Managing Mounds of Kids Artwork

Lucy artwork

Are you a parent? Congratulations! This means you have a kid! Which means you probably have TONS of kids artwork. Hundreds — or even thousands — of sheets of paper, covered with colored squiggles, broad, dramatic paint strokes, googly eyes, traced-hands-turkeys, houses with no doors, heads, arms, and legs with no bodies, and story after story after story. You may even have encountered the feeling that you are drowning in paper, literally or metaphorically. Moms and dads, I see you. And I’m here to help.

I have twin daughters who love to draw and write, so for each year of school, I had double the number of pages coming home. Before we were even done with preschool I knew I had to find a solution to this problem, and pronto, before elementary school began and the artwork would be supplemented with handwriting exercises, arithmetic worksheets, and composition books. And I’m pleased to be able to report, I did find a solution; one that worked amazingly well. My kids are now in the 8th grade and we have exactly ONE box of keepsake artwork for each of them. And each box is only half full. But it’s a nice sampling of the kind of drawing and writing they were doing from age 4 to 14 (so far), as well as programs from performances, ticket stubs from special shows, each year’s holiday card, and a few photos here and there (obviously I have millions of photos stored all over my computer and the cloud — no kid today will ever suffer from too few photos of themselves).

Once you’ve decided which artwork to keep and which artwork to toss (under cover of darkness, when there are no kids to thwart you) what do you do with it? It’s fun to hang their masterpieces in your house, but covering the fridge with stuff can get so messy. Well the fine folks at Charlotte Today asked me to join them and share some ideas for displaying your your pint-sized Picasso’s pieces of art. I also explain my process for deciding what to keep and what to toss. Check out the video:

Video not working? Click here.

On the air I showed 3 basic ways to show your children’s artwork, but while I have your attention, I thought I’d share a few more.

Twine and Clothes Pins

ahappynest_artwall1 ahappynest_artwall2

This is an idea you’ve probably seen before, on design blogs or on Pinterest, which shows you what a great idea it is. It’s super easy to create, you can hang art of all different sizes, and it’s simple to change the art or just add to the display as new artwork comes in. I borrowed these great images from Nikole from A Happy Nest. She put two screws in the wall, strung a piece of twine between them, and used clothes pins to hang each piece. Regular sized clothes pins work great, or you can find mini clothes pins in craft stores like Michael’s or Jo-Ann. The art will look great clipped to jute, baker’s twine, ribbon, or monofilament. And if you’re not motivated enough to get out the screwdriver, you can even hang the line with thumbtacks. Whatever works for you, it will look great. And your kid will be thrilled.

Spiral Bound Notebooks

Sometimes your kids bring home a series of pieces where every piece is great, but you don’t necessary want to put the whole series on the wall. Or you may find, when you’re looking back through that box from last year, that you have a bunch of work from the same time period that’s all so great you don’t want to get rid of any of it. Or you may find that you just have a bunch of pieces of the same size. These are all great candidates for a spiral bound book. Any local copy shop (Sir SpeedyFedex Office, Staples, etc.). can do this for you and let me tell you, it looks fantastic! When one of my daughters was in preschool, she drew a picture of every kid in her class. The style was amazing and I loved every one of the drawings. So I made them into a book, with a cover that she designed that says, “My Friends.” We have a few others, and both of my kids love flipping through them and laughing at how “bad” they used to be at drawing. Ha!




Mod Podge Boards

Chances are, if you have ever used Mod Podge before, you love it. Like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there is very little Mod Podge cannot do. And for preserving your favorite children’s artwork in a truly special way, it has no equal. Especially considering how simple and inexpensive it is.


I got an 8ft long 1 x 12 board from Home Depot and asked the lumber guy to cut it for me into 9″ lengths. This gave me ten 9 x 12 pieces that were perfect for mounting 8.5 x 11 paper. I painted and stained the wood to work well with the different art I chose to mount. Then I Mod Podged the artwork onto the board and let it dry completely (if you don’t, the paper may ripple and bubble). Finally, using a sponge brush, I applied a few coats of Mod Podge to the whole board, artwork and all. This seals the art to the board, and gives the whole thing a nice protective finish (I like matte, but they have glossy, satin, and even glitter). The finished boards look amazing arranged in a collage on the wall. And my kids LOVE them, especially as they get older.

What have you done to manage all your kids’ artwork? Have you come up with some clever ideas for displaying it in your house? I’d love to see! Share with us in the comments, or head over to the Facebook page and post some photos! If you’re an Instagram fan, tag your photos with #stepawayfromthescreen so I can see what you’ve created!

Yard Art Day 2013

Follow the rainbow brick road.

Remember Yard Art Day? Well happy happy, we did it again this year!

This time around we wanted to create something that had fewer steps, and required fewer power tools, but would hopefully make an equally large impact. I’ve been drawn to great street art lately, so we decided to take our inspiration from that.

We knew we didn’t want to create something permanent since it would be in front of our house, so instead of using paint we pulverized dozens of sticks of chalk in the blender, added water, and created chalk paint.

A couple of hours later, we had a gorgeous, rainbow sidewalk!

And a couple of hours after that, we had a gorgeous, tie dyed sidewalk thanks to an unfortunately timed rainstorm.

Aaaaaaand, scene.

But it didn’t matter one bit. We had so much fun creating it that it was almost sweet to watch it melt away.

Long live Yard Art Day!


Step Away from the Screen : No. 113

My daughter Lucy made this butterfly using a technique called paper quilling. One of my favorite people, Christine Dryden of Stir Studios, worked with Lucy’s class at school to create some amazing quilled artwork that was shown at our annual Gallery Crawl. We’re so lucky to have amazing artists like Christine at our school; artists who are willing to step away from their screens — and their own work — to work with our children on interesting projects like these.

Be sure to click on this to see it big. It’s pretty amazing.