How to save your kids’ masterpieces without being overwhelmed

  • Sun Nov 1st, 2009 7:52pm
  • Life

By Diana Marszalek Associated Press

Having moved five times in the past nine years, Pam Syx, now of Venice, Fla., had many opportunities to chuck some of her two children’s artwork along the way.

Instead, a picture of a train that 6-year-old Preston drew with neon gel pens when he was 4 remains preserved in a frame. A self-portrait by 9-year-old Veronica is immortalized on a coffee mug and coaster. Other creations plaster Syx’s office walls and refrigerator and fill tote bags and boxes around the house.

“I just can’t get rid of anything their little hands do,” said Syx, explaining that her habit of holding on started as an effort to spur her kids’ creativity.

“My husband thinks I’m a packrat. He’s right,” Syx said. “I’m concerned that I’m going to pass down an undesirable habit to my kids or burden them with thinking they have to keep everything like I do.”

Parents of children big and small struggle with how, what and where to store the tons of arts and crafts that kids bring home, from the earliest days of preschool, when every scribble seems a stroke of brilliance, to later education when creativity often takes on more dynamic (read: larger) proportions.

Some hard-line parents opt for what could seem like the easy way out: tossing the bulk of their kids’ various renditions out with the rubbish. Others, however, say their offspring’s creations pose a continuing dilemma between saving pieces of childhood and getting mired in — dare we say? — junk.

“If it can’t go on a wall or be given to Grandma for Christmas, then throw it out,” said Joanne Walker, a former kindergarten teacher who now owns the crafts studio Children’s Creative Corner in Larchmont, N.Y.

With 11- and 12-year-old daughters of her own, Walker has come up with a system at home that preserves her girls’ creations for posterity and keeps clutter at bay: She saves only artwork that has particular significance but takes a picture of the stuff that doesn’t make the cut.

“You can’t possibly keep every project they come home with,” she said.

Experts at staying clutter-free said Walker has it right.

Ruth Phillips, a professional household organizer based outside Atlanta, suggests letting children help decide which projects are saved or scrapped. That makes the decisions easier, she said, and averts potential disaster when children discover their work in the recycle bin.

“It’s very traumatic for them to open the trash can and see all their papers in there,” Phillips said.

In time, even saved artwork can be relinquished in a meaningful way, Phillips said. Now that her children are grown, she has sent the art collections on to them.

One daughter, Phillips said, was particularly thrilled recently to receive a framed painting she did as a child. “She was so excited,” Phillips said. “And she’s 39 years old.”

Althea McDonald, a Raleigh, N.C., “art enthusiastic,” proudly displays walls’ worth of her children’s work. Her family’s guest bathroom is covered floor to ceiling with art by her 11- and 13-year-old daughters.

Saving artwork

  • Let the kids help decide what stays and what goes. It helps to know which pieces they care about.

    Weigh each piece’s significance or eye appeal. You might keep children’s art that exemplifies a particular age or a significant change — or is simply really good.

    Set aside limited storage space for arts and crafts. For example, designate a large box for each child’s work. Have the children revisit their creations once or twice a year, eliminating some. Long, under-the-bed containers work well for storing drawings, too.

    Designate a “gallery” at home where framed art can be displayed. Hang as much of your children’s work as you like: It’s your house and theirs.

    Take pictures of the projects you’re not going to keep. They’ll be immortalized but won’t take up space.

    Associated Press