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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Saving Your Children’s Art

Here is a dilemma that may sound odd to people who do not have children, but believe me, strangely familiar to most people who do. Kids come home from day care every week with piles of crafts and drawings, work sheets and colored shapes, cut outs and pasted collages. Particularly those with more than one child know that these art pages pile up, month after month, year after year. At first you are excited, saving each little scribble that your 18 months old ingeniously made for you. At some point however, the piles become heaps and the drawers, boxes and shelves becomes full. How do you decide what to save and what to throw away? One friend told me she saved one representative art work from each season. Another offered a more critics choice perspective, saying she selected “only the good ones and threw away the rest.”  Another option I can think of is to ask your 4 year old to select their favorites for keepsakes, but mostly parents who throw away some of the delivered cubby art (and my case is that we are talking about the majority of parents) prefer not to tell the child about this practice, with the likely prediction that the child will forget about some of these sheets and be happy with the half pile that was saved. This raises the questions: who and what purposes do these designated art souvenirs serve, present and future?

Posted by Orly Lobel on December 14, 2006 at 11:36 AM in Orly Lobel | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 14, 2006 5:00:42 PM


There's another great company in New York that does the scanning and makes a hardcover book. It's called SouvenarteBooks. They scan and photograph the art and then design the book. I've seen a few and each one is really special. Their website is www.souvenartebooks.com,

Posted by: ann | Jan 28, 2009 9:05:37 PM

I used www.scanmyart.com to scan art done by my grandchildren and was very pleased. I just sent the art to them and they scanned it all for me then emailed the images.

Posted by: Sharon | Aug 11, 2008 6:47:55 PM

I am SO excited about Jasper's Mom's suggestion. I went to Petite Picasso and I just could not believe what a great idea that was. I can't believe I didn't think of it myself! I'm a graphic designer, but I would love to send my children's artwork off to them and get one of those beautiful books back (with NO work on my part!) I will be thanking you for a long time for this tip! Incredible!

Posted by: Kim | May 15, 2008 4:10:32 PM

I met a mom recently who has a great business. She preserves your children's artwork so you can get it out of your house and into the coolest books. Her company is great, it is called Petite Picasso. Check out her website www.petitepicassobooks.com
My friend just had her children's artwork preserved and I can't tell you how incredible the books are. You won't be disappointed. Her website has lots of fun things!

Posted by: Jasper's Mom | Apr 26, 2008 10:02:24 AM

I feel the neatest part about saving your child's artwork is being able to look back and see how his or her skills have developed over the years. Nothing can bring this idea home faster than seeing him color the same picture at different ages. So, I came up with the idea of having each child color the exact same template picture every year on her birthday, and then save them all in a binder, in order. It's simple, compact, and really illustrates the evolution of skills are personal tastes.

For more details, pictures, and a free sample coloring template, visit my post here.

Posted by: Chica | Feb 13, 2008 8:30:19 AM

I save everything my child has created- the only exceptions are the perfectly glittered snowmen and other 'projects' that his preschool teachers' aides have done for him (and then, only when he tires of them- because they are his). What is 'good' or 'representational' to me may not be the most significant to him. These are judgements. I feel it's far more important for him to know that we value his self expression. More over, creating art developes in a very predictable manner. Each step and accomplishment seems to have a purpose and is connected to other cognitive advances. I never expect mine to make something purposeful- that would be equally judgemental. Better to let him work through the development of his scribbling, help him learn words for describing the lines and colors, and praise him for simply doing it. We routinely plaster his creations on our walls- not just the refridgerator. I mount many on colored paper and am investing in some nice large frames, the size of the paper I buy in reems to use on his easel. This way I can easily swap out new pictures. He is so proud of his art work on our walls. That's worth more to me than what anyone thinks of my decorating. AS for the large piles- I buy inexpensive envelope portfolios. They hold a year or two worth of drawings- and really how much room does this take up? I guess I feel very passionate about this, but it just seems like one of the more obvious ways to promote my kid's sense of self worth and intelligence.

Posted by: Andi | Jan 2, 2007 1:40:49 AM

I save the really good stuff, and shred the rest after the kids go to bed. (Hey, it's for my compost pile!)

Posted by: Ivy | Dec 20, 2006 12:36:44 AM

But would destroying artistic creations be a violation of VARA (17 usc 106A)? Perhaps your child's art is not of recognized stature, but are you comfortable telling your child that their work was not, in your eyes, of recognized stature?

