Recently a friend and I were discussing that awful moment where you sneakily toss a kid’s artwork into the trash, hoping they don’t notice. When your child is obsessed with paper crafting like Turkey Burger, it can be difficult to manage the constant overflow of paper scraps! My buddy was asking about a kids’ artwork solution, which happens to be a favorite topic of mine.
Over time, I’ve created a system that makes my little artist feel proud of her work, but keeps me from feeling like I’m drowning in disorganized papers. I never have to worry that I’ll misplace the favorite items, and I’ve got a method to ensure that we can all enjoy the hilarious and lovable pieces for years to come.
Here’s the process I follow.
Step 1 of the Kids’ Artwork Solution: Choose the best place in your home to display excellent work.
My favorite place to display art is along the huge glass sliding windows at the back of our living room. Does it look like I run a daycare? Yes, it does. But I figure this is a short period in my life, so it’s probably not the best time to concern myself with having a designer home. That’s not realistic.
The reason I love this space so much is that it’s at the center of our family home and in a public area. Turkey Burger is proud when her art makes it to the living room doors.
A similar solution is the fridge, but of course, you’ll run out of space quickly. Do you have a window that looks into the backyard? Can you manage to leave the blinds up?
Some people purchase those frames that can be easily swapped out with kids’ artwork. But they’re a very expensive kids’ artwork solution, and they don’t feature very many pieces at once. Plus you have to keep swapping them out, which is kinda lame.
Whatever place you choose, remember that public is best. Think outside the box, and remember that it’s only a short time.
Another option is to dress up a giant bulletin board. I got this bulletin board for $6 at a church garage sale. I stapled fabric over the top of it, and used ribbon to cover up the jagged, frayed ends.
This bulletin board is on display above Turkey Burger’s desk. She loves to put her work here, too.
Step 2: Create an after-school and after-crafting routine for paper management.
Routine = organization. You have to teach your kids a routine or habit to help cut down on the chaos and mess.
Your child should bring you all papers from their backpack right after school.
We have a rather elaborate routine when Turkey Burger gets home from school. She knows she must put her mask in the laundry bucket by the door. She must charge her iPad immediately. She must put her water bottle and lunch box next to the kitchen sink. And she must hand deliver all papers from her back pack to me.
Sort paperwork into piles – action item, display item, or trash?
Now that your child just handed you a pile of papers, sort them into three stacks.
Action items are things that need to be signed by a parent (report card, trip waiver, etc), or just discussed with the kiddo, like a test grade or a teacher’s note. If you get a scholastic book fair flyer each month, this might go in that stack, too.
Display items are work that is just TOO cute to toss, or a school assignment in which they’ve clearly tried their best. Remember, just because it’s a high grade doesn’t mean you need to keep it. If your kiddo is naturally gifted at math, you don’t necessarily need to hang onto a 100 test grade. On the other hand, if they busted their butt on a school project and they’re super excited about it, display it!
Pictured below is “My Animal Report.” It’s currently on display because it’s literally the first thing Turkey Burger told me about when I picked her up that day: “Mama! GUESS WHAT?! I did my very first research project! And it took me THREE DAYS!” I could tell she was thrilled with how it came out. So onto the bulletin board it went.
There are lots of things that will go right into the trash – most daily work, quiz grades, and lots of flyers for events you know you won’t attend.
Step 3: Enjoy the displayed items until the space fills completely, or until it hurts your eyes.
At some point, your display space will start looking cluttered and tacky to your eyes. Depending on how much room you have, that could be at the end of the month or the end of the year. At that point, it’s time to move to step 4 of the kids’ artwork solution.
Step 4: Take photos of all displayed artwork as it’s removed from the space.
If the work was good enough to display, you don’t want to part with it forever. But by the same token, no one needs multiple Rubbermaid bins full of school work. Even as an adult, I would get bored after about 10 minutes of digging through my own childhood memorabilia. You need to create a digital album to help with storage space and clutter.
Create an album on your phone called “(Child’s Name) Art”
We take so many photos, so it’s easy for them to get lost. Create a special album just for the artwork, so it’s all in one place and easy to access for later.
Take photos all at once, in bulk, to ensure lighting is consistent.
One more tip – it helps if you take the artwork down all at once, beginning with a clean slate. That way, all these photos of the artwork will have the same lighting. That helps when you’re using them digitally in a photo book (see Step 7).
Step 5: This part is the hardest in the kids’ artwork solution. Throw almost everything in the trash once it’s preserved by photo.
Once you’ve taken the photos, you’ve got everything you need for Step 7 – the Shutterfly album. So you really don’t need the hard copies.
But I get it! Some things are just too precious and the hard copy holds a bit more magic. That doesn’t tend to include report cards or written work, but sometimes art created with paint or special materials just begs to be kept in it’s original form. That brings me to Step 6 in my kids’ artwork solution.
Step 6: Can’t bear to toss the hard copy of your kids’ artwork? Put it in a file box.
Purchase a file box for each student, and create a folder for each school year.
These file boxes are usually plastic with a carrying handle, but a crate works just fine, too. Add some of those hanging file folders and label each folder by the school year. You can also add a folder for years of nursery school if your child attends preschool or daycare.
Aim to keep a hard copy of your 5 favorite pieces from each year.
If you started at age 3, when kids begin coming home from preschool and daycare with cutesy things, and kept a folder for every year until graduation, you’ll end up with tons of hard copies.
The idea is to restrict yourself to one file box per kid. If you only keep 5 items in their original form each year, you’ll end up with 75 items in the file box. That’s a really cool, comprehensive collection that doesn’t overwhelm your kid when they’re leaving home.
Not to mention, you’ll also have a second form of preserving and displaying everything, and that comes in Step 7 of the kids’ artwork solution.
Step 7: Create a Shutterfly album (or use any other album provider) to cherish all the displayed artwork forever.
Creating a gorgeous album from digital images is super easy. You can see below that I’ve sprinkled my kids’ artwork throughout our annual album, instead of dedicating a whole book to art work and school work for the year. But you could do it either way!
I have always used Shutterfly out of habit. There are other great companies, as well! I make sure to take advantage of Shutterfly’s 50% off sale, because they put photo books on 50% off pretty regularly. The best deal is to wait until you get discounted extra pages, too, if your book is going to be huge like mine normally is.
Here’s a detailed Youtube video showing you how to make a Shutterfly album. Her accent is delightful! I have never used a tutorial, because it’s super user-friendly. But if you’re not very confident in your techie skills and easily intimidated, a little Youtubing never hurt anybody.
That's the End, My Friends!
Comment below. How do you handle kids’ artwork and school papers? Any other great ideas?