Without Letting it Take Over Every Available Surface in Your Home

CHK love kids art

My kids love to make art.

Diddy’s friends call her “the Artist” because she spends all of her “choice time” at school using smelly markers and Sharpies (note to self: stay vigilant against future huffing issues). Gaga has proven herself to have remarkable motor skills, and a great sense of color that her teachers never fail to mention, plus she’s not afraid to get messy, so a lot of her work is paint-based. Sausage asks for markers the moment he’s done eating breakfast and Pancake, well … Pancake mostly draws on his face.

Still: this all equals a LOT of kid art coming into and cluttering up our home. Stacks of it. And I am over it.

Here’s what I suggest doing to corral all the kid art, and get it under control.

It’s a multi-pronged approach, as any good battle-plan must be. And believe me, when you’re up against kid art, you really are fighting a war. Me, I play to win. Here’s how:

  • Be brutal.

It’s not ALL worth keeping. It’s really not. Toss, toss, toss. I learned this from a friend of mine, who also has four children, and is my GURU MAMA because her youngest is the same age as my oldest, so she’s gone though all of my particular challenges before. When we were first friends, I watched her throwing out art her kid had made in her pre-school class WHILE just down the hall from her classroom. She literally ducked into the school office and started tossing things.

    • Her #1 Rule? THROW OUT EVERYTHING 3D. (I photograph it before I toss it, if I think it’s any good. See below!)
    • Here’s another trick for weeding the good/important stuff from the bad/inane stuff: leave it on the kitchen table, or some other very available surface, for 48 hours. If no one comes to claim it, throw it out, they’ll never miss it.  Promise.
    • Or send it to the grandparents. They seem to care less about kid art clutter, and if you have your kids write a note on the back, even better – it’s a letter!
    • Date the good stuff. Seriously: artist and month/year goes in the corner of every piece. If you’re bothering to keep it, you’re gonna want to know when your kid made that masterpiece.


  • Scan or photograph all the good stuff.

CHK 3d art collage (1) (1)

Diddy (2008)

    • Before I throw out the truly special 3D art that GURU MAMA completely disdains, I take a photo of it against a white wall.
    • Everything else I either scan on my Canon flatbed printer, or with my Fujitsu ScanSnap (BEST BUY EVER, SERIOUSLY!).
CHK paint and glitter scan (1)

Gaga, paint & glitter on brown paper bags. (2011)

    • All this scanning and photographing will go a long way to honing your sense of what’s good/worth keeping/worth scanning/worth photographing and organizing, and what ain’t. You will get more brutal all the time.
    • You can also use all sorts of handy iPhone and Droid apps to do this for you. Not my thing, but if you’re looking for a simple solution, it’s not the worst idea, either. They are easy to Google up — but as I haven’t used any of them, I can’t really recommend one above the others, myself.
    • Once you’ve got it all photographed or scanned:  Toss! Toss! Toss! And toss again!  Really. Go for it. You don’t need it, short of those pieces that are so great you think they are worthy of display / long-term archiving (see below).


  • Display the TRULY GREAT STUFF.

    • Pick a place in your home that can serve as a real art gallery for your kids’ work. Right now, the kids’ art mostly lives in their rooms or in MrBigIdeas and my offices. But we’re gearing up to transform the ENTIRE kids’ hallway into a gallery of their best work.
On the Beach x2. Diddy (2010), Gaga (2012)

On the Beach x2. Diddy (2010), Gaga (2012)

    •  You don’t have to shell out a ton of money to frame your kid’s art. You have a lot of options for display – Pinterest is a great font of inspiration. I’ve even made a board for that. Clothespins, painter’s tape, sticky corners. At the kids’ school, they use these Ikea curtain hangers. We went with Lil Davinci Art frames because they make the kids’ art look neat and tidy on the wall, not to mention STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS. Even better, they open from the front, and can accommodate 50 pieces each – if some better piece comes along, you just pop it in the frame on top of the last piece. Love them. (Now if I could only find the time to get them up on the wall!)
    • Or you can head over to CanvasOnDemand and order awesome CANVASES of your kid’s art! Use this code for 65% off, while you’re at it: D7ABTGS98U4VSBF


  • Create museum catalogs for your kids using photo book services.

CHK photo books

    • I did this for the holidays last year – corralled all the art my kids had EVER made, scanned and photographed the good stuff, then uploaded it all to Shutterfly and created a 12×12 hardback book out of it, organized chronologically by kid. Then I sent that book to all the relatives. Best gift they have ever gotten – reviews were over the moon. And honestly, I was thrilled with the results. Edited and presented that way, the kids’ art was amazing. Themes and personal styles emerged. My kids are thrilled with it, too. That is definitely going to be a yearly thing around here from now on.


  • Archive the truly SPECIAL pieces – things like hand print molds, or Thanksgiving turkey hands – that you don’t want to display but still want to save for your children long-term.

CHK art files

    •  I do this using file storage boxes. Each kid has their own box, and each box has inside it a hanging file for each year of school from pre-school through 12th grade. Things like pre-K graduation certificates and hand-print molds get filed in these boxes. I’m also putting holiday cards from the kids’ closest friends in their boxes this year – I think it might be neat for them to see pictures of what their early friends looked like when they’re more grown up. (This filebox idea came from The Happiness Project, by the way. It’s chockful of good ideas like this.)

Have more great kid-art-containment ideas? Share them in comments below, or post them to the FB page. I’d love to see what you’ve got!

Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time I wanted to be a novelist in NY. FOUR KIDS LATER I'm a
screenwriter in LA who blogs about parenting, partnering, and the decline of civilization / my home.

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