...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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I shared how we wrangle the household paper trail a few weeks back, and it spurred a tangent question: What do you do with all the kid art? I thought it might be helpful to share some ways we save and display the kids’ creations while still keeping our home mostly clutter-free. This is just what we do and what works for us. It’s not meant to be a strict ruleset. In fact, it’s a pretty loose system. But if you come across something you can implement in your home, great!

For starters, all three of my kids are creative in their own ways. Layne makes the most intricate Lego and origami creations. Everett LOVES to draw and work with clay. Give him a pencil and a blank piece of paper and he’s a happy camper. (He’s exceptionally good at capturing facial expressions.) Mabrey is really into painting with watercolors, coloring, writing her name (sometimes on her bed, ugh), copying text and taking pretend food orders. (Sorry, I don’t have any burgers. Would you like some fish and a lemon? Her restaurant never has what I ask for and she always suggests “unique” alternatives. Cracks me up every time.) She’ll also sit beside Everett while he’s drawing and try to reinterpret his pictures in her own way. It’s pretty cute. We rarely buy cards. The kids almost always make the cards we give for all sorts of occasions.

Layne and Everett are in grade school (6th and 3rd grade, respectively) and they occasionally bring home art-related stuff from school, but I remember the preschool years when it felt like every day was a damn art show! Haha. That’s where we are with Mabrey now. For the most part though, the majority of kid art is made at home. Art supplies are of one of the few things (books are another) that I tend to let pile up because they really do hold my kids’ attention in constructive ways. (Toys and clothes, not so much.) Art supplies are stored in the base cabinets in the desk area of the kitchen, and art is usually made at the kitchen island.

As for what we do with the masterpieces once they’re made…it really depends. Coloring book pages and preschool art are usually displayed on the fridge or fridge side panel temporarily. Mabrey has been known to tack her paintings on the wall near her play kitchen with washi tape, too. I usually give them a week or two, then they’re recycled to make room for inevitable new art.

Everett often gifts his drawings to friends, neighbors and family members. (You can spy one of his creations in Mabrey’s room.) He absolutely loves sending snail mail. He also likes to display recent drawings on the book ledge in his bunk.

Custom Lego airplanes and RV’s make their way on to the living room shelves and usually stay there until the pieces are needed for the next big thing. I’ve found origami sculptures in the laundry nook (and even the car!) when Layne is on one of his origami folding sprees, but we try to keep them contained to the top of his dresser and woven floor baskets in his room. He’s also been known to take requests from friends and teachers, so those pieces follow him to school.

Some art ends up in Steve’s cubicle at work. (Mabrey has the funniest exchange going on with one of Steve’s co-workers. Each week they trade handmade pictures or cards via Steve. It’s hilarious and super sweet.)

When projects are sent home at the end of the school year, I take a picture from above of them all laid out on the floor. We hang on to them for a week or so then pick our favorites to store in a tote up in the attic. If we both like the same one best, we keep one. If we like two different ones, we keep two. (Seasonal pieces like handmade ornaments are handled a little differently and stored with similar decorations to be displayed each year during the appropriate holiday.)

As you can see, kid art is in a continuous state of flux in our home. We hold on to absolute favorites and display others temporarily or gift them to others. I can’t imagine my kids wanting more than two dozen pieces of their own kid art once they’re grown and out of the house. And I can’t help but feel the more I save, the less special it is because it isn’t all that rare. But maybe that’s just me? Luckily, my kids seem more interested in the process of creating and trying new techniques to achieve a certain result than in coveting their actual creations. Still, I’ve been wanting to try to incorporate some kid art in our home in a more permanent way than just a tote in the attic.

A few months ago, I climbed into the attic and brought down an abstract that Everett made in kindergarten. For years, I had been envisioning it framed via a float mount to show off the stray paint droplets, chalk smears and crinkled edges…all visual evidence linking it to its handmade origins and its journey from school to home in a stuffed backpack. I had such a great experience using Framebridge earlier this year when I had two pieces of vintage Kuba cloth framed that I decided to go that route again. I created my custom framing order online and selected the float mount, Marin frame and mail-in option. A few days later, a pre-paid package arrived so I could send Everett’s abstract to the Framebridge studio to be framed. In a matter of weeks, it was shipped back.

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It’s perfect! I wanted to hang it in the hallway, but Everett told me he’d rather have it in his room so I hung it on just about the only wall space left in the boys’ room below a pair of open shelves.

