| Written by Ronnie |
So here we go. The post that I've been meaning to write for five months now.
Kiddo artwork. The one thing that inspires both awe and fear in my heart. Awe, because it's utterly amazing watching the boys' creativity grow and flourish every single day. Fear, because, with our four boys, there is so much of it. When it was just Angus going to preschool, I had a half-hearted system that kind of sufficed. When Pete started preschool as well, I became very aware of how stunted and ineffective my system was. And then last year, when I had Angus in kindergarden and both Pete and Jamie at preschool, I remember sitting on the stairs and experiencing a meltdown of sorts (around this time of the year in fact) because our formal dining room was literally covered with stuff the boys had brought back from school and stuff that they'd drawn or made at home. My little men were creating like mad, and I desperately needed a kiddo artwork system that could keep up with their output. So I stayed up late one night and mapped out a plan of attack in my trusty Moleskine notebook. At the end of the first time, I tested out my system and it worked a treat. Thus, sanity was finally restored, allowing me to live life and revel in my boys' creativity without the overwhelming sensation that I was constantly drowning in a sea of colourful paper.
When it comes to kiddo artwork, my one big tip is to work out what you want to finish with before you start doing any organising. In other words, do everything with the end in mind. As you'll hear me say over and over again, having a framework is what it's all about.
In this post, I'm going to write about my personal framework when it comes to organising our children's artwork. Your framework will be different to mine. Everybody's framework will look different, because all our circumstances are different. However, by reading about my system, the hope is that you might gain some tips or insights as to how to set up your own framework. If there's anything you don't understand or wish to ask me to clarify further, simply leave me a question in the comments section below.
There are three parts to my framework: 1) the artwork storage points around our home; 2) my daily/quarterly workflow; and 3) my long-term plans for all our kiddo artwork.
1) Artwork storage points
So what do I mean by 'storage points'? Essentially, these are the different places throughout my home where artwork lands, whether it's for a few minutes, a few months, or a few years. Identifying these storage points is essential because you need to do this before you can map out your workflow (which I'll talk about in the next section).
a) 'Interim' storage points
These are the various places in our home where artwork lands temporarily.
- Our dining table: This is the long table in our formal dining room that's pictured in the photos. This is the place where I go through all of the artwork at the end of each term. It's also where the boys put their artwork after they've emptied their bags upon returning from school.
- Our fridge: Each of our four boys have a magnet clip on the fridge that is capable of holding up to about a dozen or so pieces of artwork. For better or worse, this is our 'art gallery,' where artwork is actually put out on display.
- The boys' A4 work boxes: In our family/play room, each of the three big boys have an A4 box which holds their pencil case and whatever stuff they are currently working on, be it colouring in sheets, worksheets, find-a-words, homework, and (of course), artwork.
- The boys' A3 storage boxes: In our formal dining room, we have this awesome mid-century sideboard which we bought on eBay for a couple of hundred dollars. Up until recently, they were more or less empty - partly because I'm a big believer in making empty space a priority in our home and partly because I wanted to save the space for the boys to use down the track. When I was setting up our kiddo artwork system, I purchased three A3 boxes from Officeworks to store their artwork and schoolwork as they brought stuff home throughout the term. As you can see in the top photo, they fit perfectly into the right hand side of the sideboard, with enough room leftover for an additional box when I go to buy one for Edward.
- The boys' cardboard folders: Each of the boys have one of these, and it's a place where I pop bits and pieces of things for them to stick into their scrapbooks (discussed below). These folders live in the middle drawer of the sideboard.
- The bottom sideboard drawer: I've affectionately dubbed this drawer the 'interim holding area.' Essentially, this is a bin of sorts. If I want to chuck something, I place it in this bottom drawer in case the boys want it back. Once this drawer is full (or at the end of the term), I empty it to make room for more stuff to be discarded.
- The playroom drawers: We have a cute little set of drawers in the playroom which we've given the boys to use (you can see photos of it on Trish's blog - it's the one with the 'lunch' sign on top). Pete has the top drawer, Angus has the second drawer, and Jamie has the bottom drawer. (Bear ha his own drawer under the DVD player, which he knows is his. Adorable.). The boys store all their personal knick knacks and 'treasure' in these drawers and more often than not, this includes stuff that their artistic creations.
b) 'Final' storage points
These are the places where artwork lands permanently (at least until I next decide to make a change to the system) as a result of the workflow that I'll discuss in the next section.
- The boys' A3 storage boxes: These are the same boxes that I've written about above. Sounds confusing, but they simply double as a permanent storage place for A3 work that comes home from primary school (I'll discuss this in the next section).
