Organizing Kids' Artwork & Art Supplies

Parent Q&A

Where to put the art supplies & a place to do art May 7, 2019 (3 responses below)
Framing kid's art Jan 25, 2017 (5 responses below)
  • We have young two grade school kiddos who love to do various art projects.  At the moment their supplies are scattered in different places in our house.  I'd like to centralize the supplies in one location or storage container so it's easier to start as well as to clean up.  Can people share what they've done?  For the most part, they do projects on the dinning room table, but I wouldn't mind getting advice on other good spots. 

    We just got this, which also has wheels so you can move it around and tuck it away when not being used. Target also as a similar one

    I bought several "Smart Store" bins with various size inserts from the Container Store to organize paints, etc. and they work well. We do art projects at the kitchen table and also on the front steps, weather permitting (which it usually does here). For bigger projects I just clear a space on the kitchen floor.

    When my kids were little, I got a sideboard from Ikea (I don't think they make the same model anymore, but something with a mix of drawers and closed shelves is ideal, so you can close up the mess) and put it next to the kitchen table, and that's our art spot for the most part. The drawers hold paper, and the cabinets hold lidded plastic shoe storage boxes and divided tackle boxes full of markers, paints, brushes, crayons, stickers, pipe cleaners, etc. - I like having everything sorted out so we can pull out exactly the boxes we need, but you may be less intense about it - I have a designated space for googly eyes. :) I like that we can leave a project there to dry or to come back to later without it being in the way like it would on the dining room table, so a surface you don't need to clear and use every day would be handy. If you're short on space, even something as simple as a big tool box that you could carry to your art-making space works well, too.

  • Framing kid's art

    (5 replies)

    I just wanted to get some up to date recs on framing. We have kid pictures up all over and love the way this toddler abstract art looks and want to get it framed. We are looking for beautiful frames but of course don't want to spend a fortune. We also barely have time to feed ourselves so would like to be able to just turn the paintings over without much fuss. Any suggestions?

    RE: Framing kid's art ()

    I like North Berkeley Framing in Shattuck near Virginia, west side of street. Not sure how cheap you are looking for. This guy's prices are moderate and he does good work. Good luck!

    RE: Framing kid's art ()

    Take the artworks with you to Michael's (craft store) and select whatever frames you like. Fast, cost effective, and you can swap the paintings in and out as the kids grow and get more adept. And then when they're fully grown, you can take them down, put them in a scrapbook and call it a day! Win-win-win!

    RE: Framing kid's art ()

    I've had wonderful success with Michael's in Alameda. And if you join their online program, they usually come out with big discount coupons on framing (50%) every couple of months...  You get to pick the frame, the mat, the size.  And they do really good work.  Usually takes about 2 weeks.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How MUCH kids artwork (or memorabilia) to save?

Jan 2011

I have a large quantity of artwork piled up from my oldest child. I've taken digital shots of everything and am organizing it by year or school year. But I'm wondering how much of the actual artwork to save. I've selected some pieces but it is still a lot! As any parent knows, it's hard to let go of these. But I don't want it to pile up. I'm just wondering how many art pieces you keep of each child per year? Will I regret throwing these out? Or should I hold on to them and revisit this in a few years when I'm less attached? I've got three kids and no room to spare! As a general question I'm also wondering how much memorabilia to save from their childhood. I'm trying to keep just one box (12'' x 24'') per child for memorabilia but it is so hard to weed stuff out! I'm a pack rat by nature so it just kills me to let go of all this stuff-how do you decide what to keep? Help!

-Momma Pack Rat

My recommendation: Go to a pizza place and ask for new pizza boxes (they may charge you a small amount). Store each year's work in a separate box. They stack nicely, and what doesn't fit, you don't keep. heidilee

I save artwork and schoolwork if I think there is something particularly interesting about the specific piece, like especially creative, unusual, or beautiful. Honestly, most of their work does NOT fall into this category, so into the recycling it goes (or perhaps it's on display for awhile, then recycled). Each of my children has one box, a long thin wrapping paper box from Target. I don't intend to save more than what will fit in a box. Also don't forget, preschool and early elementary are the prolific art years and it will slow down before middle school.

Sentimental but practical mommy

Art work and art supplies - managing the mess

March 2009

My 5yo son has just become interested in artwork both at school and at home. He comes home with tons and tons of paper and I'm not sure how to decide what to keep and what to recycle. How do you decide? He seems to want to keep everything.

Also, at home he goes through tons of paper and art supplies. How do you organize this? For example, for Valentine's Day, he must have cut 100 hearts which leaves a lot of scraps of paper. We have a scrap box, but he never ends up using any of it.

drowning in paper

In terms of what to keep and what to throw away, I'm afraid I'm rather ruthless about this one. If I asked my son, he'd want to keep everything too -- and we don't have space. So I put everything in one box. After a few weeks, I clean out almost everything in the bottom of the box (which my son has totally forgotten about), and into the recycling it goes. I keep maybe one thing a month, maximum. Usually it comes from preschool and has some emotional or developmental value.

I also don't try to keep all of the scraps. Most of what I let him draw on and cut up is already scrap paper -- printed documents I no longer need, colorful ads from the newspaper, wrapping paper from Christmas or birthday presents. Once he's used it one additional time, I don't feel bad about recycling it. You can make yourself crazy trying to do the right thing here.

