This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more
Have you ever wondered what to do with kids artwork? Whether it’s back to school, summer break or somewhere in between now is the time to organize school papers and artwork. Kids start creating art early and often and if you don’t have a system in place to handle it, it can get out of hand quickly. Getting your kid’s artwork organized and a system in place for dealing with future school papers can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. I have a super SIMPLE kids artwork storage solution I use and I’ll also share my sister’s slightly more detailed method. Both our systems have the same basic strategies but diverge when it comes to the actual storage solutions. Whether you have a little one just starting daycare or you have a middle-schooler or older (it’s never too late), you CAN get your kid’s artwork under control.
With four kids, the stream of school papers coming into our house is staggering. Even as schools try to go green and reduce paper waste, there is still a need for it – learning to write, arts and crafts, visual project, etc.
The absolute number one rule for all this paper is to deal with it immediately. If you let it pile up, it will take over your house. Every day when my kids bring home paper or crafts, I spend just a few minutes deciding if I should save my kids’ artwork or toss it.
Anything I decide to keep I make sure to put their name, the month and year on the back or bottom. Sometimes I may put their grade but since I didn’t start with that I just don’t stress about it.
If you are going back through years of past artwork and school papers, then just try to put the year or grade if you or your child remembers. It is not the end of the world if you can’t remember. Just start doing it moving forward.
Lesson 1: Look at your child’s school papers as soon as they come home. Write their name, month, year and/or grade on the back. If you haven’t done this in the past, go back and put dates on anything you can remember and just start doing it moving forward.
Save Kids Artwork or Toss It?
Yes, you think all their work is cute and special. But your home will be taken over with school papers and storage boxes for all that paper. Think about why you want to save their artwork and school papers. You want memories and for your kids to be able to look back at their work. But do you really need all of it? (Hint: your answer should be no).
I save papers and crafts that show off their abilities or are exceptional or are personal in some way. For example, I keep almost anything that has their handprint/fingerprints/footprints. I also save a few papers when they first started coloring or writing. Papers with good grades or special notes from teachers are keepers, but again, not all of them if good grades or teacher notes are a regular occurrence. That’s when you need to determine if the paper really highlights their ability or is exceptional or unique in some way.
Don’t agonize about these decisions. It’s doubtful that you will be sifting through their box several years from now, regretting that you didn’t save a particular paper. You are more likely to regret that you kept stacks and stacks (or boxes and boxes) of papers.
Talk to Your Child
Kids may be upset when they see their hard work in the trash or recycle bin. It’s important to explain to them the reason why you are throwing it out. Let them know that you love all of their work but it’s just not possible to keep all of it. Invite them to help you sort through their school papers if it will make them feel better. It may be slow going at first but they will get the hang of it.
My oldest son never mentioned or complained about his papers being thrown away. But my oldest daughter is more of a saver by nature so it was harder for her at first. A quick conversation took care of her reservations and it never came up again.
Lesson 2: Save examples of their work, not all of their work. Make decisions quickly about what you are keeping and what you are tossing. Explain to your child that you can’t keep all of their papers.
How to Display Kid’s Artwork
Most kids love to have their artwork or papers featured in a space for everyone to see. There are numerous ways to display kid’s artwork for a day, a week or a year or more. I prefer to rotate my kids’ artwork on a weekly basis. Anything they want to be displayed longer typically moves to their rooms.
I like to keep the fridge surface pretty bare but I will hang one or two items on occasion. Good report cards, special certificates, great artwork or teacher notes all make it onto the fridge for a short duration. I use OXO magnetic mini clips.
Other good options for kids artwork displays are decorative cork boards, easy open picture frames or a frame with a clip and no glass. My daughter has two hanging magnetic boards in her room that she uses for papers she wants to be displayed longer and pictures.
When my older two kids were younger, each kid had an art cable (two hanging finials connected with a wire). I then hung eight or nine pieces of their artwork with clips.
Lesson 3: There are so many options to display your kid’s artwork. Most options make it easy to switch out the pictures.
Kids Artwork Storage Solution
For long-term storage, my sister and I have slightly different approaches. Neither system is right or wrong, it’s all about what works for each family.
My kid’s artwork storage solution is very simple and doesn’t require any effort or money. I started doing it this way because I needed a no hassle, easy-to-use solution. If it wasn’t easy, then I knew my family wouldn’t use it.
My storage solution is a basic clear storage bin with lid in each kid’s closet. It’s placed in an easily accessible spot in their closet and nothing is allowed to sit on top of it so it’s easy to add the papers to it. I made labels for each box with my trusty label maker. Each kid is only allowed to have one box so it keeps the number of papers I save in check. That’s it! We don’t need a fancy or complicated system.
My oldest is in eighth grade and this system has served us well so far. His box is practically full but the amount of school papers added has dwindled as he got older (less artwork, more schoolwork is computer-based).
I’ve thought about making the system more detailed but as of now, I see no reason to. For one reason, it would be more work for me, which may make me less likely to keep up with it. For another reason, my older daughter is very sentimental and loves to go through her box on a regular basis. But hyper-organized systems don’t work well for her. It would be too hard for her to keep a detailed system organized and I’d end up frustrated because I’d have to help her clean up each time she goes through her box. Because the dates are on each piece, it doesn’t matter if the papers stay in certain order. If I ever wanted to sort it by year, I could quickly do so.
My oldest son, on the other hand, has not touched his box and didn’t even realize it existed for many years. I keep his box because I want the memories and he may one day, too. Since it’s just one box, I don’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t see the point in making a more complex system since no one is really going through his box.
A Slightly Different Approach for Kids Artwork Storage
My sister has a slightly different approach. She also uses boxes because she was worried that a lot of the portfolio-style systems wouldn’t accommodate the 3D art/projects. However, she prefers multiple smaller boxes so she has one box per year per child. She likes the way the boxes look and that they are easy to label with each kid’s name and grade. Her boxes are from the Container Store but Pottery Barn Kids has similar boxes in different colors.
She keeps the current year boxes in her home office so it’s easily accessible to add the papers and artwork. Then, before the start of a new school year, she packs away last year’s box (within a larger storage bin in the attic) and labels and places a new box for the upcoming school year.
Her three boys rarely want to go through the boxes so she only needs the current year box accessible.
Lesson 4: Boxes or bins are preferable for kids artwork storage since they can store more than just paper. Once large box per child or one smaller box per child per year are both easy options. Neither system is right or wrong, it’s all about what works for each family.