What To Do With Children’s Arts And Crafts- Display… Trash… Burn… What?!

I often have people ask me what I do with all of my children’s arts and crafts activities when they’re all finished. It’s very common for kids to want to keep it all, but that’s not always realistic. I don’t like piles of things around my house. So what should you do? How much should you keep?

what to do with arts and crafts projects

We do not keep everything. And my kids know that we don’t. Here are some options that work for us:

Display children’s arts and crafts

Some things are able to be displayed in the children’s bedroom (my older kids each have a bulletin board in their room for this purpose.) Some of their art adorns our refrigerator for time. I even have a simple clothes line in our play room where they can hang things the kids are currently proud of.

displaying children artwork

Our “display” wall, complete with chalkboard paint.

Hey, you might even end up with a handful of masterpieces that you want to frame and keep forever.

When we make seasonal things (such as Christmas or Easter crafts) we generally display it through the season. When it’s been displayed long enough, read on for more options. 😉

Have a place for children to put their work, and set limits

I always have a place for kids to put their fresh artwork. So when they’re like “Look, Mommy! I drew you a picture”… and I’m cooking dinner, I can say “Wow, it’s beautiful! put it in your drawer so it doesn’t get lost, ok?” I have a set of 3 plastic drawers for this, each labeled with their name.

what to do with kid art

Last month, my kids got really into origami. Then it seemed like my house was raining origami. So I provided Lydia with a plastic tub. She may keep as much origami as fits in the tub, and when it’s full, she chooses what to get rid of.

When your “put it away” place gets full, read on for more options.

Try to make useful things

Most recently, Lydia has been on a big pot-holder-weaving-kick. Great! I have several new additions to my pot holder drawer in the kitchen. If they make jewelry, put it in their jewelry box. Craft on a bag. Decorate a shirt. Make a rosary. Anything you can make into a Christmas ornament is a big plus! All useful things.

woven pot holders- kid craft

Pot holders crafted by Lydia

Give it away

When your pot holder drawer is getting full, encourage your children to make pot holders for others! And melty bead creations. And rubber band bracelets. And whatever else your kid is into right now. Give them to grandma, and neighbors, and Godparents, and old people at church. Make a stock pile of things for Operation Christmas Child boxes, or donate things to children’s shelters. Don’t forget about the possibility of mailing stuff to distant relatives!

Keep a portfolio

As a homeschooler in South Carolina, I am required to keep a portfolio of my children’s school work. I keep all of our favorite artsy/crafty things (that can be made flat) in the same portfolio. Each new school year, my kids each get a big 3 ring binder. I fill it with clear page protectors, and drop their work in as the year goes on.

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child art portfolios

Lydia’s portfolios for 5K, 1st grade, and 2nd grade

When their “put it away” drawers get full, I pull everything out, fill the binders with the best stuff, get rid of the not-as-good-stuff, and then start fresh with empty drawers.

sorting child artwork

When I was a kid, my mom gave us a piece of poster board each year to decorate. She then stapled another piece of poster board to it on 3 sides, making a giant pocket. We could keep everything we wanted from that year that could fit in the folder. Her attic is still full of these- lol.

Prevent it

What I mean by this is, encourage your children to create some things that aren’t keepable. For instance, provide them with good magnadoodles to prevent tons of pictures from piling up in the first place. This tip is also good for the trees. 🙂 Another example of this would be sidewalk chalk pictures. Certainly can’t keep those! Yet another example would be to make edible crafts. Yum, yum!

what to do with child art

When you end up with an unexpected masterpiece in an unkeepable medium, move onto the next step- Photograph it!

Photograph it

I photograph pretty much everything (it’s the blogger in me that makes me do it), but I really do feel better about getting rid of stuff after it’s been properly documented. Sure does take up a lot less space on my computer hard-drive then in my house.

child made bird puppets

Bird puppets, made by Lydia, photographed by me. 🙂

Trash it!

