The first time your little one comes home with artwork it’s pretty exciting. Mine was a set of painted hand prints, stylized by the people at daycare to look like a giant spider for Halloween. I hung it in my office for three years to show my appreciation towards their darling little fingerprints. As my children grew, particularly my daughter, the amount of “artwork” that came home increased exponentially. Some of the artwork is wonderful with vibrant colors and interesting patterns, other pieces are literally two lines scribbled with crayon on the back of a crumpled piece of recycling.
About a year ago my daughter, the prime manufacturer of everything art based in our home, discovered several of her “masterpieces” sitting in the recycling bin, waiting to go outside. We were officially busted as she stood at the top of the stairs pointing frantically at the pile of her drawings shouting, “My art! My art!” Since that day we’ve increased our stealth when disposing any pencil crayon shaded gems that get kicked to the curb come garbage day.
Before you sigh about what a callous mom I am, I’d like to provide a little perspective: on average my daughter creates three to six drawings daily, that’s well over a thousand individual pieces of paper to store each year. While I want to encourage her to create, practice her craft, and store a number of significant items for sentimental reasons, there is a fine line between my role of art curator and being featured in an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive. I also want to celebrate anything that she’s put significant time, effort, and elbow grease into creating, to show her the value of hard work and a job well done.
So what’s a parent to do? How do you celebrate your child’s artistic inklings without getting overloaded with paper? Below are a number of inspirational ideas for storage and display to showcase your family’s Salvador Dali.
Once they reach a certain age, most kids are fairly capable of selecting their best work and recognizing that they aren’t sentimentally tied to the pictures where it’s painfully obvious they spent very little time working on.
Pick a time to sit together, talk about each particular item and sort into four different piles, this is your first step towards de-cluttering. Remember the value of avoiding critical trashing of recent items that have just been presented to you. It is probably best to sort only work that is at least a day or two old, so you aren’t literally trashing their work as they present it to you.
You can sort all artwork into four key categories:
- Items to display
- Items to store
- Items to be gifted
- Items to disappear (the choice is yours as to whether or not your child knows that the items to disappear are going into the recycling)
6 Traditional refrigerator art displays
A public display can be as simple as refrigerator art secured using only magnets for the world, or people who frequent your family dining area, to see. If you seek a little more order on your fridge display you can purchase or make magnetic frames to make your fridge a little more Martha Stewart level tidy. If one appliance alone is not enough space to contain your kiddo’s creativity, you can also affix select drawings and paintings to kitchen cupboards using products like Blu Tac that won’t leave a mark.
For those who want a more formal space for kid art display, or need even more exhibit real estate, you can create a mini gallery within your home. Hallways, family rooms, kitchens, play rooms, and kids’ bedrooms are all great locations to present as your gallery wall(s).
The best part about a defined gallery space is that there will only be so many places for work, which means you and micro Andy Warhol can regularly keep the work on display in regular rotation, to keep things fresh, and clutter to a minimum. If you have more than one child remember to have equal display space available to avoid jealousy.
Pinterest and home décor sites are brimming with suggestions on inventive and visually appealing ways to prevent your space from looking like the inside of a kindergarten classroom. To display art consider:
The backs and glass of standard frames can be removed and replaced with cork material (available at many craft stores). The beauty of cork board frames is how quickly you can take down and put up rotating work, securing it with standard or fun push pins.
You can purchase standard frames from anywhere to alter, or if you want to play around, involve the whole family in shopping thrift stores, yard sales, and elsewhere to help purchase and even decorate the physical frames yourself, or as a family, to make your display really unique.
Wire displays are an easy way to clip up art work. A big benefit here is that your gallery won’t be as restricted in the size and shape of the items hung as it would be with standard sized frames. Horizontal displays are popular in areas with a lot of space, whereas vertical displays are a great way to showcase a lot of artwork in a smaller space.
Many office supply stores and dollar stores have clipboards available, some standard, others a little more stylized. Consider hanging a grouping of clipboards to a section of your wall to easily clip the latest drawings for everyone to enjoy.
5 Annual Retrospective Posters
Here is where you and your kiddo really get to play critic. Every so often select the best of the best of their work to be compiled into a retrospective poster for display, likely six-20 items. Simply take photos of the work, scan it and send it for frame worthy “best of’” to display in a prominent location, like above their bed or along the wall of the family room.
Keeping some reminders of the evolution of your child’s artwork, letters, handmade cards, report cards, and short stories is a great idea for any parent. It can be a nice tradition to walk down memory lane with your little one and look at the progress they made during a particular school year, or on the eve of their birthday. It also provides you and perhaps siblings with some much needed ammo for future wedding speeches or graduation roasts. How else are you ever going to prove that they insisted that they were going to marry Mrs. Potato Head or The Big Bad Wolf?
There are a number of ways to safely and compactly store your child’s creations to keep them dry, crinkle and tear free over the years.
4 Storage Tubes
You can roll and store various art works in handy dandy storage tubes that are available in numerous widths and lengths. If your kid is a high volume artist like mine you’ll probably want to consider a longer and meatier sized container to ensure work of a variety of sizes can easily be encapsulated. Mark the tubes on the outside with your child’s name, age, and the year(s) of the work inside for easy sorting down the road.
Accordion portfolios from a business supply store or kid themed from toy stores can hold a plethora of work for a fairly affordable price. Older kids, particularly those who decide to pursue art into their tween or teen years may appreciate a larger travel case to prevent damage to their work on the way to school or art class and back.
3 Keep it simple silly
You can help your kid make their own portfolio using two pieces of Bristol board with staples or tape along three edges to make your own home made portfolio case for storage behind or beside a bedroom dresser or somewhere else that it won’t get trampled. As an added tribute to their work let them decorate it however they see fit.
You can create a binder or take photos of their work and have it converted into a coffee table book that will easily fit onto your book shelves. Turning your child’s work into a book is a fun gift to show how much you value their efforts; this also makes a great school or special occasion keepsake book.
Between book making you can take photos of or scan work before you get rid of it and store it safely on your computer, Cloud or a clearly marked USB. Just be sure to back up all files to make sure you don’t lose your precious memories!
Odds are that your child isn’t picking through the trash of their grandparents, babysitter, or favourite uncle’s house. Once that art is out of site, it’s out of your home! Encouraging your child to share their art with other people is a great way to help them learn to make meaningful gifts for the people that they care about.
Gifted art doesn’t necessarily need to come exactly as it arrived in your house, crumbled in a backpack after school. There are many ways you can re-use and upcycle arts and crafts.
2 Use it as Gift Wrap & Greeting Cards
We all know that there is too much packing on pretty much everything and that’s not the best thing for the environment. Appeal to your child’s green side by re-purposing drawings and other art work as a hand-made and colorful alternative to traditional wrapping paper.
Other work can be cut, clipped and turned into unusual gift tags or greeting cards for birthdays, holidays or thank you notes.
1 Turn it into an annual calendar
Treat yourselves and some select relatives to an annual calendar with each month featuring a photo of a different work of art from your child. Be sure to remember to get your child to title each entry and provide context to make it an even more meaningful gift.
If you’re still brimming with art work, particularly with really little kids who don’t want to give up or get rid of anything remember, post bed time is the perfect time to make an item or 10 disappear. Just don’t get caught like I did!