- The boys' A3 scrapbooks: Each of the boys have an A3 scrapbook (made by Quill, with a black hard cover), into which they stick things which they want to keep. I'll write more about this in a separate post but essentially it's a place for things like Sunday School activity sheets, birthday invitations, photographs that the boys have taken on Nan's camera, and all other random bits and bobs that I might otherwise throw out.
- The boys' A4 binders: This is the final resting place of all the boys' A4 and A5 artwork and schoolwork. All their work is grouped by the four school terms, with 'special' work from each term featured at the front of each term's section in plastic sleeves. The most recent A4 binders are stored in the play room on the same shelf as the A4 work boxes, so that the boys can easily flip through the binders to look at their work if they wish to do so. The older ones are stored in the dining room sideboard, over on the left hand side. The binders are by Marbig and are plain white ones with two rings. You can buy them from any Officeworks, newsagency, or Big W.
- My IKEA Alex drawers: These are located in my studio upstairs, and they are the final resting place of the boys' A3 and A2 preschool artwork.
a) Workflow throughout the term
Throughout the term, as the boys create art at home or at Sunday School, I try to date their work and then pop them onto the fridge. As the magnets start to slip down the fridge door, I move all the hanging art into the A3 storage boxes.
Artwork that they bring home from school and preschool usually have the date already on them. As the boys empty their schoolbags each day, they know to put their artwork onto the table in our formal dining room. I then go through, and put their stuff straight into their A3 storage boxes.
b) Workflow at the end of each term
At the end of each term, I set aside three to four hours during the school holidays to do the following:
- First I gather all the boys' artwork and creations from the various interim storage points: the fridge, the A4 work boxes, the playroom drawers, and the A3 storage boxes. I group each of the boys' stuff together.
- I hole punch all the A4 and A5 artwork and schoolwork and put them into the A4 white binders - each of the boys have their own. I then choose a handful of special items that I feel highlight their artistic developments and I slip them into plastic sleeves which I place at the front of all the artwork from that term. As I run out of room in a particular binder, I simply start a new binder. This means that over time, I'll have each of the boys' artwork (and schoolwork) organised chronologically, with the special items being easily accessible and visible at the front of each section.
- I gather all the A3 and A2 artwork from preschool, and I take it upstairs to my studio. I put a small label on each pile to identify the term and the year before putting the artwork into the corresponding drawer for each boy.
- Because there are only a few items of A3 artwork from primary school every term, I simply leave these at the bottom of the A3 storage box.
- For all three-dimensional artwork creations (ie. anything that deosn't lie flat), I photograph these by holding them up against the wall. I then empty the bottom sideboard drawer (ie. the 'interim holding area') of all items from the previous term before filling it up again with all the 3D crafts from most recent term.
- I collect all other things like Sunday School activity sheets and other bits of memorabilia, and pop them into the boys' A4 cardboard folders, for them to stick into their A3 scrapbooks at the next scrapbooking session. I'll write more about this in another post.
3) Long-term plans
At the beginning of the post, I talked about keeping the end in mind throughout all this. In other words, in what form, format or medium do you want to store and document your children's artwork in the short term and into the future? A big part of this is working out your boundaries, which I suspect will be largely determined by how much time and budget you have, and how much storage space your home has.
For me, personally, I've worked out that for the next few years at least, I'm happy for all the A4/A5 artwork and school to remain in the A4 binders as they are. I don't feel that I need to 'scrapbook' them any further. Keep it simple and stupid is my mantra, especially with four kiddos. The only thing I'd probably want to do at some point is to go through each of the binders and discard some of the content. However, my plan is to wait a few years, by which time I'll (hopefully) have a better idea of what the boys bring home from primary school, which will then allow me to properly assess and evaluate what to keep and what to discard.
Additionally, I plan to scan the A3 and A2 paintings from the IKEA drawers after all the boys have been through preschool and turn them into a photo book for each of the boys (which would then allow me to discard the actual paintings themselves). I'm also planning to do the same thing with the photos that I've taken of their (discarded) 3D crafts.
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Every term, Rick always tells me in jest that I'm allowed to just throw it all out. Quite frankly, I don't need him to remind me at all, because there's always a voice in my head telling me the very same thing - especially when I'm sitting in the middle of a sea of artwork and all I want to do is lie down or drink coffee! However, what I've come to realise is that this is so much more than just organising stuff. Managing and storing the boys' artwork is as much about memory keeping as anything else. The work that they do, and the art that they create, is a huge part of who they are and where they're at. Seeing the world through their eyes, and being able to look back to see how their perception has grown and changed over time, is just - priceless.
Would love to hear how you handle all your kiddo artwork, if you care to share!