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Organizing children’s artwork

If you are living with a budding Picasso, Renoir, or — more likely — Jackson Pollack, or if you simply have a school-aged child, you no doubt have a huge stack of artwork that you don’t know how to handle. Here are a wide variety of ideas for getting that artwork off your refrigerator and preventing it from taking over your home.

Separate the Masterpieces from the Used Paper
If your child is fairly prolific when it comes to his artwork, you simply cannot keep every piece of paper to which crayon has been applied. First, separate those drawings that you truly love, or that represent a “first” (i.e., first stick figure, first time she wrote her name, etc.). Be sure to mark the back of the picture with the name of the child who drew it (20 years from now you may not remember if it was Bobby or Johnny), the date or child’s age, and why you are keeping it (represents his fascination with cows; first person with all features drawn; etc.). This will make saving the artwork more meaningful years from now when you review it. Keep in mind that not every drawing can, or should, be saved. Don’t feel guilty if you recycle some of the art, or use it in other ways.

What to Do With the Artwork You Are Saving
One option is to create a photo gallery. Purchase some picture frames, add your child’s artwork, and hang a few pieces together in a hallway or family room. You can periodically change the art for a fresh look.
Another less expensive, less permanent option is to string a clothesline across your child’s bedroom or playroom and hang his artwork with clothespins. This technique, often used in classrooms, allows for frequent rotation of work, and permits hanging the artwork with damaging it with holes from thumbtacks.
Taking photos of your child’s artwork is a great way to preserve them; the life span of a photo far exceeds that of manila craft paper. In addition, photos are a great way to immortalize three-dimensional art which would otherwise eat up space on counter tops and shelves. Print film enables you to create a scrapbook of your child’s work — a space-friendly way of saving his creations. Slide film allows you to hold an annual art showing of your child’s work; invite friends and relatives, set up the slide projector and serve snacks. Your child can act as narrator and describe his work. This is a great self-esteem builder, and has the added benefit of allowing a year’s worth of art to be stored in the few inches the boxes of slides require.
If you are determined to keep the original work, a large portfolio, a plastic tote box with a lid, or a few mailing tubes are other storage options.

Options for Extra Artwork
Once you’ve framed, hung, photographed, or boxed your very favorite pieces, consider these ways to use the extra artwork.
Purchase an inexpensive calendar and glue your child’s artwork on top of each page to create customized calendars. This makes a great gift item, especially for grandparents, and each calendar uses up 12 pictures. You can even correspond seasonal pictures to the appropriate month (i.e., a snowman picture on January; a picture of kids swimming for July).
Laminate a group of coordinating pictures, or seal them in clear ContacĀ© paper, to create a set of placemats. You can mount the pictures on matching decorative or colorful paper before sealing for a unified look.
Use artwork as giftwrap. This adds a nice personal touch, especially for gifts your child is giving at holiday and birthday party time.
If your child has grandparents, other relatives, or even former babysitters, who live out of the area, periodically package up a set of artwork and mail it to them as an unexpected surprise.
Many photo stores can transfer your child’s artwork onto T-shirts, coffee mugs or even mousepads, turning the artwork into something practical that can be used regularly.

Storing Art Supplies
Art supplies, themselves, can easily take on a life of their own. To store your child’s supplies, separate products by category (i.e., one container for crayons, another for colored pencils, a third for clay, etc.).
Consider purchasing a rolling cart with pull-out drawers. This will make it easy for your child to move his supplies to the area where he’s creating, and the individual drawers allow easy access to the particular category desired.
Plastic shoeboxes with lids or empty baby wipe containers are another easy way to store art supplies. Be sure to label the exterior of the boxes and designate a specific shelf or area on which to store the containers.
Tool and tackle boxes have many compartmentalized areas making it easy to segregate and store small craft supplies, such as beads, stamps, etc.

Wishing you and your child many beautiful, creative moments together!