Kids often create an enormous amount of artwork — and then there’s the huge volume of schoolwork they come home with, too. Keeping it all would be overwhelming, but how do you decide which things to keep?
Kids often draw the same thing over and over again. How many nearly identical pictures of cats or superheroes do you need? Consider just keeping representative samples done over the years, which show how your child’s art has evolved.
Jessica Hinton wrote that she used to keep every piece of art her toddler made, but she’s changed her ways:
Today my daughter made 20 portraits of her baby sister, but I only kept one that she called her “favorite.” More likely than not we’ll keep it on the fridge and throw it away when another replaces it tomorrow. Or maybe, just maybe, this will be the one we’ll frame and hold on to for years to come. Maybe.
And as Susan Ward noted, even handprint art — something parents tend to keep — can be overdone:
You probably don’t need to keep two different handprint crafts made during the same week. Your child’s hand has not grown in 48 hours. Pick the cutest one and toss the other.
Choose original art
Drawings your children create out of their imagination will be more meaningful than those where they just filled in the colors in a coloring book.
Keep papers with a personal connection
The essay entitled “My Summer Vacation” or “My Family” is probably more meaningful than the essay on George Washington. Weekly spelling tests can probably be tossed, but a few samples of your child’s handwriting over the years might be fun to keep.
Other likely keepers are the papers (artwork or schoolwork) that showcase your child’s personality and talents. If your child decided to write the essay about George Washington in haiku, it might well become a keeper.
Consider ditching the macaroni art
Anything that’s three-dimensional is going to be harder to store than simple pieces of paper. You may well want to save some of these projects, but for others, it may work fine to just take a photograph of the art. Consider having your child hold that artwork when you take the photo.
Ask your children what to keep
Your children may have their own ideas about what is worth saving. If a particular piece is especially meaningful to your child, it’s probably a keeper, along with a note explaining the significance, if it’s not obvious.
Parents often have more difficulty in parting with the art than their children do. Michael Tortorello, in an article for The New York Times, quoted David Burton, a professor of art education, talking about kids and their art:
Once they’re through with it, they may lose interest in it very quickly. The process is more important than the product for the child.
But Burton also notes that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to see you toss the art into the trash hours after they create it.
Remember that your children, when they’re adults, will thank you for not keeping everything
Most people enjoy seeing a representative sample of the work they did as children. But too many papers takes away that joy.
As a commenter wrote on Apartment Therapy:
A friend of mine was just given a GIANT box of old art and school papers and she cried. Not from joy or sentiment, but from the burden of having to deal with it. It’s now collecting dust in her basement.
Aby Garvey summarizes things nicely:
I use the “ahhh …” test, and keep things that really tug at my heartstrings. It’s the original artwork or the creative writing stories that are most special to me. Spelling tests and math worksheets just don’t have the same tug, but we might keep one or two of those, just so we can see how things change from year to year. By including my child in the process, I also make sure we keep items that are meaningful to her.