It’s a conundrum many parents face: what to do with the steady flow of drawings, paintings, collages and more that children bring home from school and camp? Which are the keepers and — besides sticking them up on the refrigerator with magnets — how can you display them creatively?
“They caught me throwing some away, and they were not happy about it,” Mandy Rose of Carterville, Ill., said of her three children.
Rose, who loves to decorate her house and writes about it at houseofroseblog.com, decided to combine some of her kids’ work with professional pieces and family photos in a montage on her dining room wall. She even commissioned one of the kids to create a finger painting for an eye-catching frame she had bought.
“People always ask, ‘Did your kids make that?”’ she said. “It’s a real conversation starter.”
Children’s art absolutely has a place in home décor and can add a welcome personal touch, said Esther Sadowsky, owner of Charm &Whimsy, an interior design firm in Jersey City, N.J.
“Sometimes my jaw drops when I see the work of my customers’ children,” she said. “Children’s art displayed in a house — it’s a home then.”
Like Rose, she suggests displaying kids’ works in art groupings. She often lays out the pieces on the floor so she and her client can visualize how they fit together. “You can make a beautiful arrangement,” said Sadowsky, who has a painting she made as a 12-year-old hanging in her own living room.
Rose laid out the items for her “gallery wall” on the floor as well. She snapped photos of various arrangements so she could compare them, and went through her house to find frames in the same color palette to create cohesion in the grouping.
Sadowsky has sent parents to big box stores or craft stores to buy inexpensive frames. It’s possible to find frames with precut mats for a more professional look. Do-it-yourselfers also can use construction paper or foam core to create mats for artwork, she said.
In her children’s playroom, Rose strung wire between two hooks and allows the kids to pick and choose what they want to hang up. The setup allows them to highlight favorite paintings and projects until they make something they like better.
Finding a temporary place like that to display work makes sense, agreed Jeffry Cudlin, a professor of curatorial studies and practice at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He routinely highlights the work of his 4-year-old son, Miles, at home to show him that the family values handmade art.
Cudlin uses binder clips to hang Miles’ art in an ornate frame that usually hangs in his dining room; the clips mean he can rotate different pieces through the frame for an ever-changing display.
Deciding which pieces to keep long-term can be a challenge, Cudlin said. He looks for work that includes loved ones or commemorates a special event. He routinely frames Miles’ work and gives it to family members who are represented in the drawing.
He also finds that he appreciates many of his son’s drawings more after he asks questions about them. The art provides insights into how the preschooler views the world, and helps preserve his thoughts, Cudlin said.
“His way of thinking about things — the way he experiences the world — you’re not going to get that back,” he said.
Cali Sanker, education coordinator of the Ohio State University Urban Arts Space in Columbus, recommends saving a child’s pieces from various ages to create an artistic record of his or her growth.
“It is not only a special way to reminisce about your child’s younger years, but a special way of embracing how much they have grown,” she said.