Organizing Kids’ Artwork

This time of year (okay, every time of year), I have always struggled with organization. It’s the beginning of school and between this and fall sports, we are BUSY!!!! There are so many fun things we love to do on the weekends in the fall too, so catching up on Saturday and Sunday doesn’t usually work either! But this year will be different…it will!

One of the things I really struggle with is my children’s artwork. I have a very difficult time deciding what to do with it.

We are a crafty family. When it comes to artwork and crafts, we have TONS of them! It’s a touchy subject for me. Part of me wants to keep everything that my child touches or creates and display it proudly for all to see, but the realistic part of me says no. After debating what to do for nearly 4 years, I have finally pieced together a system that can contain this huge load of creativity and all of the memories that come out of them, and at the same time keep me from appearing on the next episode of Hoarders!

I have two children that are in school. A 4-year old that is in preschool three days a week and a 5-year old that is in Kindergarten. They bring home multiple papers and coloring sheets per day, so as you can imagine (and am sure have already experienced) these pile up fast. Before you know it, you are faced with the option of throwing them out or storing them all! How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of when they are all SO cute and meaningful in their own way?????  Each one holds a special memory about a specific time in their lives.

So here is my solution.

At the start of this school year I labeled a manila folder with each child’s grade level (for us it was Preschool and Kindergarten). When papers came home from school, we talked about them at dinner time, giving C and G’s dad a chance to see everything that they had worked on and be a part of the stories that go along with it. Then, those crafts and papers went in their respective folder. This folder is kept in a central location where it is easy for me to add things to it on a daily basis.

When September was over I took everything in the folder and divided it into three piles:

  1. Throw away pile
  2. “I love these but can’t keep them all” pile
  3. “I have to save this forever because it is so special” pile.

Now, most of the things that ended up in the throw away pile were the redundant sheets of paper like tracing the same line over and over on the whole sheet of paper or coloring by my daughter that I can tell she rushed through because she is all over the place. In the recycle bin they went! That’s the easy part.

My next step was to take pictures…yep, photos of all of the great works in piles 2 and 3. Some of my pictures were of groupings of artwork that went together, some were of a craft that the child made and then wore, and some were of the individual work of art because it just needed a photo all to itself (there were many of these).


I downloaded all of these pictures into a folder on my desktop (my husband would cringe that I added one more thing to my desktop) and labeled it Children’s Artwork 2012. Within this folder I have two folders: one for G and one for C. Within these folders I made a folder for every month of the year. I didn’t label every picture that I took, but ones that had special memories that I was afraid I would forget, I made sure to include in the label of the picture.

Then, the hard part: I get rid of the items in Pile 2. But knowing that I have a digital copy so that I can always look back and remember them makes this a whole lot easier.

I have a large storage tote box that can fit under our bed where I will store the pieces of art from Pile 3 that I just can’t part with. This way, in 20 years when we are reliving all of these memories, we can look at the actual creations. Maybe I will feel differently as the kids get older and won’t feel the need to hold onto quite as much, but for now, I will. Let me say, it is a lot less than in years past!

My plan for the pictures is to, at the end of the school year, upload them to Shutterfly or Snapfish where I can create a photo book for these pictures with their memories written near them.  We can look at them over the years to come and always remember the path that the kids took in school and how creative they were. The other day, my son brought home a monster truck that he told me he colored just for me. He said that he chose a rainbow of colors but was sure to include orange (my favorite). Such a thoughtful boy. I want to remember that conversation forever. Today, while I was in my daughter’s classroom, she wrote a story about apple picking in an orchard. What a telling piece. It certainly is one of her favorite memories to date and I am sure this one will make it into the keep pile!
These creations are a huge deal for my kids. They are attached to them, they cherish them. These works help to shape them as human beings. The work that they do says so much about what is going on in their life at the time and how they view the world.

Technical tips:

Some important things that I tried to do when taking my pictures and putting last month’s creations away:

  •  If it was a wearable craft, make sure to take a picture of the child that made it to wearing it. What a great touch!
  • Include your children. See if there are any pieces that they are really attached to or that have a story that you didn’t hear to go along with them.
  • Take your time and organize your photos. It may seem like a pain now, but you will be thankful later!
  • Choose a solid (preferably white) background for your pictures, so the artwork really stands out.

Do you have any tips for organizing your kids’ artwork?

About Lauryn Blakesley

A woman out to explore, celebrate, and enjoy everything that my community and living locally has to offer. Blessed with three beautiful children and an incredible husband, our family embraces adventure while dreaming of what is to come. Lover of knitting, running (although mostly after little ones right now), the color orange, fun accessories, fall, tea, and a clean kitchen floor. I spend my days in awe of my family and trying to teach my three to treat others as they would want to be treated.

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  1. Audrey M. says:

    I plan (haha, no implementation yet) on mounting a few of the smaller “can’t part with” pictures on 12×12 pages for the scrapbook. I think it will be fun to watch the kids coloring / painting skills grow as they do in the pictures :)

  2. Oh, I did the photo album of the artwork one year. I have a folder sitting in my laptop for another year. I forgot about doing this last year.

    Since my kids do First Communion in second grade, I also incorporated some of their artwork in the First Communion Album. After 1st grade, there’s fewer pieces of artwork and more math papers.

  3. An idea instead of a shutterfly book, is a poster.

  4. I’ve recently discovered the Artkive app that also helps organize the photos of all the masterpieces. It allows you to organize it by child, date ,and grade. Eventually, I am told it will also allow you to make a book of all the art.

  5. Excellent ideas including those in comments. Creative.
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