“But Mommy, I Made This!”

“Look what I made in school today” are words that every parent hears starting with daycare all the way through high school. We’re talking about all pieces of paper that serve as reminders of what your child has done and accomplished. These include such things as: artwork, report cards, awards, paintings, science fair exhibits, and reports. The “projects” will change as your child grows, but the same question remains: What do you do with all of them??

To figure out what to do with all of them, you want to ask two questions. You will figure out how to decide what to keep, what to toss, and how to preserve the memories from the projects without cluttering up your walls, fridge, house, and eventually storage areas with all the papers.

Who am I keeping the project for?
As a parent you feel a sense of pride when seeing the work your child has accomplished, and want your child to feel that same sense of pride when they look back at their work. You also feel as though throwing out a project would be wrong because the project isn’t “yours” to throw out. Another common occurrence is attaching emotion to the project. Seeing the artwork as a happy day at school, or a bonding moment between you and your child. In order to feel comfortable deciding what to keep you need to take your feelings out of the equation and think of what your child will see and remember from the project. For example a picture of a toy that you helped them draw will not mean that much to them as it would to you.

How much do I keep, and how do I choose?
First find a medium size plastic tub, about 24”x18”x10”. This is the amount of space you get for saved “projects” for one child from Daycare to 12th Grade. Your child will thank you when they are older and don’t have box after box to go through. Any project larger then this tub is too hard to store, and will be addressed in the solutions area. In choosing what goes in this tub stick with the thought of what will make your child happy to see again. Keep meaningful awards, report cards, medals, genealogy reports as well as stories and poems your kids have written. Think about whether a drawing of your child’s favorite toy is going to mean more to them than their hand prints made into turkeys.

Even by following these rules it is difficult to be okay with throwing something away. The following ideas will help you get over this fear.

Idea #1: “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”
Take a picture of your child holding/wearing/using the project and then a close up picture of the item as well. You can then use an online book company such as I Photo or My Publisher and create a bound book using the pictures of the artwork and your child. These programs let you decided how to make the book. You can create one book per year, included text about the project, included your child’s words, etc. You can even create a flip book, which is just your child’s artwork. This is something that takes up even less space and is something fun and unique they can show their friends.

Idea #2: “All Children have Creative Power”
Let your child decide. On one wall in their room hang a string with clothes pins and let them put up the artwork they want to see. When this gets full help them to decide what goes in their box and what can be let go so their new artwork can go up. This helps start them on a path of being able to make their own choices.

Through all of this process remember that the project was not meant to be a burden to you or your space, but an activity for your child during school. It is up to each parent to decide how to take on the process of what to do with the results from this activity. If you ask yourself the questions above, and figure out the solution you want to strive towards, then you will have a great working system this school year!

Best of Luck!!