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What do you do with your kids’ art?

I was at a friend’s house the other day and we went down to her basement to look at the new laundry room remodel. As we were heading back up, I noticed a wall peppered with her girls’ artwork. Mostly projects they had done at school – some new, some a few years old. And she asked, “what do you do with all your kids’ art?!

“Truthfully”, I answered, “I throw most of it away”.

I know, that sounds horrible, but maybe also freeing?

With four kids who are always working on something creative plus schools that encourage art-making (yay!), I would be drowning in all of their drawings/sculptures/paintings/engravings/etc if I kept and displayed them all.

So, I don’t.

To be fair, I should also mention that I am not really a sentimental keeper of things. Also, I have gotten in trouble by my kids for recycling things before they are ready to part with them, so I can probably swing a little too far on the pendulum. Ryan is much more of a saver and so he will often put a sweet note or cute drawing away in a file he keeps for the kids.

I don’t get rid of everything, though. Some are too adorable or impressive or smile-inducing to toss.

As I was thinking about my conversation with my mom-friend, I realized I do have a few methods for keeping, displaying and storing the kids art. I walked around my house this morning and here’s where the art is in our house:

ON THE FRIDGE

For seasonal things that are not necessarily long-term keepers, we’ll tape them up to the side of the fridge. It is fun to see some of the cute things the younger two bring home from school, and I know Audrey, especially, enjoys seeing her creations on display. Once they bring home new artwork or the artwork is out of season, we’ll either toss it in the recycle or put it in a special box.

SPECIAL BOX

For the things too precious to part with (said with a slight eye roll from this non-sentimental mother), the kids each have a lidded box they keep under their beds. They can fill it up with all their special treasures. This box is Ethan’s, our oldest, and he has a random assortment of race numbers and medals, old Seahawks posters, and art – like this skiing man mask – that is impressive, but not really easy to display.

IN A SKETCHBOOK

Brady, our second son, particularly likes drawing and he keeps a sketchbook next to his bed. It is nice to have it available for before-bed winding down, but also nice to have all of his drawings in one place. It’s much easier to keep and store a full sketchbook than 25 loose sheets of paper.

FRAMED

I am not completely cold-hearted when it comes to their artwork and sometimes I just love a piece so much, I’ll put it in a frame to display and enjoy. This silly drawing Brady did of me is a favorite. He actually was just playing around and did it with his non-dominant hand, but I think it is adorable. And sort of Wilma Flinstone-ish.

The youngest cousin on the Jones side looks up to all his older boys cousins so much and they will often draw together. This limo picture was one Griffin did and gave to one of the boys. We all thought it was the cutest thing and love the way he labeled and spelled and it felt like the perfect thing to put on the shelves in their hangout room.

USE IT

One of the most beloved drawings my kids have ever done was this family portrait by Ethan when he was about four years old. I scanned it and used it to create family stationery.

The older boys take ceramics at school and have come home with the sweetest gifts for me. They know I’m a neutral-girl, so their vases and jars have been thoughtfully plain and perfectly wonderful.

But when they come home with obscure things like a purple elephant mug or trompe l’oeil ham piggy bank (true story and it was actually quite clever), I don’t feel obligated to keep them. Part of the joy of art is the act of doing it and for a majority of the finished projects the kids come home with, we just celebrate the process.

Or at least that’s how I rationalize not keeping everything they make :)

What’s your method for keeping/displaying/storing your kids’ art?

19 thoughts on “What do you do with your kids’ art?”

  1. Yes, love the umbrella pic, also your stationary! I too would like to know how you did the stationary! I especially like that it is on nicer paper, looks slightly textured – lovely! :)

  2. I love the art my kids make and hate to part with it…but SO.MUCH.PAPER! What I’ve done for years now is take photos of their art and include them in the digital frame that sits in my kitchen (it also has other photos on it, as well). I superimpose the artist’s name and age on each image so I can remember who did it and when. We keep the images rotating and we look at the frame daily…even though we’ve seen the photos so many times!

  3. I take pictures of their artwork and then I upload it to a snapfish album that I will eventually print into books.

  4. I don’t save everything either. I have a 4 year old who comes home from school with at least 5 pages she’s colored that day, if we go out to eat she wants to bring home the restaurant menu she colored. It’s way too much. I recycle most of it, take pictures of some of it, and save a few things. I bought an accordion file folder for the keepers, planning to go through once a year so there aren’t too many (I’ve never gone through it though!). We display some of the fun things, especially if they’re seasonal, and there are a few things framed (her first portrait of the family, some hand prints). I’m sure I’ll have to reevaluate this system as the kids get older, but it works for little ones. But, I can’t let her see me recycle anythign!