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(Those floor baskets are chock full of origami!) Now I have every inclination to grab a few more favorites from the attic and have them custom framed as well to create a mini gallery of sorts in the hallway. I know Mabrey has a few ethereal watercolors up there, and wouldn’t a framed origami collection be so cool?!

Anyway, hopefully that gives you a peek at how we deal with the onslaught of kid art – which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. As I type, a handmade clay heart sculpture brought home from school is hanging from a hook near the front door. Bricks that the kids found in a nearby creek bed and painted at home are sitting on the countertop next to my laptop. They might not be here a month from now, but we’re enjoying them at the moment.

I’d love to hear your ideas for saving and displaying kid art at home. What works? What doesn’t? We tried a bulletin board a few years back and it just didn’t work for us. It was difficult to see any one thing well. Even though several pieces were on display, they mostly felt lost and jumbled. Maybe if we had more room it could work better?

If you’d like to give Framebridge a try, use the promo code HOUSETWEAKING15 to receive 15% off your first purchase now through January 31st, 2017. Framed art makes a great gift! December 4th, 2016, is the cutoff date for mail-in items. December 18th, 2016, is the cutoff date for print and frame items.

Bring on the kid art!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

37 Comments

17.November.2016

I too have trouble corralling ALL the art that comes home with my two preschool kiddos. We recently hung two of these Davinic frames I came across on Amazon. They easily open and close without having to remove the back. Makes it so much easier to display and change out the art based on the season or want.

https://www.amazon.com/Child-Artwork-Frame-Display-Masterpieces/dp/B000IF7JXS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479416411&sr=8-1&keywords=davinci+frames

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17.November.2016

Beautiful! We hot glue two or 3 pieces of origami to a stick to make sculptures. I actually used them for table centerpieces for our wedding. They’re neat to have around now and look pretty cool mounted to the wall as well.

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17.November.2016

I have a preschool aged daughter and a two year old daughter- after it’s been on the fridge for a while (and we’ve framed a couple favorites) I recently have started taking the girls’ art to a retirement home near our house. The girls hand their art out to the residents there, and they feel SO proud and the residents enjoy seeing them.

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Aw, so sweet.

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17.November.2016

We are in the preschool every day is an art project phase. We hang up the actual projects, not the coloring book pages, on a piece of wire that stretches above her desk. When the year is up I take photos of all the projects, keeping one or two favorites, and make a photo book out of them. That way I can always look at all the art but only have to save the absolute favorites.

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17.November.2016

I have 3 kids also and the school art/papers were taking over. I just discovered and started using the ArtKive iPhone app to photograph all their art pieces. Once I have enough cataloged, I will use the app to make a custom photo book for each kid (probably 1 for every 2-3 grades including preschool, although I know that once they hit 3rd grade the influx really slows down, so it will probably only end up being 1-2 books for each child). The really special pieces (hand prints, completely original work, etc) I’m keeping in a labelled file for each grade with their other keepsake papers from that year, but only if they are small enough to fit in the standard size hanging folder. Too big…too bad! It really is freeing to recycle all those piles, yet know that I have documented all their efforts for them to enjoy down the road.

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18.November.2016

Since we don’t have the wall space for tons of new art every year, I photograph my kids’ artwork when it comes home and then choose 2-3 favorites to turn them into printed notecards that we can use as Thank You cards, birthday cards, etc. Sometimes I give a set to grandparents as well. I’ll also have their name and age printed on the back of the cards, so we remember whose art it was, and when it was made. The kids think it’s pretty cool too — like they are published artists! :) You can see how I do it here: http://www.andreasteed.com/node/1595

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Very cool!

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18.November.2016

Sounds like a great way to handle all your kids art! I don’t have any kids but I came across a woman years ago who photographed or scanned the art and created photo books for each of her kids.

As an adult I probably wouldn’t want too many physical pieces of my art but as a photo book I think it would be great to have. Even as a child it would be interesting to see your art in a book and be able to flip through it.

I think though you would still have to pare down what you use if your child produces a lot of art so didn’t end up with a huge stack of books.

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replied on November 18th, 2016

Framing a few special pieces is a really nice touch as well. Everette did a great job on the abstract!

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Encyclopedias of art! Haha!! Really, though, it’s a wonderful idea.

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18.November.2016

Where did you buy the baskets on the floor? Love your site! My fiance and I check it out weekly!

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Target, circa 2014??

