A Fool-Proof System for Organizing Kid Artwork In Your Home
When your kids first start dipping those chubby little fingers into fingerpaint or scribbling a fat crayon across a page, it doesn’t take long for the fridge to become covered in children’s artwork.
If you feel like you’re drowning in tiny masterpieces, then you’re not alone.
Organizing kid’s artwork can feel like a never-ending chore, but the key is to create a system.
We manage kid artwork in our house using a three-step system:
SHOW — SORT — STORE
I’m going to walk you through each step. And stick around until the end, because I have an awesome printable that will help you organize your child’s artwork into an instant yearly portfolio.
The best part about this system is that it works for any type of school papers, not just artwork, so it seamlessly flows into the upper grades. Math tests, school essays, or science projects — I’ve got you covered.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Step 1: Show
As soon as your little Picasso starts creating artwork, it will quickly become clear that the fridge is not going to cut it.
We display artwork on a string of wire using clothespins. I love this method for displaying artwork because it can accommodate art of any size or shape, and you can hang as many strings of wire as makes sense for your family.
This display method makes a great family conversation piece and helps your child know that you value their creations.
Since we move so frequently, I appreciate that this system packs down into just a ziploc bag, and we can hang it anywhere that works in our next house.
In Boston, we strung this in our capacious kitchen. Here in Guatemala, our kitchen is pretty tiny, so we’ve hung this in our daughter’s bedroom. Who knows where this will end up in our next house.
You can find these supplies at your local hardware store or online for about $20 total. All you need are:
- metal hooks
- wire and a wire clamp
Step 2: Sort
The next step is to routinely sort through the display of artwork to determine what to keep and what to, ahem, recycle.
I have a tray on my desk labeled “kid artwork”. Around the end of each month, I take down all the artwork on display and move it to my artwork inbox tray. This frees up space to hang new artwork.
How often you do this step depends on how prolific your little artist is — you might need to do this weekly or maybe just once a term.
If you have a child who is sensitive to seeing an empty display at the start of each month, you can simply take down just a few pieces each week and replace them with new creations.
I also encourage you to routinely ask your child about their creations.
Which pieces are they particularly proud of? Which ones make them feel extra happy whenever they look at them?
I set aside any pieces of art that demonstrate a particular skill, that my child especially enjoys, or that I just personally love.
The rest are recycled, with no guilt or shame on my part.
Hot tip: Recycle artwork when your child isn’t home, and take out the recycling right away.
I’ve had to re-hang every single piece of recycled art before when my curious preschooler found the recycling bin before I’d emptied it.
Child Artwork Labels
I have created special labels that I can attach to the back of the child’s artwork in order to record the date, the skill demonstrated, or a special memory associated with the piece.
Don’t worry, I’m going to share these with you — you can download by clicking the link below:
I print off a stack of these labels at the start of the school year, and I keep them in my “Child Art” inbox tray for quick access.
After I jot down a short note, I slip the artwork into a page protector in my homeschool binder. These go in chronological order, so by the end of the year, I have an instant portfolio — perfect for homeschool families or for any families who want to keep a schoolwork momento.
Step 3: Store
Whenever I have a few minutes, I go through the art inbox tray and make my final decisions about what to keep and what to toss. I add labels to any pieces that I forgot to record at the moment. I aim to keep around 3-5 special pieces per month.
Ultimately, the artwork ends up in one of three places:
- most are slipped into page protectors in our homeschool binder
- oversized pieces go into a child art portfolio
- pieces that can’t be stored are photographed and saved to a folder on my computer
For large pieces of artwork, I use a child-size art portfolio labeled by age.
For those pieces that can’t be stored because they have components that might mold (playdough, glued-on noodles, edible fingerpaints), I just take a picture and store the file in a folder on my computer:
Education –> Child’s Name –> Year
If you choose, you can compile these photos into a scrapbook either annually or perhaps as a special graduation present. Whatever you choose, the files are easy to access whenever you’re ready.
How to Store Children’s School Work
Each of my children has a plastic file bin, with a folder for each school year. At the end of the year, I put the school portfolio into the file bin.
I adopted this method from IHeart Organizing, but I had to adapt some of the materials to fit our homeschool and based on what was available.
I recommend buying waterproof bins. This gives me peace of mind during our moves, knowing that even if there’s some water damage to the shipment, our school memories are safe.
I also recommend buying three-ring binders, or some type of binder that can otherwise be re-arranged. When you find a piece of artwork stashed in a backpack, you don’t want to have to re-order everything by hand.
Also, when you find a binder that you like, I recommend that you buy a set for all 12 grades so that they match.
Wondering what you need to set this system up? Here’s your shopping list:
School Paperwork Storage System Supplies:
- Waterproof bin (one per child)
- File folders (one per grade)
- Label maker or labels
- Large letter stickers (optional) to decorate/label bin
- Three-ring binders, one for each school year
- Page protectors
- Binder printables
- Artwork Labels (download below) and label paper
- Child’s Art Portfolio
How Long Does it Take To Organize Kid Artwork?
SHOWING kid artwork takes just a minute or two each week. It took my husband maybe half an hour to hang the wires up when we first moved in, and now I just have to clip the art up whenever the stack of papers collects too high on the dining table.
When I remember, I try to label pieces as I hang them up, but I don’t always get that far.
SORTING artwork takes maybe fifteen minutes at the end of the month. I have a recurring reminder on my planner to empty the inbox tray. I look through pieces for evidence of progress, for emerging skills, or for special memories, and I label anything I want to keep.
STORING children’s artwork takes just a few minutes after they’ve been sorted. Anything that fits into a page protector goes immediately into the homeschool binder (which sits on a shelf in my desk). Larger pieces are slipped into the portfolio, which lives in my daughter’s closet.
Setting up the storage system took me an afternoon, but I love that kind of stuff so it wasn’t hard at all.
Check out my post on back-to-school printables.I also have some great ideas for back-to-school shopping for homeschool families!
A Simple System for Children’s Art Organization
The beautiful thing about this system is that once you’ve set it up, it only takes a few minutes each month to maintain.
And, best of all, the hardest part is the initial set up (collecting your bins, labeling your file folders, hanging the wires). For each school year that follows, you just print off some new binder pages and stick them in a new binder.
Show me your kid art!
How do you display and store kid artwork in your home? Comment below or tag me on Instagram at @Simple_Tender_Joyful.