  5. Is it classic artistic trait of all 4-yr-olds, drawing people with huge heads & eyes? All three of my children drew our family exactly like that when they were 4 years old! SO funny.
    My children are now 49, 46 & 39. A few years ago, I showed them fat folders of their brittle, yellowing artwork I’d kept for each of them & told them to take what they wanted. My two sons & one daughter picked out a few things but left the folders still filled. My goal is to choose no more than 3 pieces of art from each of the folders then force myself to trash the rest of these decades-old treasures. I’d like to frame at least one picture from each child’s “portfolio” & hang the 3 pieces in a group.

  6. I had the same problem of having too much artwork without a solution or place for them. I also need a place to hold family Christmas cards, notes from grandparents, sports team photos, etc. I made myself a School Memory Box which has file folders from PreK through high school. It worked so well that I started selling them. (www.systemsbysusie.com/schoolmemorybox) Now I have a system and place for it all. The file box restricts me from keeping too much and I always ask myself, “Will they want this in 30 years?”

  7. One of my dearest friends gave me the best idea on how to keep artwork years ago. She has three kids and tapes the artwork to the wall and takes a photo with her digital SLR camera. She also takes photos of 3D art pieces her kids have made. Then she compiles them in a digital photo book for the kids. You can print a little book with Shutterfly or similar company pretty inexpensively, especially when they have deals. The kids LOVE looking through the photo books and reminiscing over the things they made in years past, minus all the clutter. It’s a win-win situation! Really special pieces are still kept in a special box, but those items are limited. I started doing this with my children because my mom kept EVERYTHING of mine, and it was such a chore going through it all when my parents died and I had to go through everything that had been put in the attic. I don’t want to do that to my kids. I want them to have their special items and memories but not to the point of it overwhelming them later in life.

  8. I love that I”m not the only one who doesn’t feel the need to keep everything, especially when we don’t have room! We’re in the middle of an east coast to west coast move and I’ve got a year and a half of old artwork to digitize before I’m allowed to throw it away. I take photos and collages of her previous work and then make a book out of it using something like Shutterfly.

  9. I love the stationery idea as well & plan to try that! I am pretty sentimental and like keeping things as mementos but also have 3 kids and get overwhelmed with too much stuff around. We also have a small memory box for each kid and let them decide: keep in the box, take a photo or recycle. When they were younger, I took art from each year between ages 2-5 & made 14x14in art collages out of their art and mod podged it. Each became its own work of art in a way and we love having those “collections” of their early art up on display.

  10. Artkive- I took most of my kids artwork from high/elementary school and made books out of them for each child for Christmas- the company did a wonderful job- check it out online

  11. I love these tips. We have 9 kiddos, and most of them love to create! I recognize the ice-cream cone on your fridge as some of my kids did that through Art Hub as well! I too throw a lot away, my five year old draws from the moment she gets up. We just could not save everything. I have read of some people keeping digital files by snapping a pic and then saving it digitally. I like that idea, but have never implemented it.

  12. I’ve used an app called Artkive that is great. It allows you to store photos of all the art your kids have done and then you can create a book out of it when you are ready! I haven’t made a book yet, but I did start snapping photos of most of my sons artwork (it was TOO much to store!) and have a couple of photo albums on Facebook and on my computer that are specifically for his art. That has been a nice way for me to feel like I’m not losing any of his “treasures” and also not losing my sanity!

  13. My kids are adult now, but I remember reading a couple years ago about saving your kids’ art on a private Instagram account, you photograph the art or the kid and the art, and add a caption if you want. Then you connect the instagram to Chatbooks and get a printed book of their art. Genius!!

  14. I’m so happy to know I’m not the only one that has tossed most of my (now adult) children’s art. There a few things I love too much to ever dispense with, but like you said if you saved everything you’d need Marie Kondo to come help with creating more space in our house.
    Karen
    P.S. I love the note cards. That was a great idea.

  15. I enter everything into the artkive app and then keep my favorites to hang on various walls in my house: a wall in my master bath, a wall in our bonus room and the bulletin boards in both of my kids rooms.

  16. Great idea making stationary from Ethan’s drawing of the family. I really liked that drawing. It appears they all got the talent gene along with you. I don’t know which one did the umbrellas but very pretty.

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