Yep, that’s right. When it doubt, throw it out! When I am going through projects and throwing out a bunch at one time, I generally do it after bedtime, I use a paper bag (opaque) and I take it directly out to the outside trash can. If I’m throwing away just one thing, I fold or crumple it first, then make sure to cover it in the can with other trash. No reason to torture the kids by flaunting the fact that their art ended up in the trash. However, by the time it’s in the trash, it’s generally been long forgotten because it has already spent several months in the drawers where they “turn it in”. I never throw away the newest thing that they’re super proud of.

Getting rid of things isn’t sad, it just means out with the old so you have room for the new.

What about you? How do you deal with all of your kid’s arts and crafts?

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  1. I tell my kids that the artist needs to care enough about their art to preserve it. Real artists reuse canvas rather than waste space on things they aren’t proud of. If it’s not your best work, then it was practice. My kids have become very good at culling down to their best stuff — sometimes to the point that I need to override and keep some things.

  2. Lynne Tibor says

    Another good idea to “save” crafts is to take a picture of a grouping of the art and then dispose. Of course there are always those pieces that are a little sentimental, so I frame them for seasonal use. Mine children are 18 and 12 now so for example I have their “snow” art – one piece each from their younger years, framed, and this goes up during the winter in the family room. Easter/Resurrection pieces, summer, fall etc. are framed and hung. This makes for great art and good memories!

  3. Lynne Tibor says

    Another idea while at it! Taking a picture can come in handy as it can be used as a “digital” wallpaper for the family computer!

  4. I take pictures or scan my daughter’s art and transfer it into sdcards for digital picture frames I have my wall. One is for horizontal art and one for vertical so they look right but it’s great. Her art is right up there with my Kandinsky’s and O’Keefe’s.

  5. I keep seasonal stuff, even year to year. There’s a terribly unorganized bin with the favorites. The rest I have to smuggle out of the house like a Mexican drug lord.

  6. Lacy, I’m so glad you included “trash it!” I’ve had people look at me like I’ve just admitted to committing child abuse when I say I don’t keep every single little “masterpiece” they scribble on! I tend to do a combination of your photograph and portfolio method. I photograph or scan art (flat and three dimensional) and use a site like shutterfly to create a book with the photographs. (Then I trash the art!) I’ve done books of just art and also books where I include art photos in with family photos. (A photo of a painting of a Christmas tree with the family Christmas pictures.) I’ve also made some neat presents on shutterfly using photographs of the kids art. They have mugs, magnets, Christmas ornaments, etc. and always have sales!

  7. When mine were younger we would keep most things in a plastic drawer (each child had a drawer that was big enough to fit the large pieces of construction paper). At the end of the year we would sort the keepers, photograph them surrounded by their toss-outs, and put the keepers in a binder portfolio. I used page protectors to keep the smaller items and large pieces would get folded and hole-punched.

  8. One question I have about trashing artwork. I always feel bad throwing away representations of Jesus, Mary, the Saints, etc. even if they are just coloring pages, or other simple crafts. I have asked around and I guess the general consensus is say a prayer and just toss it, but I was wondering if you have any better ideas. Thanks.

  9. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!! I needed some tips to help me organize my children’s art. Now that I have four, the piles just get too high, and I really like the idea of having the set of drawers with each name on a drawer.

  10. I have this same system–a bin for each child to put finished stuff that can be sorted through later for the “good stuff”–my next step that I would suggest is to involve the kids in the scrapbooking of the things you want to keep–They each have an ever-growing scrapbook (I limit the number of pages we create so, over the years, I end up with a manageable finished product). It is a homeschool “art credit” to complete the scrapbooking/framing/mailing off to grandma tasks with me. If it was up to me alone to do this for 5 kids, it just might not happen. They enjoy making their future memorabilia book with me and I git ‘er done!! Older sibs enjoy helping me do it for the littles until they’re old enough.

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