Oh the conundrums that congress can force on us

Posted by: Greg | Dec 17, 2006 2:06:39 PM

To add a different perspective, that of the child artist now grown:

My mother saved quite a bit of stuff from my childhood...now that I'm approaching 30 (gasp) she sends me home with more and more of it every time I visit. I appreciate having the memories, but a limit is really necessary: when your child is an adult, they will not remember the art they created as a toddler. I agree with your friend's limit of one piece per season. Four pieces per year really is plenty to satisfy my need to remember my childhood. As children get older, they can participate in the selection of the piece.

I also like the scanning / photographing idea - maybe not for every scribble, but for more noteworthy projects?

Posted by: Bev | Dec 15, 2006 10:02:22 AM

My husband, who is less sentimental about these things than I am, was throwing things out in piles into the recycling bin. I told him I would not participate in such a practice and that we should keep the artwork. One day our then-5 year old discovered this when she went to toss something into the bin. She held onto her grief for two days, then broke down at dinner one night and asked us why we didn't like her artwork. I gave my husband one of those "I'll let you field this one, dear" looks. From then on he told her that we couldn't save everything and that she could pick her favorites (and we select our own favorites as well--usually the ones that seem to best represent who she is or the ones that make us laugh).

It was only after the aforementioned incident that my friend offered the following bit of advice. If you're going to throw things out, drive around the block and use someone else's garbage can on garbage day.

Posted by: dgm | Dec 15, 2006 12:02:18 AM

recycling as gift wrap paper - another brilliant idea!
another one of our readers emailed me to point my attention to a blog, "dad in progress" that has been recently thinking about the same questions:
as you can see from the track back to our current post, other blogs such as the urban parent, all have this on their mind - see, i wasn't kidding, people with children are really perplexed by this one.

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Dec 14, 2006 6:21:58 PM

We take the bigger paintings (easel art) and use them as wrapping paper.

Posted by: ncmom | Dec 14, 2006 5:24:18 PM

these are all excellent ideas! i think i will ship some out to relatives and allow myself to not feel guilty for throwing out a bulk of the more generic ones...

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Dec 14, 2006 2:27:14 PM

I've been wrestling with this very issue in regard to my two-year-old's prolific output. Christine's suggestion is brilliant. I'm sure my mother-in-law, who lives 3000 miles away, and who used to teach art to grade school pupils, would be ecstatic to get regular installments of her grandchild's work.

Posted by: The Continental Op | Dec 14, 2006 1:11:58 PM

I have a 4-year old artist who will go through a ream of paper a day if left unchecked...so it is not possible to save it all and I'm too cheap to mail them to my family like Christine. My criteria for saving is if the art project includes some indicia of her body size (e.g., it includes a handprint or foot print or body tracing) or if it represents some particular milestone (e.g., it was the first time her people-drawings moved from the Picasso-esque world into realism or when she actually drew a shadow on something). I figure that by saving these, I can share them with her at some later point to discuss how little she used to be or how her drawings got better and better as she got older. Other than that, I only save the ones that make me laugh out loud. The rest go into the great recycling bin in the sky, but only after she's sleeping and only after 3-4 (or more) days have gone by so she forgets. (Oh, and don't save anything with glitter.)

Posted by: Kristen Osenga | Dec 14, 2006 1:10:01 PM

Here is my solution, Orly: I save all of my children's art and let it pile up for a month or two. When the pile is sufficiently large, I sent it to my Grandma (my children's Great-Grandma, or Grandma Ruby as they call her). Grandma Ruby lives thousands of miles away and tells me that receiving the piles in big envelopes in the mail is like getting a holiday present. She appreciates every scrap of art much more than I do at this point in my life. Also, I know that she keeps it all. So at some point, the piles will revert back to me, probably at a point in my life when I am sentimental about my children's childhoods and will appreciate the piles again. (I do pick out the really great pieces for myself, I have to admit.)

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Dec 14, 2006 12:07:43 PM

How about scanning a digital image of every piece the kid brings home (or, if a scanner is unavailable, taking a digital pic), and then throwing them away? You can organize the digital files later (i.e., a "greatest hits" list), and if the point is memory / record, you'll have it without the clutter.

See http://www.microsoft.com/canada/home/familyandfun/2.1.81_showoffyourchildrensartwork.aspx

Posted by: Geoff | Dec 14, 2006 11:40:23 AM

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