Finally, I bought one of those plastic 3-drawer bins, about 3 feet high, from Target. One drawer contains markers, crayons, and scissors, one drawer clay, glue, and finger paint, and one drawer coloring books and paper he can use. It is in the area he's allowed to ''do art'' in (the one area in my house with a tile floor). He is required to put anything he wants to keep, back in the proper drawer. Once a month or so I go through the bin and throw out anything unusable (badly crumpled paper, filled up coloring books, markers with the top left off...). Karen

I'm assuming you recycle your mixed paper, right? Put another ''art bin'' next to the ''recycle bin'' you've already got and put your child's art in the ''art bin'' every couple of days. Every few weeks, go through the ''art bin'' and save the stuff you REALLY like (no more than 10% of it!) and put it back in the ''art bin.'' Put the rejects in the bottom of the recycle bin to hide it and to keep it just a bit longer, in case it's missed. Eventually, you will have a few really special pieces in the ''art bin'' that have survived culling. You can date them and put in the memory box. (You have one for him, right?)

The objective is to keep all the art for a minimum of a few weeks (just in case he asks for it) AND to keep a nice sample of the work he does over time.

Also, displaying his more interesting pieces in your home helps your son understand that you value his art. This comes in handy when it dawns on him that you've been recycling ''practice'' pieces. I bought glass frames - the kind that clip over fiberboard backs. You can use colored art paper for background mats. This makes a nice display and you can change it frequently.

Other hints - I bought the cheapest recycled printer paper I could find for art and let him use what he wanted (with gentle, occasional reminders about waste). When he and his sister got older and used better quality materials, I bought reams of medium card stock for the everyday artwork and just a small bit of artist quality paper for pastels and watercolors.

If you recycle most of it, this is hardly worse than recycling those catalogs you get in the mail. And it IS his art, after all!

Mother of two prolific artists

Buy some stackable crates with lids on them. Whatever you do, don't impede on his ability to be creative. We raised an only child (daughter) and she wanted to keep EVERYTHING! As a matter of fact, we've just ordered a dumpster to clean her room! She's in college . Don't let that scare you. You throw things away along the way. Sometimes they don't even miss it.

Do keep his supplies organized. Crates are good; especially if they are stackable and have lids. angie

A cartoon shows a refrigerator tipping over from the display of kindergartner's work on the door. An artist-style portfolio is better: You set the sample-size but he does the selecting. The other papers go into a big box next to his toy collection, to be recycled after they lose their charm. Making his own portfolio is an opportunity for pre-reading/writing, reflection, self-evaluation, and goal-setting.

Meanwhile, it's your son, not you, who is dealing with ''the tons and tons of paper.'' What you need beside the big box: Three folders labeled WEEK, MONTH, YEAR. He periodically selects and transfers contents from one folder to the next--and if he doesn't choose your personal favorite, ask permission to add it.

EACH NiGHT (part of the bedtime ritual?) talk together about that day's creations-- what he likes and what you like about each piece, and anything he would do differently (Reflection!) Have him choose three pieces from that day to go into the WEEK folder, either because he likes them or because they show what he wants to work on. Be his secretary and write down his comments and staple them to the pieces of work (pre-reading/writing!) The rest of the day's productivity gets ''saved'' in the big box.

AT THE END OF EACH WEEK, review the week's 21-plus selections. Ask him to choose three pieces from the WEEK folder and transfer them to the MONTH folder, dictating his reasons. (Self-evaluation!) The remains of that week's folder get saved in the big box: The WEEK folder is now empty, ready to receive next week's work. But the MONTH folder will be accumulating a few new pieces each Saturday.

AT THE END OF EACH MONTH have your son transfer three pieces from the MONTH folder to the YEAR folder, then add the rest to the big box. Again, help him label his choices and form plans (goal-setting.)

BY THE END OF THE YEAR, the YEAR folder will hold a priceless collection of (only) 36 or so pieces of work that demonstrate your son's progress over the course of twelve months. Celebrate with a ''show'' , the artwork plus a poster summarizing what he has gained and any goals for the coming year. Throughout, you have probably controlled the box's accumulation by whisking papers from the bottom to the recycling bin. But your son's self-esteem is intact and look at all he has learned! c4oy

I got a very large portfolio that was pretty cheap at an art supply store. I put anything reasonably interesting in it (and date it right away!). It lives under my bed. When the portfolio is full, I empty it out and choose approx. one item per month. The rest goes.

The chosen items go into a display book with clear sheet protectors. You just slip the things in - no need to glue or mount. That book too was pretty cheap - there are expensive versions, but I think this was around $10,and it holds a lot. I do the culling when my son isn't around, but I periodically show him the display book. He loves going through the display book but never asks about anything that isn't in it. I think the culling is harder on me than on him.

I use one of the big kitchen drawers for supplies, because my son likes to do art where he can be observed and the kitchen is the nerve center of the house. I just put scraps in the recycling or use them for scratch paper. It's a pretty benign form of waste so I don't worry about it too much. My son uses obsolete stationery from my law firm as drawing paper, so we are already re-using, at least. Fran

I heard of a great idea -- might even have been here on BPN or in a magazine -- I can't remember enough to give credit. Every year (or two years even), buy a clean pizza box. You only keep as much artwork as fits into the pizza box. Your child can help you select favorites and you will have some favorites too. Label the pizza boxes by year, and find a closet shelf to store them.

Also, you can take digital pictures of everything. It saves a LOT of space!

I tend to just recycle the scraps, sometimes using them for writing grocery lists first. If you really want to re-use the scraps, how about shredding them into confetti and making paper mosaics with them?

Full disclosure: I'm not that experienced yet, my child is only two. but I have been thinking of this. Also I'm a big fan of the plastic storage bins they sell at Ikea in the kids area. I'll probably end doing either plastic Ikea or rubbermaid-type bins OR using an old dresser for future storage of art supplies. L

I too have a mini-artist in our home and this is what we do: Two things: The first is helping to organize what type of art project will be pursued and helping to limit the materials being used so I'll ask my son what he'd like to draw/paint/etc. If he says a farm, I'll ask what kinds of things do you have on a farm and what colors are they...and based on his responses, I'll give him 2 or 3 blank pages for background and then 1 or 2 sheets of the colors he's listed if he plans to cut things out. I let him know that this is all he gets for his project and put the rest of the supplies away in the art credenza (cabinet). This will limit some of the excess scraps/waste(hopefully).

