Ask Design Mom: What to do with Children’s Artwork

January 25, 2008

Ask-Design-Mom Question: Hi Gabrielle. As the mother of 5 creative children, I think you are the perfect person to ask this question… I was wondering if you have creative suggestions for what to do with the blizzard of artwork that my kids bring home each week from school (not to mention the work the generate at home)? I have a pre-schooler and a first grader and they generate a LOT of precious “art”. I like having it around the house and proudly hang much of it, but would love some creative ideas for how to preserve, display and manage the volume. Thanks for your wonderful blog and Happy New Year! Regards, Brenda

Design Mom Answer:
Great question Brenda. This one is a non-stop challenge for all parents. I’ve detailed my own storing-artwork-philosophy before here. (In short the philosophy is: keep it moving. Post current artwork. Replace it when new items come home. Save a very few select items and only projects that are true originals or that your child is particularly proud of.) But today I’ve got 3 cute ideas I’ve seen recently that might help you out.

1) Lizzy had the brilliant idea to use her daughter’s artwork to make her grocery lists and to-do lists. Child friendly and earth friendly. I’m sure her daughter feels so important when she sees mom carrying around her drawing as mom goes about doing errands.

2) In the most recent issue of Good Things for Kids (one of the Martha mini-magazines — this issue is titled “Get Crafty” and just came out last week), there are dozens of amazing ideas, some dealing with the exact question in mind. I loved their idea of putting a year’s worth of artwork into mailing tubes. The tubes are especially good at accommodating oversize pieces of paper.

3) Another great idea from Good Things for Kids, is to turn your child’s drawing into something practical by mounting a small paper calendar directly on the artwork (see the pic at the top of this post). We happened to get one of those mini calendars in the mail yesterday from our oil company and decided we should try this project immediately. Instead of mounting the whole calendar on one masterpiece, my kids collected 12 pieces of artwork, trimmed them down and mounted the artwork and one calendar month on 12 separate sheets of paper. Double-stick tape and glue sticks were the mounting adhesives of choice.

When we were finished, we bound the 12 pages together with an oversize paperclip and slipped them in a happy red envelope. We’re sending this off to Grandma for a belated birthday present. If your utilities company/real estate agent/gardening catalog isn’t as forthcoming with the mini calendars, you can also buy them from this site.

One last idea: if you find your child is particularly taken with drawing, introduce a sketchbook into their life. When they fill it up, introduce a new one. That way, their artwork is already bound and easy to store and they can see their progression easily.

What about you, clever readers? How do you handle the oceans of artwork that come into your homes?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susie January 25, 2008 at 12:58 pm

The calendars are a fabulous idea. Another source of printed calendar pages to glue onto the artwork is Publisher on Microsoft Works.


2 Sarah January 25, 2008 at 2:01 pm

What fabulous ideas. I don’t have any of my own to contribute, but I’m definitely keeping this article handy! My son is 2 1/2, and he is already starting to get interested in creating. I’d love to get a handle on it before it gets overwhelming!


3 DD January 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Since most of our artwork has come home from school, I store the most memorable in a plastic sleeve and keep notebooks for each year.

I’ve also heard another idea was to take pictures of each of the pieces and keep a digital image on the computer and start a virtual gallery.


4 Cruze January 25, 2008 at 2:38 pm

We have a wire strung all across a wall in the toy room with six clothespins on it. The kids each get two of them to display their latest and greatest. Everything else just goes in the recycle bin, with a few favorites stored in boxes for keeps. I love your idea of bindning the keepers into a book…that seems easier to look through than a box. The calendar and tubes for the oversized stuff are great ideas too.


5 kristi lou January 25, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I have created a private blog especially for my 5 year old daughter’s artwork. It makes her feel very special when I photograph and post it, so she’s not so sad when I toss it. I let her describe and name each piece. Then we can go look at her past work anytime, and so can grandma and other family and friends we’ve invited to the blog.


6 Bek January 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm

In our school, they tend to keep most of the art there and bind it to send home at the end of the year (they do it for me!!!). I love this idea because we have a big book for each year.

We also take pictures of the good stuff. I have an area of my home that has frames on the wall and we interchange the art there as well…but I am a thrower-awayer too….. so I don’t keep as much as I could.

My mom gave us each a file of our special things we had saved and we all looked at it and chucked it. It means more to mom than the kid….


