choose, but I always really like the paintings. I also love the items that he makes specifically for “mom” or “dad.” Right now, he likes to cut out hearts and write “I love Mom” on them. I love it!
But, it is all too easy to get buried under the mound of papers that your child brings home. It is incredibly difficult to throw these items away. The sense of guilt can be strong. It is possible to manage the mountain of papers, without feeling too overwhelmed and guilty. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t. It’s a little psychology, mixed in with a little practicality. Here are some tips for:
What to do with your Kids Artwork
- Display the current artwork somewhere in your house. By current, I mean items that your child has made in the last week, or two weeks. Kids feel proud to display items that they have worked on. The items are often colorful and whimsical, so they add a splash of fun to a room. We have a spot over the desk in the kitchen. I use these little, re-usable sticky hangers to hang the current artwork up. Now, even this area is not big enough to display all of the current artwork. Get the kids involved. I have my son pick out his favorite pieces, and that is what we decide to hang up. Sometimes, he makes items like sculptures, or boxes, etc. that we can’t hang up. I display those on the counter.
- Replace artwork with current art. When the “current” artwork is no longer current, I replace it with the artwork that is current. For example, next week, I will take down everything we have hanging up this week, and replace it with the items that come home next week.
- Store it. Keep the items that aren’t currently hanging up stored in a drawer or bin for about 4 to 6 weeks. That way, you get them out of the way. But, it gives you some time to pick out your favorites, or decide what to do with them. I call this the “forgetting drawer” because my son initially cares that I took his items down. Then I pull open the drawer and show him that I am keeping his things in there. That is where the “4 to 6 weeks” and “forgetting drawer” comes into play. After about a month, my son doesn’t remember any of this stuff anyway. He forgets all about it. It’s a way to keep his things without feeling guilty for throwing them away, but you can keep it “out of sight, out of mind.” And just in case your kids ask you about an item…Ta-Da! You can pull it out! It’s kind of like keeping the papers in a holding pattern, or moving yourself one step closer to being okay with throwing them away.
- Toss it. Teach your kids that it is okay to throw items away and that it’s okay to let go of them. Psychology alert! This is an incredibly difficult skill to achieve, and something that many people never actually learn. If you’ve ever seen TV programs, like “Hoarders,” that shows people who struggle in the extreme. It’s okay to have an emotion about an item or to attach a memory to an actual item. However that does not mean you need to keep that item indefinitely and forever. Teaching kids this life skill is very important. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to throw everything away, all of the time, and hurt your kids’ feelings. It’s a learning process. Use child-appropriate language. At first, I told my son that I would pick out my absolute favorites, and keep them in a book forever. I told him that when he brings home lots and lots of stuff, we can not keep it forever otherwise it would be a pile as tall as the ceiling. I tell him when I am going to throw items away. My son is very used to this process by now, and he could care less. I do not like to throw away his things without telling him. I like to involve him in the process. That is how you teach this skill.
- Keep your absolute favorite items as mementos. Decisions, decisions! You will have to make some decisions. I pick out my absolute 2 or 3 pieces each year, and keep them as a memento in a scrapbook. There is no way that I can scrapbook every single item that comes into the house, so keeping a few pieces each year is a fun way to keep the artwork for the long term. It will be fun to look back at it one day. You can do this for yourself too. I have several old papers and writings from my school years, that I love to have around now that I’m older. But, it is a small amount, pared down to my absolute favorites.
- Share them. We send some of my son’s artwork to his grandparents and other relatives. It is a fun surprise for them when they open their mail and see the cute things that he has made. The grandparents enjoy displaying the artwork in their house. My mom even likes to hang some of the artwork in her cubicle at work.
- Take photos of the art. Here is the primary way that I remain guilt free about not saving all of my son’s artwork: I take pictures of the artwork before I throw it away! I lay out the artwork on the floor, and photograph it, about every 2 months. I may be the only person around who still prints pictures. I like to keep my pictures organized in albums, or use them to scrapbook. So, I keep all of the photos of my son’s artwork. That way, I have the memory of it forever, in a super-compact way. My son loves to look at the pictures of his artwork, and gets excited when I show him the pictures. I just got a set of artwork pictures printed up, and my son spent 30 minutes reminiscing and telling me about all of the things that he made. It was so fun! A large floor or table is good for this, or any flat open space will work. Lay all of the artwork, boxes, sculptures, etc. on a large flat surface and photograph them from above. My son often has so many items, it takes me many, many shots to include all of the items. In his most recent batch, 6 weeks of his artwork was 10 photographs!! But, 10 photographs are much smaller and easier to store than the entire mountain of papers!
One photograph (out of 10!) that I took of my son’s recent artwork haul. Only about 6 weeks worth! :
I hope these were some helpful tips for you. Start small, and try out a few different ideas until you develop a system for dealing with the mountain! Remain guilt-free by finding a way to keep your favorite items, and still be okay with throwing other items away.
What do you do with your kids artwork?