Now, when the art is done, what to do: We have a long narrow hallway in our home, one side has framed family pictures and the other side is my son's ''Gallery of Art.'' It's limited to(about a dozen)and when he brings home art from preschool or completes art on weekends that can go on the wall, we'll make space for it. I also have a large poster frame that I use to make a collage of his art - which get updated periodically. So when he makes drawings of his house, family, pets, etc..I'll help him group all these pics into the poster frame and that goes up on the wall as well, the other pictures are just taped on the wall.

As he continues to produce artwork, I have him decide which picture will come down to make room for his new work(s). The older pieces go in a banker's box which either get recycled on trash-pick up day or I'll sift out things that I want to keep which eventually get stored in a large scrapbook that I'm keeping for each of my boys.

Since I tend to be sentimental, when I have too many of similar pieces of art and can't decide which to keep, I'll defer to my husband and let him pick which item to keep and let him ''discard'' the others...he's very good at throwing things out. Hope this helps. Kid art loving mom too...

I thought that this suggestion would come up in the original responses, but since it was not mentioned, I wanted to share it. Someone once told me the trick to kids art is to keep the favorites and toss (or recycle) the rest. Before you get rid of your little one's creations, take a picture of it with your camera. The picture allows you to ''keep'' everything without letting art projects take over your home. It also helps with displaying those macaroni pictures and 3-D collages. I've heard some parents put the photos on their fridge. Others frame the pictures and then periodically change the photo - this would be very easy to do with a digital picture frame. Love art, hate clutter

Saving kids art (or not)

June 2009

Would love to hear some thoughts and experience with kids art and how you discern what to save, what to toss, and how to store it. This may sound trivial, but with a slight tendency toward hoarding and relatively limited storage, I can see I'm heading for trouble since my daughter is only a toddler, and we have piles! (And how do you explain the art found in the recycling bin or used as scratch paper? gulp.) thanks, in advance, for your *gentle* wisdom. lk

One suggestion is to scan your daughters artwork, upload to a photo site and create an album. been there and still have bags full

I have started taking digital pics and/or scanning them in (when they aren't too huge and glittered!). I have intentions of putting the pictures into a book from Snapfish or Blurb every year or so. You can also get large portfolio boxes that hold tons and slide it under the bed. Try Blick Art (in Berkeley or online).

OK, I had an epiphany when visiting my mom's house. She pulled out this box--it was one of many, and had my art work in it. It resembled my kids' work as she had picked a box that was from the same age range. I realized it was utterly RIDICULOUS. When I got home, I lined up all their work, and started taking pictures of them. Now they are saved forever, and yes, I recycled the rest. They have never caught me recycling the art, but I don't think they would care anyway. If they did see, I would simply show them the picture and let them see that I had ''saved'' it. Having them digitally allows for other things too--I could make a picture book out of them, or when making DVDs of the kids, I often include the art work in the title slide. Now I don't have boxes of this artwork taking up too much space, but I do have the art documented still for all to see!! pics only

The solution I found was to take photos of the art and keep only the originals of the very best pieces. More often than not, kids' art is on newsprint, which will deteriorate after a few years anyway. If you have pictures, you can make an album where you treasure the artwork without it taking up much space, and your kid will appreciate having a book of his/her own art. One tip about photographing the art - you need to take it straight on to have the picture turn out square. I lay it on the floor and stand on a stool and shoot straight down at it. As far as explaining the thrown-away originals, I wouldn't use them as scratch paper and would find a way of recycling them in a less obvious way than just tossing in the bin. Linda Foust

I seem to do the same things with my son's art projects. I hate to part wth them. I usually keep about one favorite piece a month and hang it on his wall or the fridge. Some of them you can toss out and he/she won't notice. Others that you are not sure what to do with you can take photos of them and store them in your hard drive or make little photo books out of them for your child to keep. Another great idea is to save the art and reuse it as a personal touch to gift wrap when giving a gift. You can use it as wrapping paper or as a greeting card to give to family and loved ones. I'm sure they would treasure a hand made card from your child for their birthday! Good luck! Alicia

Hi there. Yes, the art can really pile up! Here's what we did for our two kids: we bought the cheapest variety of the art portfolio bags they sell at art stores. They are about poster board size and like a very strong envelope with a handle on top. I used my printer to make large colorful labels for them (''Alex's Art'') and attached them to the front with clear contact paper for durability. Now we had a very special, official place for their art to be saved. We explained that there wasn't room to save everything, and they never really had a problem with that. Sometimes they would designate pieces to save, but more often, art came off the fridge or out of the backpack and piled up in a corner, then every once in awhile I'd make a cup of tea and sit down to sort through it. It was great to have an official archive to put the special pieces in. I generally took the reject stack out to the recycling bin, so it didn't hang around. My oldest just graduated from high school, and it is really cool to know I have these portfolios in the closet, even though I haven't looked at them in years. Maybe when I have grandkids, I'll give them a framed piece of their parent's art! Anne

There's been previous advice about keeping for a month, then picking out your favorite and tossing the rest (one piece per month is not usually excessive). Have a basket, let it fill for the month, then pick and toss. When she's little, I'd handle art in the recycle bin with a startled ''Oops - how'd that get in there.'' And then take the rest to the outside bin when she isn't looking. When she's older, I'd take the bagful to be tossed directly outside, and put nothing in the inside bin. Of course, when she's older, she can understand the necessity to pick out one piece a month, and help you do it. Karen

