Organizing Children’s Artwork

Children's Artwork

Back to school brings a lot of things: early mornings, new schedules, homework, and… artwork. Especially for families with children in preschool and early elementary years, it seems like the artwork comes in at least once a day. What is the best way to manage it all? Here are a few tips.

Establish a gallery.

A gallery is an area of wall in your home where you will hang children’s artwork. It is nice to have this space because it makes kids feel proud and confident to see their work on display. Prime candidates include the wall of the family room, the playroom, the wall leading up or down a flight of stairs, and even the walls of a laundry room (where we spend a lot of time!).

Decide how you will attach artwork to the wall.

There are lots of options for hanging artwork, such as:

  • Painter’s tape, in multiple colors if you want to add whimsy. Avoid using regular transparent tape or masking tape because these can damage the paint.
  • Long boards with attached clips
  • Magnetic walls made with sheet metal or magnetic paint
  • Wire system (such as this one). The beauty of these is they accommodate art of all sizes quickly and easily.
  • “Swap out” frames like these that allow you to open the front and add another piece on top.

Triage new arrivals.

When the artwork comes home, the first thing to do is spread it all out and talk about it with your child. Ask your child to tell you about each piece. This gives you a chance to gauge how much the piece means to your child, and to know what he/she was thinking of when it was created. This is also the moment to make a note on the back of what the child tells you about it, such as “This is Mommy in her party dress.” You may also wish to note the date.

If you like, this is a good time take a photo and upload it to an art storage app such as Artkive or Keepy. Apps such as these allow you to easily label and tag each piece for future reference. They also give you the option of emailing these photos directly from the app to a list of recipients (such as grandparents). The Keepy app allows you to record your child talking about the piece as well. This process can be handy for making photo books or other products in the future.

Move new arrivals to the gallery.

Any pieces your child seemed proud of are worthy of going to the gallery. Gather the pieces together and either hang them up right away or put them in a stack to be hung later when you have a free minute.

Relocate items coming out of the gallery.

Since gallery space is limited, there will be a need to create space for new arrivals fairly early on. Think of the gallery as a “one in, one out” kind of space. Some of the pieces of artwork coming out of the gallery will be “keepers,” masterpieces that you want to hold onto as memorabilia.

Good candidates for saving will be pieces that…

  • You love
  • Your child loves
  • Are autographed
  • Are self-portraits
  • Are original creations

On the flip side, pieces that should probably go are those that are…

  • Oversized (e.g. paint on newsprint)
  • Made with food (food attracts bugs)
  • More an assembly of pre-cut pieces than an original design
  • Fragile/difficult to preserve (this is where photos come in handy)
  • Scribbles that won’t have future emotional value

Move “keepers” to a storage location.

Sorting artwork should be quick and easy. Designate a spot where you can easily drop any artwork you keep. Be sure to choose a space that is convenient as otherwise you are likely to stack it up and end up with a big project. Consider:

  • An open, large, plastic box under the bed
  • A drawer in a nearby dresser (think one drawer per child)
  • A bin in a closet or on a shelf in the mudroom/entry
  • An oversized folio (either purchased, or made from two pieces of poster board taped together)
Make a portfolio
Source: kristenbloglife.blogspot.com

Maintain the routine the duration of the school year.

Don’t worry too much on a daily basis about whether you are keeping the right pieces. When in doubt, keep it. The goal is for this to be a quick sort, switch, and drop process that can be accomplished in a few minutes each day.

Sort the collection at the end of the school year.

At the end of the school year, set aside a couple of hours (per child) to dump out the year’s worth of “keeps.” This is your time to be a bit more picky about what you will keep, and it will be easier to do so now that you can see the year’s worth of creations. Sort the art into piles, putting similar pieces together. Then, go through each stack and pick the few best to keep. If your child has made 45 rainbow drawings because he was particularly into rainbows this year, you don’t need to keep them all. Select the two best rainbows and let the remainder go.

Place the keepers into a plastic/water safe box and put this box into remote storage. You won’t need to access this container for a while, so it can live in any space that is safe from the elements.

Digitize the collection.

Even with mindful culling, you may end up with a lot of artwork. Few young adults wish to tote a box of their childhood artwork around from apartment to apartment. One great option is to digitize the art, either by photographing or scanning it. [Note: if you took photos as the art came in, this step has already been completed.] You can then transfer the images to a thumb drive (label it!), and/or have them printed as a collection.

There is no hard and fast rule for how much artwork to keep, but a nice middle ground is to make one collection of preschool art and a second of elementary art.

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A child’s artistic creations are a treasure. Having a smooth system for circulating and saving them will allow you to enjoy them both now and in the future.

Do you have a favorite system for managing children’s artwork?

