Managing Kids Artwork

ManagingKids ArtworkI get questions about managing children’s artwork all the time. Since I only have one preschool aged child, I was just introduced to this multiplying monster last year. Oh, my goodness- paper proliferation! Anyway, I thought it would be helpful to get advice from my wonderful and talented colleagues who have more experience.

Ellen DelapBWDanielle LiuBWMegan SpearsBW
Ellen Delap, CPO®Danielle Liu, MPA, CPO®Megan Spears, CPO®

Q1. How do you manage the flow of artwork your child/ren create(s)?

Ellen’s A: Set up a basket to hold incoming art and other school papers at your Command Center. It’s a collection spot for 2 week’s worth of work. Every 2 weeks spend a few minutes with your child reviewing what’s in the basket. Display precious artwork with a clothesline in a hallway, in open frames with a binder clip or in a notebook with page protectors. As art rotates out, take pictures and create an end of the year photo art book.

Megan’s A: Art is displayed as it comes in and then after a few weeks stored on a shelf in their closet. When the school year comes to a close, we sit down and review all pieces and choose 10 that they really love. All art keepsakes are then stored in an art box under their bed.

Danielle’s A: I set up easily accessible “holding” bins for each child’s artwork in a closet close to the kitchen. This allowed me to toss the artwork in a safe place, keep the kitchen counters clean, and review the artwork at a later date for “keepers.”
I also had a couple “rules:” I didn’t keep 3-D art, especially if it involved food (macaroni noodles, beans, rice, etc.) One art project was made with chocolate pudding! I sang “the ants come marching two by two…” and discreetly disposed of it. Another rule was to process the bin contents at least twice a year – winter break and summer break.

Q2. How do you involve your child/dren in the process?

Ellen’s A: Kids can be involved by sharing and telling you about their work. It’s about the process and not the product, as well as the encouragement from you. > Kids can decide what art to display. They can choose their best work. Don’t be afraid to let go of prolific artists work. Of course they should not see you letting it go.

Megan’s A: They make all the decisions, even when they were in preschool. Some years were tougher than others and it was important to be flexible. I am only there for moral support and to ask questions. Often, when they pull out their art box to put their keepsakes away; they will go through it and re-sort and almost always find things they no longer love to toss. Choosing 10 pieces from the entire school year can be challenging at first, but does get easier (and more manageable) because then you can pick which pieces are really special. It’s easy to be flexible when you’ve set a boundary.

Danielle’s A: I would go thru the bins first, choosing special pieces that had meaning. School work was mixed in, and I would choose a few things that captured their writing or thought process at the time. I tossed spelling tests and math worksheets as frequently as possible. The children would then sort through the bins, selecting anything special. It was rare they would want to keep much more.

Common Threads

I love that Ellen, Megan and Danielle have all involved their children in the decision making! I know it can take a bit longer initially but the investment pays off. It’s a great way to begin teaching your children to prioritize, organize and most importantly, let go of what they don’t love or need. The last of which is one of the most underutilized “tool” for organizing anything IMO. And, if you really don’t want to be in charge of all the things in your home, here’s an opportunity to teach them to take the lead.

They (and I) have similar components to their systems, yet no one consulted with each other. Which goes to show you that while there is essentially no “right way” to organize, there are concepts in common that you can apply to almost any room, space, belonging or system in your home.

These are the common threads in our systems for managing kids artwork:

  • Home & Habit- Establish the habit, both for yourself and your children, of collecting the artwork into a single, designated location or inbox. Make it their job to take artwork out of their backpacks and place it in your designated inbox. Last year, I actually put my son’s artwork into my inbox currently so it forces me to address it in a timely manner. This year, I plan to have him help me clean out his backpack when we walk in the door from school so he can learn the process.
  • Flexible Display- Find a simple and flexible way to display artwork that allows you to change it out easily. {Pinterest Board?}
  • Long-term Storage- Designate a bin for each child and make sure it is stored in an accessible location. Otherwise, you will dread putting artwork away. Ellen mentioned taking a picture and creating a photo book, which is a great way to actually enjoy and honor the artwork your children create. Danielle made a great point about edible artwork. As organizers, we’ve all come across our fair share of damage from pests, climate and moisture. Eliminate those problems by taking a picture- I guarantee that you will be able to cherish the memory just the same without feeding any unwanted creatures.
  • Regular Maintenance- I’m sure we all have a different schedule but the key is to sort through and edit the artwork collection on a regular basis. You get to decide what that is. You might be surprised that at the end of the school term, your child will be able to make those decisions on what is no longer important to them. One important thing to note, do not override your child’s decisions. If you want to keep something they don’t, pull it aside in private and place it with your keepsakes.
  • Responsibility/Accountability- The kids are responsible for choosing the artwork they keep. They are putting their artwork in its home and they are learning very important life skills in the process.
  • Archive- A great way to retain the memory of the artwork without having to manage the physical artwork is to take photographs. You can do this using any old camera or phone these days or you can use an app intended for this purpose. I have been using PicScanner to photograph artwork as it comes in. But, honestly, haven’t taken it any further than that…yet!

I love to answer questions, so if you have one feel free to post it in the comments, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter or email me!

Ciao for now!







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