Here is what we do-- pizza box and digital pictures! We take digital photos of each ''creation''. We also get a clean empty pizza box for every year (per kid), and that is where we put ''masterpieces''. As the year goes on, and the box gets full, I do a little pruning on the sidelines. I also print out 4x6 pics of some of the pieces and start gluing them onto the box. So it becomes self decorating and by the end of the year, is covered with a collage of photos of their art, and inside is the best stuff worth keeping. Years of pizza boxes do get a tad bulky, but the good news is it sort of self organizing, and I figure they'll love them when they are older. My kind of ''art collector''

Here's a creative solution: use a digital camera and take pictures of each thing. Every so often, use iPhoto or some other such online service to have a photobook made. The result is you've got the visual memories forever, and you don't have to feel torn about not keeping the physical object anymore. This works for toys as well. - Not a Squirrel

How about keeping a folder to store art for the school year, and each summer you and your child can each choose a favorite to go into a keepsake binder? That way you can narrow down what gets kept, and by including your child in the choice, you could be honest about where the rest of it is going. Jennifer

It helps to think of a child's art as a process rather than a product. Children need to explore materials, develop fine motor skills, and otherwise come to know themselves through art. With that in mind, keep only the very special things. Keep them in an organized, professional-style artist portfolio, or frame them nicely and hang them up in your home. The rest of the art (which is most of it) should be quietly tossed in the ''round file''. Artist Mom

When my son brings home or makes something quite cool (or even not), I snap a digital photo (or two or three) of him with the artwork. Then we hang the art up or display it for awhile and then (usually at midnight when the kids are asleep) it goes outside to the recylcing bin. What I have left are beautiful digital photos of not only the artwork but also a record of my child when he made it. No dust, no clutter, and so easily organized, too! [I also make several digital backups, including storing them at practically no cost with an online photo company with just a small purchase now and then.] kb

We have 3 young kids, and lots of art piles up as the school year goes on. We save it all, throughout the year, and then in the summer I sort it into ''keep'' and 'toss''. I bought a sturdy cardboard school/art box from Lillian Vernon that has drawers for preschool-6th grade. Others use new pizza boxes, stackable and easy to find. Do the sorting when the child is NOT around! Otherwise you're keeping nearly everything. Pick a variety, that shows a general idea of what your kid did during the year. If it doesn't fit in the box, or on a special shelf or something, it goes. Don't let your kid see the stuff you've tossed, or there will be tears and drama. Have fun! heidilee

OH YEAH!!!! What to do with the art, homework, tests, science projects, term goes on and on. Since my kids were really little (now they are 14 ande 18) At the end of each school year, I'd go thru everything, and save a few of each subject...the best math tests,, spelling etc. As for many stick figures and blobs of color do you need? EVentually the paper gets brittle and crumbles. Save 1 or two of your faves. Put them i a folder...eventually you'll need a carton or two. The science projects stayed around for a few years and then got trashed. Belive me, they'll add up over the eyars and you'll have plenty to look at and remember fondly. anon mom

We have a 6 and a 4 yr old. Here are some ideas for how to deal with the avalanche of art that prolific preschooler Picassos can pump out as well as those kids in the early grades. Put away for safe keeping art from the beginning of the year & from the end, to dramatically show the progression for that year. Create an art wall. A few simple black frames can turn a wall into a rotating art gallery. When the kids come home with something we particularly like or they are super proud of, we swap out one of their old pictures for the new. Of course that doesnb0105>Kindergartener holds on to every scrap t completely solve our over abundance of art. Art is also hung all over the kids rooms, and mailed to family. Also you can use art as wrapping paper. Finally, anything leftover goes into curb-side recycling, but not until trash day so our budding artists don't see where we have filed their remaining art. Good luck. Debbie

Scan it. Send some to out of town relatives. Keep key pieces you truly like and toss the rest. I've been scanning the art and it's great because I do photo books once a year and it's both art and photos. anonamom

Here's a cool product for saving kids' art (and other school materials) - it holds stuff all in one place. It's called the Schoolfolio and the website is One other thing that I myself have done with my own artwork that I sort of wanted to save but didn't have endless space for: I took a digital photo of it, and just have it in my digital photo collection in my computer. Then I went ahead and recycled the original. My final suggestion is that if your child has a piece that you love and want to look at all the time, get it professionally framed. My parents did that with some of my watercolors, and I was grateful that they showed such appreciation for my work. Mari M

I'll look forward to other replies, and here is mine: I take photos of my son's art once it has cluttered the fridge to the extreme. Then I toss it after he is asleep, in the recycling bin outdoors. He doesn't usually notice it up on the fridge after a couple of days, so there is no conversation about ''where is my art?'' when it is gone. I also take photos of his sculptures, 3-D art, popsicle-stick creations, etc. and they go as well! This has worked well so far; he is four and I have saved the ''firsts'' as well as one painting he did that I loved so much I framed and put on the wall. Ask yourself if you can love the creativity that produced the art, but let go of the art. Why are you keeping it? To what purpose? I will admit that it was a bit painful to toss the first couple of batches, but now I just feel good that he is so creative that he produces enough to keep our bin full! :) young artist's mom

Our daughter is 7, but from the time she was about 4, we would go through the art piles together, and she gets to help decide what to keep. We have a flat file in the basement, which helps, but there's always more than most anybody can store. It's fun and interesting to include her in the winnowing process. And she's come to understand that we don't have room for it all. Dad and mom each get to save favorites too. Some we decide to write letters on or use for wrapping paper. Some of her ''installations'' we just photograph, and she knows there's a record of them that way. As she gets older, we're able to move out more of the earlier stuff. We're rarely caught up, but when she hit school age, the reading and writing, alas, supplanted some of the fervent art production. On the plus side, you'll find it easier to throw out lists of words than those early masterpieces! Barbara

