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How moms save their child’s artwork without feeling like a hoarder

As kids grow up, they can amass a pretty impressive collection of finger-painted-masterpieces and macaroni necklaces. But with each piece being a little piece of your baby’s childhood, what’s the protocol for keeping versus tossing? We asked moms to spill about how much of their kids’ art they keep, and for how long.

“Since she is only 4, I do a few things with her artwork,” said Katie S., mother of Violet. “The best pieces I will laminate and use as placemats that she can set the table with. The next set goes on her wall for a bit — I use a piece of trim wood fitted with clips to hold them. Once those get replaced with new art, I have a banker’s box that I will keep the best ones in. So far it is one banker’s box for the first three years of her life. So sad to say, I don’t keep all of it. But my parents kept every single toy, piece of classwork, etc. for me. I realize how much dedication they spent doing that for me and I appreciate it… but honestly I can’t keep an entire storage unit’s worth of my memories, so I pared it down to the best stuff already. I guess I felt that I wanted to give Violet a more manageable piece of her childhood back. I wish I scrapbooked it for her, but I am so busy running this house that a banker’s box is as good as it gets for her.”

“I keep a lot of it,” admitted Ashley Mitchell of North Carolina, whose son Bladen turns 3 this month. “I want to get one of those picture frames that opens up so you can change out their artwork easily, but for now I have just been sticking most of it in a storage box. A scrapbook would be awesome to use, too.”

“For our boys, since they are so young, I only consider keeping things if — number one — I know they actually did it and not their teacher and — number two — if it has some sort of significance,” explained Melissa Ely, a Navy mom stationed in Kentucky with her husband and two sons. “I do have a few things I plan to either scrapbook or take photos of and keep electronically. Also, when I let them paint at home, I splurge and get canvases, then tape shapes or patterns and let them do whatever they want with colors I choose. When the tape comes off, the canvases become the decorations in their room. Totally a Pinterest steal! How long do I keep them? I don’t know. I don’t want to keep everything forever but want a sampling of things for them to see when they are adults and let them decide. I think. I’m sure I’ll change my mind next year!”

Carlotta feder
Photo credit: Carlotta Felder

“I have three-ring binders with the plastic clips, so the work they do I slide into the plastic,” said Carlotta Felder, a Utah mom with two young girls. “So it is kind of like a scrap book. My favorite work hangs on the fridge first, and then I put in the binder. I have one for each daughter. I plan on keeping it forever — or as long as they last. To me these are the best memories of my life, and they are worth saving forever!”

Josh Pack artwork
Photo credit: Angel Pack

“We have two places (besides the almighty place of honor, the refrigerator door) that we display artwork. One is in the hall: He has two frames that we rotate his favorite pieces in. They are just $3 frames from Walmart, but they look nice because they are black,” shared Missouri mom Angel Pack. “Then in his school room we have this cool folder-storage-thing we found at Target above the closet. As for storage, for the bigger things we take a poster board and fold it. Then we tape around the sides to make a portfolio and label it for each year — super easy to make and maintain and you can store it under the bed or in the back of the closet. For the coloring pages, little sketches and art projects that we love too much to trash and are smaller, they get a binder. I use a three-hole punch or sleeve protectors.”

Shannon Jones
Photo credit: Shannon Jones

“I was looking at boxes of my kids’ artwork last night wondering what to do with it,” confessed Shannon Jones, a South Carolina mother whose four kids range in age from 3 years old to 11 years old. “I have them in Rubbermaid containers — mostly cute preschool and elementary work. I’ve thought about framing some of them to put down our hallway that leads to the garage. I know I need to part with a lot of it, but it’s a piece of their imagination I’m throwing in the garbage.”

Katie DePoppe collages

“A few years ago, I realized I was absolutely over-run with paper clutter. (The problems of a writer, reader, and general all-around information hoarder.) So, I created a system for exactly this,” said Katie DePoppe, whose son Max is 4. “I knew as Max started to grow, be more creative and produce his own works of art, I’d have to have a way to manage it. Here’s our system: When he first makes something or brings a project home, we give it the ‘check’ first. Is this something he put his best into? I do not keep everything, and sometimes Max helps me to decide if it’s something we are going to hang on to. I try not to let him see me throw things away, as that hurts my heart to toss anything he’s touched (ha ha), but I know it’s not realistic to try and keep everything. As soon as we decide it’s something nice that we want to keep, though, I hang it on a little display hanger in our kitchen. It says ‘Every child is an artist,’ and that’s the display area that his most recent works go to be ‘shown off’ for a while in all their glory.

Keepsake box
Photo credit: A Bowl Full of Lemons

“When new things come in and it’s time to retire some of the older pieces he’s made, they then go into his keepsake box — my friend Toni gives a tutorial on the keepsake box on her blog. For the really special things, I found the coolest idea on Pinterest. Basically, you scan your child’s artwork, and then print picture-sized copies of each piece in a photo collage to frame. I saved room in our hallway for several of these as the years wear on.”

child artwork collage
Photo credit: The Artful Parent

“What I do and what I want to do are two different things,” laughed Jodi Johnson, a Seattle mother of three. “I have binders for all three kids and I throw everything in there, but it sticks out and can be messy. My favorites end up framed on the wall. I try to rotate them out yearly. My friend Wendy Philips has a huge framed collage of her girls’ artwork.”

“Since Allie is still going to day care, she hasn’t really done many art projects, so I haven’t saved anything yet! Eek!” confessed Jennifer Goldberg, a Southern California mom whose daughter turned 2 this year. “When she does start, I will only save my faves, because I hate clutter. I guess I will keep the very best and give them to her when she graduates high school or college and has a place of her own to store them. I am part of a play group, and someone just posted a link to some great ideas on how to display them — I will likely do something like that when she starts doing more artwork. The article was called ‘21 Ways to Display Kids’ Art Work.'”

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