This week you’re shooting photos of your little preschooler or kindergartner on the front steps, backpack slung over her shoulder on the first day of school.
Next week you’ll be wondering what to do with all the stuff she brings home.
One tempera-paint handprint becomes two, then 12, then 436. Then comes the parade of mixed media — pastel landscapes, construction-paper mosaics, magic-marker portraits, Play-Doh sculptures, pasta jewelry, papier-mache masks.
They’re adorable, I know. Each one a treasure. But children’s artwork quickly can take over the fridge, then the kitchen, then the whole house.
What’s a proud parent to do with it all? Here are some tips I’ve learned through the years, combined with cool stuff discovered recently on Pinterest, ParentHacks.com and elsewhere:
• Designate a drop box. As early as possible in your child’s artistic career, designate one large container as the place to put everything your child creates. When you remove a piece from her backpack, label it on the back with her name and date and put it into the container. This way it’s all in one place, and you can sift through the collection when you have time.
• Edit heavily. Save some things, particularly pieces you instantly adore, pieces your child is proud of and ones that represent milestones, such as first scribbles and self-portraits. But don’t feel bad ditching some or even most. Be ruthless, or you will be buried. At least twice a year — more if you have several children — winnow the collection.• Show it off. Displaying your children’s artwork shows them how much you appreciate it, and it adds a touch of playful whimsy to any decor. Have one or two of your favorite pieces professionally framed and hang them the way you would any other art. String a clothesline or an IKEA clip-and-wire system on a wall and hang art from clothespins. Paint a portion of a wall with magnetic paint and use magnets to create a rotating gallery, or cover it with cork and use pins. Cover an entire wall in the garage or playroom with art.
• Consider an art cabinet. These specially designed shadow box-style frames are hinged on one side, which allows you to open the front and easily swap out artwork. Some, like the Li’l DaVinci Frame, have spring-loaded corners that can hold up to 50 pages for longer-term storage.
• Go digital. If you want to preserve your children’s work but can’t stand the avalanche of paper, consider keeping just a few pieces and scanning the rest into your computer. For art that’s too bulky to store, such as large sculptures, photograph your little artist holding the piece. That way you have a visual record of the artwork, as well as how old your child was when he created it.
• Send it to relatives. Grandmas and grandpas love getting kids’ artwork (if my parents are any indication). Every now and then, pick a piece, add a little note and put it in the mail.
• Keep it up as kids get older. In our house, stick-figure paintings have given way to book reports, essays, geometry tests and science projects. But we still save or take photos of favorites — like the Rube Goldberg machine that put sprinkles on a cupcake — to preserve the memory.