I myself have finally tackled the issue for myself. For the first two or three years, we just threw everything in boxes, but as you can imagine, by the time the second child started up, we had to change things. The solution that works for us now is to triage the torrents of artwork. I immediately throw away anything that I can't imagine anyone being interested in in the years to come. Everything that gets past the recycle-bin gets immediately scanned or, if bulky, shot with a digital camera. With everything of value saved at least digitally, I then only keep what I feel would have meaning the us or the kids when they're older. This way I end up keeping only a few pages per month, but I can look back to anything they've done. The scanned images look great and don't fade like the originals. They're also very useful for including in printed books or party invitations or the like. What made dumping so much of their art doable was thinking of what my goals are going to be in keeping the art. I can't imagine when the kids 'come of age' giving them the key to the storage facility where the crates of moldy artwork are. Saving them the best will make it all the more valuable. -can't keep it all

We take pictures of all our kids favorites and keep a digital file on the computer. I also have cheapo plastic frames on my kitchen cabinets that I rotate my favorites into for a few months, then take a picture, then recycle them. My kids are 7,10 and 13 and go to a very artsy school, so we cannot keep even 1% of their stuff! I have one art folio folder for each of the kids in the basement for extra special stuff we can't bear to part with. Art loving Mama

I found a great solution. Why not save some pieces and use them as cards for holidays, birthdays, etc. The recipients always have extremely unique pieces or art and no two are alike. You can get plain paper bags with handles and glue a piece on the outside and it becomes a very nice gift bag, or if its a smaller sketch why not make it into a gift bag tag. The possibilities are endless and who can resist art work creations. Plus think of the amount of money you can save on all those cards. Loves art but hates clutter

I saw lots of responses suggesting photographing children's artwork and then putting it into an album. Another idea is to use it as wrapping paper. I had a girlfriend who did this and it always made me feel special. d

Kindergartener holds on to every scrap

Jan 2005

My Kindergartener is a prolific artist and could spend her whole day coloring and cutting and craft-making, if allowed. The problem is she gets attached to what she makes, or says its for certain people that I don't even know (so I can't facilitate the delivery process). When asked to clean up or make choices about what to keep, she cleverly says that certain pieces are for me or my husband. I can tell she's doing this in order not to have to deal with the clean up herself. It's pretty hard to say ''no thank you'' and I could always chuck it later (and believe me, I've been caught doing so and was excoriated for it), but I want her to start making good decisions about what's worth keeping. Right now, she just doesn't discriminate and has scraps of paper and drawings crammed into any box, basket, drawer she can get to. I've tried to help her reduce, but there's always some excuse to hold on (''That's for Sarah'' -Sarah who? - ''Sara that I played with at the park that day'')and when I suggest that we get rid of it because we've never seen Sarah again she cries or says ''Actually it's for you, Mom.'' I hate to raid her drawers and just throw stuff out -- my mom did that to me and I really resented the heck out of it. How can I involve her in the process without the major upset or having the problem passed on to me? Thanks! elisabeth

Hello, As a picture book artist and writer I suggest that you hold on to those drawings for awhile, even if they do not seem important to you. I still get the feelings of attachment when I send my work off to New York publisher's, I always retain the rights to my artwork and it is always returned to me at the end of the printing. So in reality by beiing able to keep her artwork she learns to have control of how it is dispersed. They have great plastic storage boxes at target theat are really cheap. Then at a later time in life you could go through it and pick the best together. Good luck, arden

We have had the same problem. Instead of trying to force the issue when the artwork is still fresh in her mind, we've created a bag where I put the artwork that I would throw away (and yes, I've been caught before too -- not pretty). When the bag gets full-ish, I'll ask her to go through it then (or throw it away myself). She probably won't remember where the artwork was intended to go by then and won't be so attached. We also let her paper her room however she wants, so her artwork can liberally adorn her walls. Note, however, that none of the artwork that we think is particularly spectactular is going either of these routes. Either we're framing things to put up or I'm saving things in a box, with her name and the approx. date (to distinguish our siblings' things later when we won't remember). For big things, I'm going to get an inexpensive portfolio. I have also gone through the things that I've saved periodically and culled from there -- I have a habit of keeping too much too. Good luck! Laurel

In our case, I'm the one who can't throw away any of the kids' artwork! Are you mostly concerned about running out of space to store things, or worried that you might have a pack-rat? If at all posible, I suggest you let her keep the things that are important to her, for whatever reason. Can you get a few large under-bed boxes to store stuff in (if you have any under-bed space)? Or have some very special boxes in the basement/garage/attic where thing move every few months? She could decorate the boxes to make them special. Then, if space is a real issue,and you feel you must, perhaps you could weed through them a little bit after a LONG time goes by (like a year or more). By then, she's unlikely to remember specific pieces. Just be sure you do it while she's not home, and bur them deep in the recycling can!

I know some people photograph art works, and keep the photos - but that might not be good enough for your daughter! R.K.

I was an elementry art teacher for many years and was constantly asked this question. ''Too much art...what can I do to save the best and chuck the rest?'' There are a few things that seem to work the best. You can create ''books'' at kinkos taking as many similar size papers as you want and have them spiral bound. They look sooo neat all bound together, it makes the child feel the work is important, she can easily show it to people...and you can easily store it! Make a new book every so often when too much occumulates...having HER be the editor. Make her really LOOK at each piece of artwork and evaluate '' how much work (or coloring) was put into it...scraps, and things crumpled I would discard first. Another thing that really works is buying a! large Art folder with handles. You can get them at any art store. Store all the best pieces in this and label it by year ( or half year!) They store flat.

