In addition to fresh notebooks and sharpened pencils, for parents of pre-schoolers and grade schoolers, back-to-school also means that a flood of artwork, projects and papers will shortly begin anew.
If you believe the mom blogosphere, there are some parents who have adopted elaborate filing systems to keep track of what would otherwise be a mountain of clutter. A box for each kid, a folder for each grade — you get the idea.
While I can appreciate that level of organization, I couldn’t keep it up and I wouldn’t want to. For one, most children’s artwork isn’t made to be archived.
The paint crackles with time, and the colors fade. For two, I’m not sure what my child would do with that box in 20 years. It would be fun to look through once, I suppose, but then what?
Nope, meticulously filing away my child’s artwork is not for me. Instead, I prefer to use and enjoy it now. Here are three of my favorite ways.
Put it in a frame gallery
In our dining room, we have a grouping of empty black frames with no glass in them. They house a rotation of my son’s artwork, favorite photographs of mine, and other bits and bobs that I think are pretty.
When a particularly fun paper comes home from school, with just a few nubs of ticky-tacky I can have it on the wall in seconds.
Pinterest abounds with similar ideas. Perhaps a clothesline or picture wire would work better in your house? Or maybe some vintage-looking clipboards attached to the wall?
Whatever system you choose, the key is to make it finite. To use my gallery as an example, we have eight frames. Once those are full, something must come down for something new to go up.
Use it as wrapping paper or cards
I don’t ever buy wrapping paper. In addition to using brown paper sacks and fabric scraps to wrap presents, I also like to use my son’s artwork. Even a letter-sized piece of paper will wrap a small gift, and you can patch larger art together for big boxes. With the addition of some funky ribbon or leftover yarn, you can quickly and easily make fun packages.
Likewise, leftover artwork makes great cards. Just cut the paper to the size you need it to be and fold it in half. Voila — a handmade greeting card, just waiting for you to write something inside.
Take a picture
I love to take pictures of my son’s artwork and work them into our family photo albums. This is bordering on storage-y, I know, but it takes care of most of the cons associated with putting your child’s artwork in a box somewhere.
With a picture, you don’t have to worry about the artwork fading or tearing with age. That finger-painting will always be as vibrant as the day your little Picasso painted it.
Also, taking pictures lets me group the artwork in meaningful ways. One finger-paint smudge by itself is pretty, but three together, painted over the course of a month, can show something about a child’s growth and development, too.
A painted rock paperweight is nice, but a picture that shows the size of your child’s hand as he holds the rock tells even more of the story.
Which brings me to the last “pro” — taking pictures is great for 3-D objects that may not lend themselves to easy storage. That intricate, fragile diorama made for the science fair? Take a picture.
That Play-Doh sculpture that will crumble to dust in a few months? Take a picture.
And again, by putting some thought into how you group or frame the object, you can make the photo more relevant than just the object itself.
Taking pictures even helps for you folks who must still catalog all of your child’s work. Once you have the shot, apps like ArtKive will let you tag your photos with your child’s name, age and the date. Then you can print them off into books or even onto coffee mugs for the grandparents.
Less clutter and easy Christmas presents? Now that’s the kind of organization I can get behind!
— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at mybitofearth.net.