Is your home crammed with works of art produced by your kids? Do they come home from nursery/pre-school/school/after-school club every day with a new creation?

How do you decide what to keep and what to let go? What if you slip something into the recycling only for your child to break their heart over the loss? And what about your memories? Won’t you want to look back on each stage of their development in the future?

These questions frequently come up when I help parents declutter, so I’m over the moon to welcome Jacqui Shankly to Green and Tidy. As both a Mum, and an Early Years Creative Consultant, Jacqui is ideally placed to advise on how to assess what’s treasure and what’s ephemeral.

Here’s what she says…

The first thing to remember when your pre-schooler presents you with a lovely work of art is that for a young child, the process of production is more important than the output.

Your child will have put thought and effort into colour, texture, which brush to use; they may have thought up a story or a song while they created, and all of this will be fresh in their mind.

Their picture provides an opportunity for you to talk, and to share in what Early Years practitioners  loftily call “sustained shared thinking”. Ask questions which show you are genuinely interested in ‘how’ they went about their creation. You will find a lot out, and this information will help you decide what to keep, and what can go, and not have that decision haunt you forever!

Here are five ways to decide what to do with their latest creation.

1. Ask them!

Ask your child if they want you to keep it.  They usually have a clear idea as to whether it is something they are proud of and want to tell you all about, or something they have brought home because the teacher told them to.  If they don’t want to keep it, then ask them to help you pop it in the recycling (better than the bin as it gives you a week’s grace to retrieve should they change their mind!).

2. Have a WOW wall.

Make a space in your home, where works of which your child is particularly proud are displayed.  Allow your child to choose what goes on the wall.  When the wall is full, something must come down before something else can go up. Your child can choose which item could come down.

3. Name it.

If it is going on the WOW wall, name it (vital if you have more than one child!) and date it.  If the work demonstrates something really special, write it on the back (e.g. “Jesse drew the sheep that we had seen on our holidays”). This will help you later on – trust me.

4. Make a memory box.

When it’s time to remove an item from the WOW wall, ask your child if it is still special to them. If it is, it can go in a memory box. If not, then it can go in the recycling. If it is really special to you, then by all means keep it in the memory box.

As the memory box gets full, go through it, and discard things you no longer feel an attachment to, or in which your child is no longer interested.

Refer to the dates and memories on the back of the pictures to help you make your decisions, and keep really special ones, but you can happily discard duplications. You don’t need 20 pictures of the holiday sheep – one will do as a lovely reminder of how special the holiday was to you all.

5. Take photos.

Take photos of art works that you don’t feel you can forget about entirely, but have no room left for.  (Good tip for remembering those letters to Santa).

You will end up with a treasured collection of artwork and photos that show your child’s artistic progression, and reminds you of happy times – not an attic full of ripped paper covered in coloured pasta and flaky paint.

Jacqui is a freelance Early Years Creative Consultant, working in partnership with nurseries, playgroups and charitable organisations throughout the West Midlands and Staffordshire. Her mission is to harness the power of the creative arts, and put them to good use – enhancing young children’s social, emotional and communication talents.

When she isn’t playing, you can find her musing on her blog, which provides warm hearted practical support to help parents cope with everyday life – with the minimum of stress, and maximum love and laughter.


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