Another great idea is creating an ART WALL. Allowing her an enire wall as a GALLERY is a wonderful way to honor a little artist. You can buy metal sheets ( or cool squares, pottery barn .com) and just using magnets constantly change the EXHIBIT!! I hope some of this advice helps. It's always important to encourage self expression!! (but believe me..I know you end up with a lot of....stuff!!) allison

I read in a magazine to have your child select her favorite art projects to be displayed in a designated place; then pack up the rest to send to grandma. As she generates more art, she'll have to choose which ones to be displayed in a limited space, not ''any box, basket or drawer she can get to.'' Then ! your daughter won't feel like her art is being thrown away; her art won't be all over the place, and grandma (or whomever) will be happy to receive it. Sue

It is wonderful that your child is so interested in creating. Why not help her make an a ''art box'' or a album where she can store her work? It will cut down on the clutter, and give her a special place to put it. Another idea is a bulletin board in her room so she can display it. The important thing is that you continue to encourage her to do what she loves. Amy

Please let her keep it! My mother kept lots of my artwork, but as a kid I didn't realize how much (I wasn't as attached as your daughter is). When she died and I was going through her stuff, I found several scrapbooks of my kid artwork, and it was wonderful- both to know that she had kept i! t, and because it was so interesting to me to see it. She always admired my work and let me take extra arts and craft classes beyond what my schools provided. Eventually, I wouned up majoring in art in college.

Can you make a special place for her to keep her artwork, a box or small extra bureau that will let her know that it is special to you too? Better yet, can you make a special little 'art place' for her where she can work and keep her supplies, and teach her about the importance of putting the lids back on paint jars so that they don't dry out, and keeping her supplies in a degree (as much as is reasonable to ask from a kindergartner) of order so she knows where they are, etc. If you are clever about doing a bit of reorganization in her room or somewhere else in your house/ apatment, finding a free or cheap table or desk or such in Marketplace, that wouldn't be so hard to do.

To me, it sounds very positive that she is so enthusiastic about something. Encourage her, help her out with this, let her do her own thing her way. Who knows, maybe she is on her way to being a very talented artist. Cecelia

Would it help to designate a certain drawer or tote bin or some other container as her art drawer, telling her that is her special place for her artwork--once it is full, she will have to decide which items to toss to make room for new work. You don't want to raid her drawers and repeat your upsetting childhood experience. Tracy

I can so relate to this! I have a prolific kindergarten artist, too, and he's been prolific for at least 3 years. I'm just as attached to his artwork (and his older sister's) as he is, so it's a struggle not to get drowned. Here's my process, although some parts may come ! too uncomfortably close to what your mom did! He has an art desk in his room. At the end of each day, I ask him to tidy it. He has to choose whether he is 1) still working on something (in which case he can keep it on the desk); 2) happy to recycle it (he calls these ''mess-ups''); or 3) wanting to save it.

If he chooses to save it, he has a drawer in his room where he puts it (the drawer is about three inches deep, so that the backlog doesn't get too overwhelming). When the drawer is full, he has to go through and sort as above. If the thing is super special or oversize, and it's a saver, he gives it to me. I have a big box where I put those.

Periodically, I go through my ''save'' box, late at night. I make excruciating choices about what to keep and what to throw out. I do the throwing out right that night, out of the house. If it's too hard for me, I get my husband to do it for me. Then I file the ultimate keepers in a box in the closet. At this point, I have saved more than this child will ever want to look at again, but hey, I've thrown out even more.

Now, this has evolved over time, and it sounds like your child might not be ready to make these kinds of choices yet. In that case, maybe you could just say ''okay'' and ''thanks'' to everything and put it all in your box and do the late at night culling periodically. That's the way I handled it until this year, when my kid wanted to be more in charge of his own choices. I fervently hope this helps! Good luck! mother of future important artist

I have similar issues with my 6 year old and not really under control but here are some ideas-

1. if you have digital camera, let her be part of a process to take pictures of as many creations as she wants and burn a CD to save;

2. then say she can make a book every month (week?) with 10 (?) pages (hole punch the artwork/ stuff and tie together with string/ ribbons- she may start to enjoy this as it's another crafty thing to do)

3. I think she could be too young to be a part of throwing out/ recycling and you might still have to do it in secret for a while. I think it is normal to have this strong feelings/ attachment- as she made it and it may be hard for her to separate, i.e. it feels like part of her. However I would just gently emphasize that we can't keep everything, and need to ma! ke room for all the wonderful new things she is creating.

4. Send drawings, etc. to relatives and friends out of town. Anytime you mail someone a card include one. If any of the unknown friends you mentioned is imaginary or not someone you'll likely run into, she could fill an envelope or bag for them, write ''to'' and ''from,'' and you could pretend to mail it to them, if you don't mind being so tricky it might give her some satisfaction.

5. If she can tolerate it, cut heart shapes out of old drawings, paintings to make valentines for her friends. good luck! (we have many drawers I can't open crammed with these sorts of things but your post has inspired me to start clearing out!) Chris

I suggest finding a box to keep her artwork and make it clear whatever is outside the box will get disposed of. She can then make choices about what goes out so something can go in. A! non

Our daughter loves to paint and draw. A couple of years ago we started using all of the artwork as our wrapping paper and making cards (thank you cards, b-d, valentines, christmas cards, etc) for all occasions. We've made cards out of the artwork by pasting different shapes onto construction paper. Our daughter loves picking out which piece of artwork goes with what present or card. Makes the present even more special for her or us to give and also the receipient. In addition, its been a big help in our budget. The ones she wants to keep for herself we tape up in her room. Ali

Here's a way to store art neatly: Get some 3-ring binders and a three-hole punch. Punch holes in the drawings and keep them in ! binders. You can fit a whole lot of pictures in a big old binder.

