Organizing and Preserving Children’s Artwork

I love art, and I love that schools are encouraging and facilitating lots and lots of creativity in the classroom. What I don’t like is lots and lots of piles of cheap construction paper, glue, and paint cluttering my house. Does every sheet of paper my little one dabs with a marker or slaps a sticker on have to come home with him? Sigh.

Usually I work with printed and digital photo collections for clients but one of the largest and most cumbersome collections to organize is children’s artwork. Parents have a lot of guilt surrounding what to save and how much to save of what our kiddos make during childhood.  Kids’ creative output is staggering, and so much of it is just too cute to toss in the recycling bin. Parents want to preserve all the special masterpieces but ultimately end up with just too much stuff in their house. Compound that by the number of kids in the home and the artwork organization situation can be out of control in no time. 

Anyone with children can set up a simple system to organize and process children’s artwork when it comes home with them from school. First, each child in the home should have one bin, of whatever size makes sense for you, dedicated to their work. When they bring a little masterpiece home, decide right then if it should go in the special bin or the recycling bin (maybe do this after they have gone to bed). If it is a keeper, make sure to write the date and child’s name on the back and place in the appropriate bin.

Done and done. But…wait! All that adorable artwork tucked away in a bin is no fun! No one can see it and enjoy it.

Kids are proud of the art they make at school, and it gives them a feeling of self-worth when they know their parents are proud of it too. Find creative ways to display the very best art in your home so the whole family can enjoy. Simply sticking it on the fridge with strong magnets is the tried and true method for displaying kiddos’ artwork. You could create a rotating gallery wall in the kid’s room, family room, or hallway with inexpensive plastic frames. Change out the art as the seasons change to keep the display fresh. Create an even easier gallery wall in your kitchen with colorful washi tape, and skip the frames all together. I have a wire curtain rod from IKEA mounted to the wall in my kitchen corner where I like to hang new art with tiny clothespins. This is mounted at about eye-level for my toddler so he can see his artwork every day too.  He loves to point out a new painting I’ve just hung up and say, “That’s mine, Mommy!”

How should your children’s art be preserved for the long-term for the years to come? Much of the art kids create, at least in elementary school, will be on very cheap materials. These are usually full of acid and will deteriorate rather quickly. You can mitigate much of this by keeping the paper out of the light, stored in acid-free or archival-quality materials, and away from extreme climate fluctuations found in the attic or basement.

Another excellent way to preserve children’s artwork is to collect those very best and very special pieces at the end of the year or end of the school year and photograph or digitally scan them. Each child could have a custom book made dedicated to the art from the past year.  I like to include some of my son’s art from the past year in my family photo book. A photo book full of your child’s artwork will certainly have a slimmer profile and will take up much less space in your home. It is also a lot easier to share with grandparents. 


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