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18.November.2016

With my daughter in pre-school we are inundated with are every week. At first I wanted to keep it all, but who has the space? So, I created an Instagram account just for her art and created a Chatbooks account. I take a picture of each one, post it and the keep the special ones or hang a few up. When I get to 60 pictures, Chatbooks automatically sends me a little 6×6 soft bound book of her art. We love looking at her art in a book, and if it ever gets ruined or too worn I just order another!

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18.November.2016

My kids attend an arts Elementary School, so we get TONS of art coming home all the way through 6th grade! Art is one thing I have a hard time chucking, so I saved it for years. Then last year my oldest daughter helped my photograph all of it so we could recycle it. Now it’s all on my computer waiting for the day I put it into books (either Chatbooks or a bigger photo book, I haven’t decided yet). I also have saved a good dozen of my favorites from over the years. One is in the upstairs bath, one slated for a spot above my desk, and I have a whole framed gallery wall going in my upstairs hall that also includes shelves with some of their clay creations. I love these spaces in my home!

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Love ALL those ideas!!!

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21.November.2016

This post is full of great ideas! We too are in the midst of tackling the onslaught of kid art that comes home every day. Right now I’ve got a ribbon tacked up in each of my kid’s rooms that has clothespins along it. I can clip up ten or so papers for display at a time. Every week or so I swap out new art pieces to keep the display rotating. This gets them off of our kitchen desk and up on the wall so they can be enjoyed.

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replied on December 12th, 2016

What a great way to use vertical space!

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22.November.2016

We have a three year old in preschool so we definitely are experiencing the onslaught of art! I tend to recycle a lot. I keep some stuff either on the fridge, on a pinboard in her room (she’ll request if there’s something in particular she wants), or in a small basket. I go through the basket every few months (as stuff from the fridge and pinboard rotates off) and keep just a handful of things a year. There’s definitely at least one thing I should frame- thanks for the inspiration to get on that!

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22.November.2016

love this piece that you framed! Nice work Everett!
sidenote- where are those baskets from?

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Target! Nate Berkus circa 2014??

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22.November.2016

Thank you for answering this question! I love the suggestion of framing special pieces. I’ve also thought of eventually turing it all into a coffee table book. The company doodle nest does beautiful books!

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Oh my gosh, I love the idea of a kid art coffee table book! I might steal it.

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24.November.2016

what a great idea! I was thinking about a gallery wall, to display my little ones art because the classic fridge space is getting too cluttered, but I might just have to add a shelf now too for ornaments and other bits and pieces.

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25.November.2016

Love this idea! I have 2 girls and they make a TON of artwork so I’m always on the lookout for awesome ways to display it. I have seen where people frame a section of wall with a magnetic back then swap out pictures so that the specials ones can be “featured”.

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29.November.2016

Thank you so much for this post! I feel like I needed the “ok” from someone that I can recycle my girls’ artwork. My husband can be a bit of a hoarder and makes me feel guilty if I get rid of stuff (this does not stop me, but I do feel bad). My girls just started kindergarten this year, and I hope to frame some of their art soon. Thanks for the frame discount link!

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replied on December 12th, 2016

Permission granted ;)

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04.December.2016

The kid art looks great! I love how abstract they look. If I didn’t know it was done by someone so young, I would’ve thought it was an artist’s piece! My parents still has paintings I painted etc around our house.

– Charmaine
http://charmainenyw.com

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05.December.2016

Love these open shelves from IKEA. Would you mind telling me what size bracket you used and which shelves and what size? I’d love to use them for my daughter’s room. Thank you!

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replied on December 12th, 2016

We used the EKBY VALTER brackets in birch…

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/76696009/

…and cut the longer EKBY OSTEN shelf down for the two shelves. (The cut ends face a nearby perpendicular wall and aren’t noticeable.)

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07.December.2016

Miss seeing your posts. Know you must be busy, hope all is well.

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12.December.2016

Miss your blog posts….hope all is well with you and your family.

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replied on December 13th, 2016

I agree: I selfishly miss your inspiration, I hope all is well!!

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13.December.2016

My preschool Picasso is very productive lately, so my husband and I really try to support him as much as we can. We are doing fine for now. For us, these first kid paintings are the cutest things in the world.

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14.December.2016

I’m about coming up on this age now with my little girl–thank you for the helpful ideas on how to manage it all!

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15.December.2016

I’d like to try Orange Blossom, thanks!

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We also have a special shelf for all the scluptures and other things our daughter does, and the paintings go on the fridge, of course. I love every single doodle she creates!

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