Put the child's name and date on the back, and let her write (or dictate for you to write) whatever she wants about the picture on the back too. Also she can paint on the cover of the binder, or glue a picture to the cover, to make it like a book. She can also use dividers and looseleaf paper to write stories or organize her drawings into ''chapters''. A great place to get binders, paper, and all kinds of binder accessories **really cheap** is the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland. Binders seem to be going out of style, and the Depot has tons of old, sturdy, cloth-covered ones in all sizes, from small to huge. I think binders, dividers, etc., are great tools for kids to play with to prefigure skills they'll need later in life, such as designing, planning, writing, organizing their thoughts and work, taking their work seriously, and even filing. -Art Teacher/Editor

How do you display your kids' artwork?

Dec. 2000

I would love ideas of how families display and store their children's artwork. Our refrigerator is already packed and taped-up artwork doesn't seem to hold up well. Also, I can't yet bear to throw anything out. Our preschooler is 3 and we have quite a collection already. Thanks.

We used a clothesline, strung along one big wall in our children's bedroom (at 3 levels) and used clothespins to display the collection. We rotated old and new artwork on and off the display. The old artwork was piled up, and then every few months we'd go through it and cull the best. (As time passes you'll become less attached to every single one.) A few months later we would de-accession from the collection again, until we had a reasonable amount for the year, which we then put into an acid-free storage boxes (obtained at art supply stores, or through Exposures catalogue). I have a feeling that once we go back into the yearly collections, we'll be able to dispose of more. You could also consider photographing some of the art work before disposal. Believe me, by the time your kids are in elementary school you'll become much less sentimental - particularly when they start bringing home masterpieces made of clay. We display them for a while, then move them out to the garage, and if the children don't ask about the piece for a few months, it is consigned to the dustbin of history. I recently was given a box of goodies that my mother had saved from my elementary school career - 7 years worth in one box. That seemed like just the right amount. (My second grader was delighted to find that there was a tracing of my feet and hands from second grade that exactly matched hers!) - Natasha

I too can't bear to throw most of my 3-year-old's artwork out, so I designated one hallway in our home (a very public hallway, by the way), her gallery. We have about 20 pictures hanging there now--ranging from random abstract paintings to textile art with poms poms, feathers, noodles, etc. I also put one of her bigger paintings in her room and a few of my favorites in my office. When it's time to put some away, I store them in a big box and I try to date them. I know some parents don't like to clutter up their houses with this messy stuff, but I love seeing it all around us and she's thrilled every time I tape a new one up. Susan

We looped clothesline along the kitchen walls, right next to the ceiling. We clip artwork up with clothespins; there's room for lots of stuff, its very cheerful and I don't mind so much storing or recycling pictures after they've been up a long time. Jennifer

I have put up string like a clothesline along the wall(s) in my son's bedroom and we hang his artwork from it with clothespins. It's at a height that he can reach, so he can arrange things as he likes, and it couldn't be easier to add and remove things. dpbrenner

For displaying artwork, we have a working pile in the garage that gets sorted periodically. At this point, our 4 year old chooses some favorite pieces to put up with tape on a section of the kitchen wall we cleared for the purpose. I also bought some relatively inexpensive black plastic art portfolios in different sizes at art supply stores. We use these to store, protect and show the art that we choose to keep. Its fun to see how good one's artwork looks in such a setting. The rest gets recycled into collages or cards, or for present wrapping. Sounds so organized, but the pile is almost toppling over at the moment! Yay for fountains of creativity! Jennifer

displaying: my sister has 3 girls who paint and draw continuously. She has a few of those inexpensive poster-sized box frames hanging in her den. One frame can hold a big piece, or several smaller works. She rotates the kids' art through the frames - changes them every month or so. I guess it is a big honor for a new picture to go up.

saving: My oldest turned 18 last month. For his bday I made him a scrapbook with photos of his friends, drawings and schoolwork, activities, etc over the past 18 years. This took me several days because I had to plow through a big box of artwork and other stuff I had saved over the years. To tell you the truth, I saved WAY too much stuff. And it is really hard to throw it out once you have been saving it for 15 years. So save selectively. What you really want is a nice representative sample of special stuff. But one thing I found in that big box was versions of him writing his name, first in pre-school, then in school, then cursive, etc. all the way up to his current illegible signature. I made one page in the scrapbook with Joes all over the page he'd written over the years. I think this would be a fun thing to save - signatures over the years, pictures of pets over the years, etc.

If you have a blank wall in your living room or den, you can put up two picture hooks about 4-5 feet apart and attach a string from hook to hook. Then you can hang children's artwork with clothespins from the string. Each of my children has such a gallery which gets layered upon as the year progresses. I periodically remove the back layers and (selectively) pack their treasures away with the rest of their schoolwork for the year. Aside from seeing their artwork and feeling proud, the best benefit is it only leaves two small nail holes in your wall where the picture hooks are. Stacey

Some ideas for what to do with your child's artwork:

--laminate some and turn them into placemats

--use the art in a 2001 calendar. Last year our 9 year old daughter picked 12 of her favorite drawings, color xeroxed them, put together a wonderful 12 month calendar, and gave them out as gifts. Instead of xeroxing drawings and creating identical calendars, you could also use original art for each calendar you produce.

--use the art to wrap presents--especially presents to family members (they will appreciate it more than a pre-schooler).

--frame some of your favorites and turn a wall in your house into an art gallery.


