How To Organize Your Kids School and Art Work

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How to Organize Your Kids School and Art Work

Your great plan for the summer was to go through all your child's school work/art work they brought home this past school year but yikes there is so much of it where is the best place to start? First of all let's have a little talk:
 

  • Do not keep all of your children's art/school work. Just think; if you save everything your child brings home by the time they are in college you will have a two car garage full and over flowing with just their paper work and it will be spilling into your home. (I actually read about a woman who had saved everything and this was the result). 


I believe it! I did some math figuring if you save just three (3) pieces of paper a week, times four weeks in a month times 9 months in a year (figuring school is not in session for 12 months) times 8 years in school (pre-school through 6th grade) that is a total of 864 pieces of paper.

  • So if you think you have to save everything your child ever does on paper, you don't. A very wise preschool teacher passed on this little gem, "little kids are into process, not product. Kids live in the moment; they enjoy the moment of making the art but are quite casual about disposing of it. I have five daughters and as I have experienced this with them I know this is true. 

 

  • By sorting and going over with our children what to keep and what to let go of may help them when they are older and they have to start sorting their own mail. Now is the time for them to learn they don't have to keep everything and it is the right thing to do. As they are into process, not product is it us parents who hold them back from letting go? It's not just about their art or schoolwork - it's about how they (and you) approach organization. 

 

  • It's about setting reasonable limits - not just for your child but also for yourself. And you are the adult so you decide the limits. It is important for us to teach our children how to organize.


Our children will bring home art work, test papers, homework assignments and assorted mementos from school. Of course we want to save their important childhood memories, but what do we keep and how do we keep it? When children bring home any of the above, look at it and discuss it with them if it something that needs attention. Not everything they bring home needs a sit down discussion with them. Start selecting right then, not later, but right then what to keep and what to toss. When cleaning out their back packs tale a look right then. If you are too busy that day; make it a priority to do it at the very least once a week. The child, if interested can be a part of this process. 

As a mother and professional organizer I know the value of saving some things and tossing other things. This is as important as home organization. Here are my suggestions of what to save and what not to save.

  • Get a large envelope—10.5 X 15 is a good size. Write the child's name, name of the school, year in school, school year (2008-2009) and the teacher's name on the outside. When they have school pictures taken if you have extra's tape one with clear packing tape to the front of the envelope.

 

  • Have one envelope for each year a child is in school. If you home school, the same principle applies. At the end of the summer of that year (assuming they do some projects you want to keep from summer programs). Place the envelope in a container with a lid on it. This can be an apple box, zerox box or a purchased plastic bin. A good place to keep this box is on the top of their closet shelf. If you use some kind of cardboard box decorate with contact paper on the end that shows and write the child's name on it. Label the plastic box with the child's name. 

 

  • Each child has their own envelope and own box. I recommend saving a sampling of school work, not just the best, but some that are 'average'. 

 

  • If the artwork that comes into the house is bigger than your designated storage space or it begins to pile up quicker than you can process it, take a picture of it with your children holding it. What a fun memory to look back on. Buy a photo album and create an 'art album' for each child.


Now the school work and art work is selected and contained here are ideas of what to do with the art work before it makes it to the 'archives'.
 

  • The fridge—as a professional organizer and mother this is my least favorite place for art work as it creates clutter in the kitchen, but if you like that look, then do it, but there are other wonderful ideas. My girls grew up with their art work displayed in other places and they are all adventurous, fun, interesting adults. It didn't hurt their egos is what I am saying.

 

  • Pin to a cork board or bulletin board. 

 

  • Create a gallery space in your home—it can be in the child's room or a more public space such as the kitchen, hallway, or family room. String a clothes line along one big wall in the children's bedroom and use clothespins to display the "collection". Rotate old and new artwork on and off the display.

 

  • Use inexpensive poster-sized box frames for pictures. One frame can hold a big piece, or several smaller works.

 

  • Another method is to hang strips of felt from a dowel rod and allow kids to pin their art work directly to the felt.

 

  • Laminate art work and create placemats that you can give relatives or use during meals or messy arts and craft projects at home.
  • Send pictures to relatives, when the child can write use it as stationary. (Write on the back)

 

  • Use for wrapping paper. If you intend to use it this way, put it with the wrapping paper, not just in a pile somewhere.


For those works of art out of clay, paper-mache and science projects, let them linger for a while, until the thrill has worn off, then decide whether something is for display or whether it was "a learning experience." If you or your child really want to hold on to the piece, make sure it is displayed in a way that not only honors its importance but also protects it from dust and damage. If a piece is not honored and respected then it has no place in your home - whether it's a science project or a family heirloom.

My friend encourages her children to use their clay creations as they do tend to break or become less important to them and then there is no storage problem to deal with.

Remember: You can throw many things away. I have never met an adult yet who has been handed boxes of childhood memorabilia who has not said they can't believe how much stuff their mother kept and it is just not that important to them as an adult. As the artwork is seen and enjoyed and time goes by the children and parents become less attached to it.

I am asked will my children's school papers last. I know the answer many people give is that poor quality newsprint drawing paper is probably acidic and will deteriorate over time. They go on to say you slow that process down by using acid and lignin free storage materials. My thought is since they are on acidic paper in the first place what does it matter if they are surrounded by acid free covers. I have a baby book that is almost 40 years old and all the paper has been preserved just fine. Even the photographs are clear for the most part. If you're concerned about the longevity of the pieces you've saved, you can photocopy them on acid and lignin free paper or photograph them for posterity.


About the author: Marilyn is a creative organizer who helps women, seniors & their families to create space and end clutter in homes and offices by setting up custom made systems. Visit her website www.marilynbohn.com for free organizing tips.

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