"That's, umm, lovely darling!" - our tips for what to do with the kids' artwork.
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
With the Summer holidays upon us, it's time to steel yourself for the multi-coloured pile of sugar paper and junk modelling exiting the classroom door, with the legs of your child protruding beneath it. The sight need not cause you to break out into a cold sweat this term though... here we explore some great hacks for helping keep on top of the products of your child's creative play.
If you’ve ever wondered whether your child is more monster than angel at school, forget the end-of-term report.
What you really need to read is the teacher’s face as you’re handed an overstuffed carrier bag, handles stretched over twelve weeks worth of primary school art projects. Apologetic? Or somewhat… gleeful?
Ah, our children’s artwork. From the moment those chubby little fingers can grasp a crayon, we’ve entered a world of glitter, flaking poster paint, PVA glue, glitter, inky fingerprints on clean surfaces, pompoms, play-dough crushed into the carpet, glitter, drawers that are more pencil sharpenings than pencils... oh, and did we mention the glitter? Before we know it, we’ve got air-dry clay sculptures gathering dust on every window sill and finger paintings gently drifting from the fridge door like autumn leaves.
What to do with it all? It can be heart-wrenching to bin it, not to mention high-risk tantrum territory when they remember it 3 days later and ask where it is. But it is equally difficult to function in a house that’s full of it. So just what should we do with our children’s art?
#1 Appreciate it together, and teach them to self-edit
It sounds obvious, but once you've wrestled child and creations home, grab yourself a cuppa and ask them to take you through 'The Pile' and show you what they've created. Chances are, in a bid to clear the classroom ahead of the holiday deep-clean, your child's bag will also include creations from other children, odds & ends from the paper tray, loose loo rolls from the junk modelling box, and items they have absolutely no memory of creating at all.
These you are safe to file under 'b' (for bin), or if you're feeling virtuous (?!), return to the rightful owner where someone else's creation has made it into your child's bag.
The rest will be things that your child is proudest of and wants to show you. Enjoy the moment together, and ask your child which ones they like the best.
Trust us on this one. Most of the time, kids don’t sit down with the aim of making a masterpiece. The majority of their art is about play, practice, translating their imagination to paper. So try asking your child which they’re happy to chuck and what they want to keep.
At the very least it’ll prevent that guilty rescue-mission rummage through the recycling bin.
Teacher friends of ours assure us that learning to check, review and self-edit is a valuable part of our children’s education. It encourages them to reflect on their own work, decide what works and what doesn’t, and then take their thoughts into future efforts.
#2 Curate the display
Rather than sticking everything they want to keep to the fridge door, limit the display to one or two pictures at a time. Your child gets to decide when the latest effort is a worthy successor.
Framing it in something stylish is a nifty way to stop you feeling like the kids have taken over the grown-up spaces, and it makes them feel special too. Win, win!
You can change it up with a lot less effort when you use a frame that’s designed for the job.
This clever picture hanger from Modo looks great and accommodates the inevitable excess of glued-on buttons, pompoms and scrunched-up balls of tissue paper.
If you have the wall space, there are a range of cute 'Look What I Made' peg signs available on Etsy, some of which can be personalised too.
#3 Digital storage
Even the most conscious editing still leaves you with a lot of artwork you will actually want to keep but not display for eternity. Digital cloud storage is the modern equivalent of boxes in the attic. Except that attic is now planet sized and way less of a fire risk.
Just snapping pictures on your mobile will make it hard for you to look back properly when you're feeling nostalgic once your kids have gone to sleep at night. So organise them into an album, or upload them into a dedicated folder in your preferred online storage solution.
Many of our Lifefyle members have a designated area for storing their kids’ artwork within their 'Family' folder. There is no limit to the amount of images you can upload into your Lifefyle - our pricing flexes to the amount of storage you need - so go ahead and upload whatever you'd like to keep for prosperity. And your shared account holders can access it too.
Digital images can also be turned into something really special. Doodle Nest will take your kids' art, and create gorgeous coffee-table photo books with it. You can even send them the awkward pieces to scan in for you.
#4 Offload by up-cycling
Rather than chucking your children’s offerings straight in the recycling bin, up-cycle them instead. Children’s art makes a great alternative to wrapping paper and cards.
What’s not to like? You appease your kids while foisting their art onto someone else, you get to scrub away a little of that carbon footprint AND it totally makes your hastily-bought gift look more thoughtful.
#5 Stem the flow
Once you've handled the end-of-term pile, the next thing to consider is what to do about the production line that will inevitably be established in your home as your budding artists entertain themselves during the holidays.
One way to cope with the build-up of paper, is not to use it in the first place. No, this isn’t about crushing our kids’ creativity, but changing their canvas.
Give them a mini whiteboard or paint a section of wall with blackboard paint and they can scrawl away to their hearts’ content.
We also love these sneakily educational sets of fabric and washable pens from EatSleepDoodle.
You can quickly snap and upload anything they’re particularly proud of before it gets wiped and replaced, and when you make the art more temporary by nature, you’ll find it’s easier to let go.
So relax as you hear that sharp in-take of breath from the other parents at pick up - the ones groaning as they recognise their own child's legs under a particularly prolific pile of artwork - you've got it covered.
Sorry though, we can't help you with the glitter!
Lifefyle is a life admin and productivity app created for busy parents, by busy parents. It is available to download for free* from the App Store and Google Play.
*additional features are available within our premium subscription available for £4.99 per month via in-app purchases. Everything organised for less than the price of a glass of your favourite tipple... and who knows, with everything under control, you might just have time to enjoy that tipple too!