What do you do with all that beautiful child art? A minimalist approach.

Last updated on March 26, 2024.

Is your child a budding artist? Does he or she create more pieces than you can keep up with?

My son, who is now almost 6, is a budding little artist and makes A LOT of art! He has been creating art since he was under 2, and I am guilty of saving almost all of it. I did not realize how quickly it would all accumulate. And if you’re a mom, you’ll understand when I say I think that all my child’s art is beautiful!

Painting by my son at age 2 and a half, abstract colors on paper.
Scan of a painting by my son at age two and a half.

Do you have tons of art that you think is lovely and you can’t let go of? That’s perfectly normal, so don’t feel bad about it. But what do you do with all of that art – especially if you’re trying to reduce clutter or even striving for minimalism?

If you search Google or Pinterest you will find many great ideas! I was inspired by other bloggers and people searching for a solution to the same problem. Marie Kondo would say I should keep only the pieces that spark joy. I was also inspired by The Minimalists, who recommend scanning your photos and documents and letting go of the hard copies – so why not child art as well? I opted to scan and photograph the majority of my son’s art and make a Shutterfly photo book – and it came out beautiful!

So how did I do it? I managed to do it while working full-time, after bedtime. I’ll explain my process next.

White clay Thanksgiving turkey sculpture made by my son at age 3, with beads, googly eyes, and colorful feathers stuck in it.
Photo of a Thanksgiving turkey sculpture made by my son at age three.

“Nothing a child ever does is trash. It is practice.” -Naomi Shihab Nye, Cast Away: Poems For Our Time

Organizing

First I had to organize everything. The art pieces accumulated quickly over just a few years and I had stored it all in three bins. Over the years, I had managed to write information on the backs of most art pieces, such as the date and what my son said about the piece or titled it. I did this because a colleague advised me to document those things. That was great advice!

So for several nights, I sorted the art by year. Next, I sorted the stacks into the months of each year, in order. As I sorted, I selected my very favorite pieces – the ones that spark joy! – and set those aside, as I plan to put those together in a scrapbook later this summer.

Stack of sorted art pieces.
Stack of sorted art pieces.

Digitizing

Once I had everything organized, I started photographing and scanning the art, working on just a month’s worth at a time. I have an Epson scanner and I scanned all of the art pieces I could. Some of the art was larger than the scanning bed, and other pieces were three-dimensional. For those, I set up a basic background using a folded black poster board on a table next to a lamp with two light sources. I simply set up each piece in the best light I could and photographed those pieces using my iPhone on the HDR setting.

"Foil fish" art piece that my son and I made together.
“Foil fish” that my son and I made together.

Making the Photo Book

I put the images into folders divided by year and as I went through each month, I uploaded them into Shutterfly and designed my photo book. You can use any online photo service, I just already had an account with Shutterfly. I do recommend a larger-sized photo book. I chose 12 x 12 which is the same size as a standard scrapbook, and I’m super happy with it.

Cover of the photo book with rainbow heart background.
Cover of the photo book, featuring a photo of my son painting. I removed his name and pixelated his face for privacy. The backside is a similar background with additional photos of my son working on various art projects.
Interior page of the photo book.
Interior pages of the photo book.

Most online photo services offer a large variety of backgrounds, colorful embellishments, fonts, layouts, and many other design options included in the price. This book ended up being about 90 pages. I also opted for the hardcover version with the lay-flat option, both of which cost slightly more. After applying a few coupon codes at the end, this book still cost quite a bit, almost $75. Without the coupons, the retail price would have been over $200.

However, it probably would have cost me almost as much to buy a scrapbook, scrapbook paper, stickers, and other embellishments to go along with it. And for me, it was just as fun as scrapbooking and completely worth the money. I will cherish this book forever.

What will I do with the art pieces now?

Since I’m going to let them go, I’m of course going to separate all of the recyclables (mostly paper) and recycle them. Some of the non-recyclables (beads, buttons, pipe cleaners) can be put back into our art supplies. I’ve now made my son’s art organized and accessible. The art book is so easy to pull out and look through, whereas the art in storage bins was not.

Strict minimalism would probably suggest just tossing everything, keeping the memory of the art, and saving the money. But if you’re like me and feel that your child’s art is just too dear to part with, you might find this a good compromise.

I am currently working on a second book because this book only went up through 2017. I’m enjoying putting it together.

UPDATE February 11, 2024: Since writing this, I’ve put together several photo books of my son’s art (he’s made a lot of art over the years). I physically kept only the most special pieces. I hung some on the walls and the rest I put into a scrapbook. Everything else I scanned or photographed and put in the photo books. For me, this is still the best way to preserve my child’s art. I enjoy getting the books out and paging through them.

I hope this post inspires you to do something fun and creative with your child’s art! Please subscribe and leave me a comment below about your project!

 

All photos in this post were taken by Marie Cullis. This post contains no affiliate links, nor was I paid to review Shutterfly’s product.

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