Storing Children's Artwork

Gabrielle Blair
May 31, 2008

At my house, art is half sacred/half garbage.

Let me explain. Both my husband and I come from creative, artistic, innovative families. It's very important to us that our kids are comfortable with art. Making art. Looking at art. Talking about art. Knowing about art.

Then again. Art is super common in our life. Art supplies are plentiful and easily accessible. Outings to a museum are not unusual. Aunts and uncles are artists by profession. Discussions about art and design are par for the course. Sketch books abound. Art is so common and everyday that we don't think twice about throwing out art projects -- even recycling pieces the kids may have worked really hard on.

It's not that we're trying to be cruel. Or that we're not sentimental -- we keep a large portion of their creations. It's just that the reality is, with five creative children, art projects would take over the house if we let them. They could literally fill a room.

Which brings me to this topic: What are some good ways to store or archive children's art work? This is a question I'm asked at least weekly. And I'm not surprised. A typical preschool won't call it a day until there's an art project to send home. Mommy and Me classes create art by the barrel full. Birthday parties often involve painting of ceramics, beading of bracelets, tye-dying of t-shirts. It's just a fact of our modern life: pre-readers do much of their learning through making art.

I think this is fantastic. But the amount of artwork truly can be totally overwhelming. Here are some of the best ideas I've seen for displaying, storing or keeping track of your children's artwork.

1) Reuse. Give your children's drawings a second life by using them to make grocery lists and to-do lists. Molly will be so proud when she sees you toting around her masterpiece all day long. Another successful reuse idea: we made a calendar for Grandma featuring one work of art each month. Pretty and practical.

2) Digitize. If you really can't bear to throw anything out, but are also unwilling to store the collection, there are a few good digital solutions. Scan each piece onto your computer and make them into a slideshow to send to Grandma. Or create a blog to share them with friends and family. Or use your favorites as screen savers. Even better, upload the scans into a Blurb book and have it printed and bound.

3) Display. Dedicate a wall in your home as Gallery Space. Put up a collection of neutral frames or jumbo binder clips and use them to display your child's masterpieces. When new artwork arrives home, rotate the old stuff into the recycling bin. Another form of this would be to mount an oversize bulletin board in your Gallery Space and then absolutely smother it with artwork. As new stuff arrives you just layer it over the old stuff with a stapler -- all overlapping and crazy. We displayed our kids' artwork like this for years and it made a colorful and fantastic display. Plus, it was especially good for showing off unusual-sized projects and artwork with 3-D bits and pieces.

4) Archive. Collect original pieces made on the same size paper over the course of a year -- for example, everything your child drew on 8.5 x 11 paper while he was age 4. Have the originals bound into a book -- you could make one for each year. Try Artimus Art or The Little Author. Alternatively, you could dedicate an archival storage box to "Henry's Four Year Old Art."

5) Filter. One smart way to cut down your collection is to keep the pieces that required real creativity and decision making by your child. Toss the projects that were pre-designed, then copied by the entire class -- more of an exercise in how-to-use-a-glue-stick than a true piece of art.

Those are just a few ideas to get your organization-imagination going. No doubt you already have your own favorite solutions -- and I'd LOVE to hear about them. Yay for children! Yay for artwork!

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Nice post

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    Another idea is to stop at the end of a designated time period (every month, every two weeks), take all the art one kid has made, and ask him to pick out the peices he's most proud of. Maybe do some filtering yourself before you give the pile of art to the artist for culling. Real artists do this themselves. They also use filing folders for art that is of different sizes.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    We reuse the construction paper art and leftover cut pieces by shredding it and making homemade paper with it.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 4

    We currently have our "gallery" space on our garage wall between our washer and dryer and the entrance to our kitchen from the garage. Goodness knows we spend enough time there to appreciate it! I've also recently added two other display features to the garage, an Ikea CD holder mounted up on the wall to display our larger 3-D items and a cork board screen (cork mounted on plywood) that we can tack and staple arwork to, even while it is in the drying phase. It makes the garage a more cheery place to be!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 5

    What creative ideas! We have also laminated some pieces to create colorful kids' placemats, and printed out photos of art projects onto cardstock to be folded into homemade greeting cards! I have purchased a nice, spiral bound sketch book. Every month or so I have my 4-year old color and draw on the next page of the book. We date the page and see the progression of ability...much like the bound book idea. All the work is kept neat and tidy in the spiral. Don't you wish our moms were so organized!

    over a year ago


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