26 thoughts on “Organizing Children’s Artwork”

  1. Honestly, you nailed it here with how to store kid’s artwork. We hang new artwork here usually on the fridge or bulletin board we have, as well. But do love the masterpiece type wall that you shared above. When newer artwork comes in, we usually use a folder to store the other artwork for the year. At the end of the school year, we go through that folder and keep the most important pieces only. So, I agree that it is a working process and definitely do try our best to keep up with it during and even after the year is up, as well.

    1. The masterpieces wall is pretty cool! Sounds like you have a good system in place. I’m sure with your two sweeties that you have a well-decorated space:) These pieces are a treasure for sure, and it seems like they will never end. But then, all of the sudden, they stop coming in, which is sad. Great to know you have saved your favorites!

    1. These just have a little more breathing space, which is nice. The fridge can get very crowded, very quickly! Plus, so many people have a fridge with a wooden panel these days, and you can’t use magnets on these. Just nice to get inspired by a few visuals now and then, right?

  2. I love the idea of having a specific process for processing incoming art work. The gallery idea shows the value of art and helps your kiddos practice the art of letting go. Thank you for sharing!

    1. It also provides a “boundary” for where the art goes. If you have a couple of young artists in your household, the art can easily take over. When you notice you are layering your display, you know you’ve got too much!

  3. These are wonderful suggestions! I vividly remember the masses of art and other projects that came home with my children. I used to love hearing my childrens explanations of the painting. It’s a beautiful bonding time.

    1. So fun to record the stories that go along with their creations! I always appreciated when a preschool teacher took the time to write down what my daughter had said about the drawing – meant so much!

  4. Creating is such an essential part of being. And little kids are prolific. I love the process you describe for taking something that often overwhelms parents, and breaks it down into small, doable steps. But you’ve also given lots of options for the how and when which makes your ideas exceptionally flexible. I like that!

    One of the things I did with the kids’ oversized newsprint paintings was to use it as wrapping paper for gifts. They loved seeing their art decorate a package.

    I also used a small collecting bin for art and school papers. Instead of going through things daily, because my schedule didn’t allow for that, I reviewed the collection when the container was full (every month or so.) Then at the end of the year, I divided the remaining pieces into two piles (one for each daughter,) and we’d look at them together. They made the final decisions about what was most meaningful to keep. I then put each one in a large envelope with their name, grade, and school year dates.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…Number One Success Hack That Will Help YouMy Profile

    1. I know a couple of families who go through the art with the children at the end of the year, and I think that is so great if the kids are willing. After all, you want THEM to have a vote in what means the most. Daily decision-making is draining, which is why keeping it simple is so important. Let “daily” be reserved for moving things around, not trying to make decisions, right? Once you get in a flow like the one you described, the whole things seems easier. I think that is true for so many things!

  5. I have a bin that is about 8 inches deep, 24 inches wide by 18 inches long. Over the years, at the school year-end, when my kids were in elementary school, I had them go through their previous years’ artwork. The bin was enough for them to weed through stuff they didn’t want and make room for new things. As they got bigger, their favorite art pieces, when into a large portfolio with a zipper. If they were OK with it, we would frame the artwork and display them on stairwell walls. Front easy-open frames are great for quick replenishing artwork.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…15 Unique Things to Toss for a Stress Free KitchenMy Profile

    1. Sounds like a great system, Sabrina! Those “open front” frames really are so easy, and I love that these hold up to 50 pieces of art, which means you don’t have to switch it out every time. Super simple!

    1. I like them too, Janet. Having a gallery, especially with a “title” sure makes the kids feel special, right? Clipping up artwork is quick and easy, and it provides a natural boundary to keep it from getting out of control.

  6. Oh so timely. I real need to do a video on this right now. With the start of the school year, this is the time to get a system in place to collect, sort and save kid’s art work and school work. Great ideas here. Thanks.

  7. Thank you for such a detailed overview with excellent tips on organizing artwork. I love the idea of those swap out frames you linked to, I think they will be a great option for families overwhelmed with new artwork every week.

  8. We have a magnetic chalkboard in our kitchen where the artwork goes for a period of time. A few select keepers go in his school memory book. I’ll photograph the bigger pieces for our family yearbook. Exception: Anything with glitter immediately goes in the trash. I hate that stuff!

    1. Yes, glitter makes a mess! I decided early on that glitter glue was a school thing… that stuff took forever to dry! I love that you have a family yearbook. That is such a great idea!

    1. I love the gallery. It is both a “feature area” that makes the children feel great, as well as a space that has boundaries so you don’t overdo it. I’m not surprised to hear that your Mom is an art teacher.. explains where you get your artistic eye:)

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