I put a few things my son has done in frames. For everything else - that I consider original artwork and that represents a statge I have purchased large folders (with closing flaps) at an art store (one for each year) and then decorated them with my son's name and the year and anything he wants to do to it. Then we put everything for that year in there. He is now 10 and loves going through his old artwork. Since he started school, things like stories and poems go in there too. Veronica

Perhaps you can rotate your displays and get used to throwing some of it away or recycling it -- I recently read something about how if kids bring home an average of 3 pieces of artwork a week starting in preschool, you're talking about thousands of items by the time they stop (after grade school?)! My 3-1/2 y.o. daughter enjoys using her artwork as wrapping paper for gifts, and also giving them as presents to her friends and family (then they can eventually throw it away without attachment or guilt!). Funnily enough, she always seems to pick the pieces I most wanted to save -- but hey, that's up to her!

To the mother who doesn't know what to with her 3 year old's art work. One thing you can do is to get together with your child and decide together which ones do you want to keep and throw away the rest. Another solution is get an inexpensive portfolio and beging making an albun of the ones you both like. You can make it into a fun game and your child can have access to it to show other kids (or yourself to show your child's art work to others) I have scanned my three year old's art work and put all her best art work on a CD (which you can print or make cards or later to send to relatives). I have picked up along with her the ones we think should be put up and framed them. One other thing I have done, (I am an Interactive Designer) is to create an interactive CD with her paintings and made it into an experience for her alomost like a game with music and titles. (If you like computers).

This Christmas I made a copy of this interactive art gallery to give as a present to her her Mom. If you are interested and learning more about interactive art work for kids you can contact me here: Guillermo

We bought a great file cabinet with 12 big wide drawers that are about 2 high (it's the type of storage photographers and graphic designers use). We found ours at a wonderful place behind Magic Gardens on Heinz (by where Whole Earth used to be.) We store all our artwork in it, take it out often, and every year I take one of each kids' pieces to the Reprint Mint on my birthday and get it poster mounted. It's their gift to me. Ann

Years ago I bought an old wooden shoji screen frame (sans paper) from East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Unfortunately, I could never figure out how to get either paper or fabric into the frame without destroying it, so it was just gathering dust. It turns out, however, to be perfect for displaying my 3-year-old's artwork. I folded the three sections of the screen so that's it's a big triangular column. I use removable tape to attach pieces of art to the inside of the screen panels, cutting larger pieces of art to fit the frames. I don't have to be very precise about pasting the stuff on, since only the good side shows. Our art column usually sits in the entryway of our home, so everyone gets to see it. One whole side was filled just with Halloween and Thanksgiving art. Now we're filling up another side with Christmas art. --Lori

I have the opposite problem from the person who just asked about saving their children's art work. My son is 2 and a half, and I throw out almost all of the mountain of art he brings home from daycare. Of course, I admire them in his presence, and ask him about them, but he seems totally uninterested. I never throw them away in his presence or make fun of him, and I have put a few up on the fridge, but I just can't seem to save them if he is not interested. On the other hand, I am a real art lover- my son has already been to many of the great art museums in the country, and he does not hate this at least. Am I hurting him by not making a bigger deal of his artwork? Do other parents throw it away- from the number of comments from the last question, I feel guilty for throwing so much away. Lisa

I recently visited my sister who has two little kids and was very impressed with her solution. She found two large, carved and gilded picture frames at a junk store and hung them on the wall. Now she can tape up each son's latest and greatest creation inside the empty frames in an elegant gallery on one wall of their dining room.

My son accumulates what seems to be a mountain of art as well and I probably toss 75% of it on the sly. The main reason is that a lot of art is actually a variation of what he and all his other classmates have been asked to make using specific materials or colors. While results of that kind of exercise communicate other areas of his development to me and is often cute, it does not strike a chord of sentimentality or genuiness like a piece inspired and created by his imagination -- and those are the types of pieces I tend to keep and display.

Re: throwing away your kid's artwork. Yes, I throw most of it away except for the pieces I especially like, which I stick on the wall or date and put away in a folder so I have a record of what kind of work she was doing when. My daughter doesn't seem to care at all whether or not I keep them. I actually think that the drawings that my 4-year-old daughter does at home are more interesting than the elaborate artworks she produces at pre-school, and with those, I know she does them all herself, so I'm more likely to keep them. (I often use her drawings as bookmarks.) I'm asking to stay anonymous just because I don't want to offend any of the pre-school teachers who might read this and who may devote a lot of time to helping my daughter with her art work -- I don't want them to think it's not appreciated. It is greatly appreciated -- I just don't think the results all need to be preserved.

I just had to respond to this, because I have two little kids who have produced tons of art over the last few years, 90% of which I've thrown away. When my oldest daughter was about two or three I expressed my concern to her very wise preschool teacher about how little concern she (my daughter) had about preserving any of her pictures, paintings, play dough masterpieces, etc., and this teacher told me little kids are into process, not product. I've realized over the years that this is very true. Kids live in the moment, they enjoy the moment of making the art but are quite casual about disposing of it. My younger daughter makes about a dozen drawings a day at her after school program, then crumples them up and shoves them in her pockets. She uncrumples them to show them to me, and I discreetly dispose of them later. Neither of my kids has ever asked What ever happened to the something-or-other I made? I do tape up my favorite and most colorful pictures in their rooms just for decor, and they have permission to display anything they want to in their rooms. I also keep quite a few of their pictures on the bulletin board in my office & enjoy looking at them. When my kids visit my office they're always pleased to see their old stuff. But I have no guilt about not keeping more. Melinda

RE: Children's artwork : I use some of my daughter's artwork as wrapping paper. The receivers of gifts are quite impressed with what I was just going to toss in the recycle bin. MIchele

I used my daughter's art work as wrapping paper and to make birthday crowns from. Anneke