Get some great ideas for what to do with kids’ artwork and craft projects when you’re feeling overwhelmed!
While both of my kids are pretty crafty, this may come as no surprise to you, one of them is a prodigious maker. Drawings, stories, crafts, stickers, pipe cleaners, you name, they’re making it. While this is 100% delightful to me, we also live in kind of a small home and it’s also a very old home with a distinct lack of storage. We don’t even have a coat closet, I’m not kidding!
So I have had to figure out what to do with kids’ artwork and craft projects over the years and while this is still something we struggle with, things have greatly improved and my little maker gets to make whatever they want and still feel like their beautiful and interesting creations are appreciated. And I get to still fit in my house.
But before you choose a strategy for handling kids’ artwork and craft projects, I recently heard some really excellent advice (I think it came from Kate at Naptime Kitchen) to ask yourself, “Do I need to hold this piece of artwork/craft project to appreciate it?” If the answer is yes, then think hard about saving it. I think this is SUCH a great starting point before choosing one of the strategies I’ll describe below. So start by asking that question and then move on to one of the strategies we’ll talk about next.
I’ve read some really good strategies for what to do with kids’ artwork and craft projects over the years and here are my top 5 ideas. Hopefully one of them will work for your family!
- The one box/container/board strategy
This strategy involves choosing one storage box, bin, container, shelf or corkboard to store your kids artwork/craft projects. In this strategy, it’s usually best to allow the kids to choose what goes in the box and they can learn that way to edit their own work and decide for themselves what they HAVE to keep. This strategy is best for everyday artwork (that random drawing of you and your kid next to a rainbow) and not sentimental crafts or art (a birthday card they made you)
Another version of this strategy (if you have more space) might include having one box per school grade or age and/or one separate box for sentimental items like birthday cards/gifts, craft projects for Mother’s or Father’s Day etc.
- The photography strategy
This is hands-down my favorite strategy for storing kids’ artwork and craft projects, we keep a pile of completed arts and crafts and every so often, set up a camera on a tripod (or your phone works absolutely fine), tape each artwork to a blank spot of wall, and take a photo of it. There are even phone apps that help you do this now. Then you can trash or recycle it without guilt. This strategy works best when used with the question I mentioned before, and should be used only on arts and crafts that you DON’T need to hold in your hand to appreciate (for example, that clay owl shaped pencil holder they made in art class).
What should you do with those photographs of art work? You can have them printed on regular photo paper and put them in a box or album, that certainly takes up much less space than the original works themselves. Or you can get them printed into a photo book. There are so many photobook companies that make this super easy and relatively cheap. You can also feel just fine about keeping the digital files on your computer or hard drive in a folder that your kids can look at whenever they want to. I mean, you could even set that folder as your screen saver and you’re all set!
- The re-use strategy
When my kids were in the preschool years, they often came home with giant abstract paintings of nothing particular. We often reused these artworks as wrapping paper or cards! Another option is to encourage your kids to re-use craft supplies if possible. For example, when my youngest makes things out of pipe cleaners or beads, we enjoy the project for a while and then encourage her to take them apart and make something new. There are tons of projects and supplies that this works for and she likes it because she doesn’t run out of supplies as fast.
- The gifting strategy
What else are grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends for, if not to receive handmade gifts from your kids? I’m kidding, but this is a great way to take the responsibility/guilt of figuring out what to do with kids’ artwork and craft projects out of your hands. And, bonus, your kid gets to learn the joy of making and giving something to someone else. Plus, when they’re not inundated like you are, grandma or great uncle are probably much more likely to keep and display these projects!
- The toss it strategy
Ok, this one take a little practice. But if your kids are anything like mine, not everything they make is a masterpiece. I’m just being real here. And I know my kids also tend to make a lot of things that are VERY similar. We have about a million drawings of rainbows in our house right now, for example. So the toss it strategy involves saving or displaying all of the projects for a little while and then saving only the BEST example of their work from this stage of life and feeling ok about throwing out the rest. It’s totally ok, to save their best drawing of Minecraft Steve and get rid of the other 20, and you should absolutely feel ok about saving one cat made of clay that actually looks like a cat and tossing the 5 that look more like boulders. Then you can preserve what you do decide to keep with any of the other strategies above (photography, one box etc.)
My one tip for the toss it strategy is do use this strategy when your kids aren’t around. There is no one more upset than a five year old who finds one of their drawings in the recycle bin…
Hopefully these ideas have helped you figure out what to do with kids’ artwork and craft projects in your home. Whatever you decide to do with your kids’ artwork and crafts, please don’t feel guilty about it, we can’t keep everything and we’re all just doing our best! If you have any creative ideas that I’ve not covered, let me know!
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