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May 04, 2022

Storing and Saving Kids Art Work

All three of my bigger children could sit and do art for days, and days, and days. They seriously love to create. And, I love that about them. Their creative little minds and souls bring so much beauty into this world. However, with all this creation comes a lot of product - a book, a poster of cut up and glued scraps of paper, comic strips, and paintings. You take that times three or four kids and suddenly you have a huge pile of art. 

A different version of me could be a sentimental person. But, the current version of me - not so much. I don't really feel called to save every piece of art, or even most pieces that my kids make. They sometimes feel the same, sometimes differently. So, how do we store and save art work from my kids? 

Saving Children's Artwork in Our Montessori Home

First, I want to quickly address feelings around saving artwork from kids. Sometimes we feel compelled to save everything in case it hurts our children's feelings to recycle it. But, is that really coming from them? For many children in the first plane of development (under 6-years-old), art is all about the process. They are interested in the doing, not the final product. Sometimes the interest in the product comes from our own reactions - excessive praise, for example. 

If we are showing them to value every single scribble, they will pick up on that. But, very often they don't care what happens to their art and will create many versions of similar things just to enjoy the process. So, in the first plane, I don't always consult with my kids about what art we are saving. They often are confused by that question and it contributes to putting more and more value in production than enjoying the process.

In the second plane (ages 6-12) children do become much more interested in the product - in the thing they are creating. Here you may see a lot more feelings about keep specific pieces of art. In this case, I always want to give control (within limits) to my children. I want them feel empowered to evaluate their belongings and know when it's time to let things go. The choice to save something or not, is ultimately up to them.

Storing Artwork in Our Montessori Home

Our solution really is only one possible way to do it in a Montessori home. If you are creating a process in your home, think about:
  • developmental stages and needs of your children
  • how to create appropriate limits
  • how to encourage independence and agency for your children in the process

So keeping these ideas about saving in mind, how do we store art? Remember those limits I mentioned? Those come from the environment. We have a designated small bin (when we had less children it was a tray) where all art goes when the kids are done with it. The only artwork we save is what can fit in the bin. So once the bin is full we go through it, separate it out into piles and start to make some decisions. By giving the environment power, we take the emotions out of it. It's not me making the decision, it's simply a space issue. They can easily see the issue and the limit. It doesn't change based on my feelings or any value placed on the work. It just is what it is. 

Right now, I will make decisions about Teddy and Gus. For Teddy, I will pretty much recycle everything he does. He isn't super into art but holds no attachment to his work. Gus I will go through recycle but will ask him if there's something that seems important. He is on the cusp of the second plane and this gives him some practice. 

Henry and Nora make their own decisions about what to recycle and what to keep. But, they know that they can only keep what fits. So the more they keep, the less they can keep that's newer. Generally, they are really good about knowing what is important to them and what they are ready to pass on. Sometimes they even start and finish the purging process on their own because they need or want more room.

How do you store and save art in your home?

Montessori ideas for storing and saving children's art work at home.


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Stacey said…
I still don’t understand, sorry. That one bin for all the kids for all of elementary years? Do Henry and Nora ever move items? Do they have their own keep forever bin? Or other storage in their room? Does anything get hung up?
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
We don't have a forever keep bin, they can keep it as long as they want in that bin. No other storage. They are welcome to hang up things around the house if they want, and I have a couple of things framed.