Simplifying kids’ artwork

18 August 2023

Our solution to the voluminous piles of artwork our kids bring home is right around the corner from our solution to kids’ shoes: the art basket!

A solution is necessary not only because of the amount of artwork that comes home (and random scribbles, and folded pieces of paper, and worksheets, and yarn clippings (Montessori life IYKYK)) – if left to my own devices, I could efficiently cull the keepers and toss everything else.

But that’s not what happens, because the idea of throwing out a just-created masterpiece of any kind is anathema to my pint-sized artists. Tossing almost anything in front of them is asking for a daily battle over what gets kept.

So, we sidestep. Here’s what I do instead…

Everything that comes home from school or church goes in the art basket. We ooh and ahh over things as needed, and sometimes they pin items on their bulletin boards. But if it’s not going somewhere else, it goes in the art basket – no matter how lowly or how precious it might be.

The art basket is on the shelf of the bench in our front entry, so it’s right at hand when they’re coming in the door after school and emptying their backpacks and lunchboxes.

Eventually, the art basket fills up. Once it’s threatening to overflow, I’ll find a time when the kids are not around to go through it. I’ll sort through the stack and pull anything I want to keep in their memory boxes, then recycle the rest.

Here’s a very important key: the recycled papers MUST go in the outside recycling bin, NOT the inside one. Trust me, I’ve had plenty of things spotted and removed from the bin in the pantry, but so far they have not started dumpster diving in the outdoor bin. I leave a thin stack of papers in the bottom of the basket so it’s not 100% empty, and neither kid ever seems to notice I’ve been there.

As for those memory boxes, I recently added letter stickers to them and they are looking pretty cute! They’re from Joy Creative Shop, but I actually purchased mine from my friend Kaylee’s shop, where they were on sale. The bins are from Target. All three are stored under the beds upstairs!

Any questions? Happy to help, and godspeed with your own paper adventures this fall, friends.

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Kelly Strawberry
August 18, 2023 12:20 pm

Love this! I only have one child now so not as much art overflow. I’ll typically find a discreet time to toss it. More special or better art goes on the fridge for a month or two. I think I’ve only kept a few as keepsakes because they often had a footprint/hand print/holiday/ sentimental vibe.
LOL at dumpster diving :) It’s the worst when they do spot something of theirs in the trash, HA!

August 18, 2023 3:24 pm

So, here is a fun story: A while back I purged our kids’ art drawer and brought everything straight out to the recycling bin. When it was trash day, we brought the recycling bin up to the curb. Our boys just love watching the claw grab the cans and would you know that Isaac was watching when all of his and Laura’s art work was dumped into the garbage truck. He then ran to the art drawer and discovered it was empty and put two and two together. He let me know in no uncertain terms that he was not pleased with me. David and I couldn’t help but laugh which unfortunately only added to the fire. One cannot be too vigilant with kid’s artwork.

August 18, 2023 3:41 pm

I had to laugh out loud at your dumpster diving comment! My kids did „rescue“ precious cardboard from the recycling can before, ha!

August 19, 2023 9:49 am

Excellent blog post topic!
I need to take the memory box step next as we shift from 1 to 2 kiddos. I also pop a few of them (labeled) in the mail to grandparents and great-grandparents a couple times a year, and they LOVE it since we live far away!
I also remember you used to cut up of their artwork for wrapping paper or holiday crafts — and we’ve done the same which has been a hit!

August 23, 2023 10:50 am

I love this post! We are just in the stage where my toddler is starting to bring home art from church and wants to make it at home all the time! I was wondering if you had shared before about the memory boxes? I would love to see what’s inside and how you’ve organized them!