7 KJ January 25, 2008 at 10:35 pm

my little one is just entering crayon mode, so I haven’t had to keep much yet. I’ll likely keep some things in his photo album in archival sleeves. My mother made a large envelope out of 2 sheets of poster board. She punched holes around 3 sides and laced ribbon or yarn (?) through them to hold the boards together. These housed many larger projects and slid under the bed or against the wall in a closet. I like the wire idea from Cruze…and the mailer tubes.


8 Anonymous January 26, 2008 at 12:17 am

We take a picture of the project, upload it on the computer and then let them rotate as screensavers. They love seeing their art projects pop up on the computer screen.


9 abstract lady January 26, 2008 at 12:24 am

The kids’ school here also sends the artwork once a year.

We go through the pieces togetehr and decide which ones we’re keeping (usually around 6 for each kid). The rest is tossed away.

As for the artwork created at home, kids have aa board in their room where they post their favorite ones with magnets. As soon as we have new ones, the older ones also go to the bin.


10 Just Katy January 26, 2008 at 11:12 am

When I was a kid my mom let us keep one art object/school project. So every time we brought something home we could replace the old with the new or just keep the old. No matter what something was going in the trash. You think this might have dampened my love of the creative process but ended up graduating with a BFA in art.

What I and a lot of illustrators I’ve worked with do is gather all their work and bind it into books. I do this periodically with my sketches and it only costs 2 or 3 bucks at Kinkos. It really cuts down the clutter and makes a great record. I plan to do it with my kids.


11 laura January 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm

It’s super easy to create a table in Word and plug in the days to make your own calendar pages. Or just print the blank table and let your kids write the days and numbers to practice their writing.


12 Kim January 26, 2008 at 7:20 pm

What tremendous ideas! Thank you for sharing.


13 Motherhood Uncensored January 27, 2008 at 12:18 pm makes books out them — they’re extremely high quality and lovely.

I’m going to start a blog for my daughter (private), but right now, I put a lot of her stuff up on my blog. I also take pics of her block building and lego creations too — since her little brother tends to knock them down pretty quickly.

You could also upload them as graphics and then use any of the cool features offered by Shutterfly (i.e. photo books, puzzles, etc.).


14 aubrey January 27, 2008 at 8:14 pm

these ideas are fantastic. for the most part, if it’s a piece of art that is original or new, and it is small enough, i will scan it and put it into their blog. i like another commenters idea to make a blog entirely for their artwork. and then to print it out in book format from blurb.


15 Sara January 27, 2008 at 9:36 pm

When my children were younger I would use their art work to write short letters to their grandparents who live far away.

This way the grandparents get a note from me about what is going on and they see the progress the grandchild is making. I not only used art projects but math homework, spelling lists and even handwriting papers.

The grandparents have everything stored and they felt a real part of my children’s education.


16 Courtney January 28, 2008 at 9:33 am

We use a large office binder clip on the wall in the playroom, and cycle through artwork there. We are about to outgrow it, though (could use 6 more!) so these ideas are really helpful.


17 acte gratuit January 28, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Maxwell’s bedroom door is his art gallery. When the door is covered from top to bottom, I take a picture, and throw everything away. (I figure a can make a few scrapbook pages with the pictures.)

Unless, of course, it’s extra special. This is hard for me to do (I’m a pack rat) but I have a HUGE box of my childhood art work which I do NOT want, and feel too guilty to throw away! I’m trying to save my kids from the same fate.


18 acte gratuit January 28, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Kristi Lou,
I love the personal blog idea because now blogs can easily be turned into books. And then you’ve got the best of both worlds!!!


19 Dallas January 28, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I don’t have any kids yet, but I read about a great idea of laminating some and using them as placemats. I thought that was very clever.


20 Mel February 2, 2008 at 11:59 pm

THANK YOU!! I am always looking for something to do with the child’s art. She has a lot. I mean A LOT. And some it is really good. Everyone is getting a calender this year.


21 Anonymous May 2, 2008 at 11:44 am

Finally there is an answer. I found this company that takes all your kid’s artwork, not just a few pieces, all of it and turns it into a custom hard cover book. An art collection book. The large book holds 85 pieces of art. So your kids can always admire their work in a neat, elegant way. Artimusart also sends the art images to a web gallery(like photos) and you can email one art image or the entire gallery to family. Now you have the answer. This is the best thing for parents of artistically prolific kids like mine.


22 Phili January 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

As they bring their artwork home we take a digital photo- at the end of each year- we send the photos to any on line photo place and I make a book of all their artwork – which becomes our coffee table book!
Looks cool and the kids are so proud to show it off when friends come over.


23 Abee March 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I’m very fond of this solution:
Bring the artwork to a mini format and collect the miniscule pictures in a big frame. So beautiful!


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