It starts when they’re so little—kids creating loads of adorable toddler “artwork,” from tiny handprints pressed into clay to abstract finger paintings.
Before you know it they amass scribbled drawings of trucks and dinosaurs, rainbows and cats. They beam with pride at every picture of their house and portrait of the family, often titled “I Love My Family” or something equally heart melting. At times the amount of artwork that the kids produce seems endless, especially during their preschool years, when each and every piece of artwork is nothing short of precious.
But what happens when the refrigerator door reaches critical mass, and the piles of artwork soars ever higher, urging you to purge it all and never look back? It means it’s time to organize. And while that seems daunting, there are quite a few options on that front these days that can help you hold onto the memories without wasting space.
Your first chore is to dig through the piles of artwork that you already have. I have done this several times, and because I’ve amassed so much, it was relatively easy to get rid of some of the less-than-amazing items that I had saved on the day they first came home. Then, get out your phone and get to work.
Take photos on your phone through this free app. With each upload, categorize each piece by child, age, and custom tags. It’s simple and easy to use. After you take a picture you can quickly crop, edit, add filters, and color-correct photos to your liking, then add an optional caption. You can also share on Facebook or Twitter, or create a “share circle” of people to email with art they might enjoy. After you’ve snapped pictures (more than 40 photos will require a membership; $3 a month gets you unlimited photo storage), you can order high-quality, hardcover books straight through the app or companion website. The books feature one piece of art per page, which helps keep things simple for those of us who are design-challenged.
If you are overwhelmed and want someone else to do the work, Artkive will do it for you. The company will send you a box to fill with your kids’ art. Then they will professionally photograph the artwork, upload it to your account and send you back a well-designed hardcover book. The cost depends on how many pieces of art you want digitized. A book with 50 pictures will cost about $120, which also includes all shipping and access to scanned images. Artkive also offers a digitize-only option, if you don’t want a book but want your kids’ artwork off your dining room table.
The Keepy app allows you to quickly snap pictures of artwork, do a few simple edits and categorize by kid, date, place and categories like grade or age (which is great for when you’re uploading a batch of older artwork). In addition, you can add a voice memo or video to the memory, which makes it easy to tell the kids a story about their artwork for them to enjoy when they’re older. You can order products with your kids’ artwork on it—including magnets, phone cases and apparel. And you can easily share with friends via social media and by sharing your galleries on the Keepy website (this is especially helpful for sharing with the grandparents). You can also sync your gallery with Dropbox.
Shutterfly is one of the original photobook-making websites, and it has gotten better with age. In addition to its free photo storage, the range of book styles is vast, as is the selection of products you can buy through the site. All you’ll need to do is snap pictures or scan the kids’ best artwork, upload and start drafting your book. Shutterfly even has a Mini Masterpieces template that will get you started in the right direction. Books range in price from $20–$40 and sales are frequent.
This service is an all-concierge website. Mail in the artwork you love, let the company scan and professionally photograph the artwork and create your book for you. You check over your proof and press print. You can also order products like home décor items. Book prices range; a book with 50 images starts at $120. If you want them to just digitize the artwork, the cost is $70 for 50 images.
If you’re not into digitizing your kids’ artwork and prefer holding onto pieces for your kids to enjoy when they’re older, consider creating a memory box. Choose a few favorite pieces of work throughout the year to hold onto and file them away by year. Local organizing business, Systems by Susie, offers a memory box system complete with personalized graphics for $20–$95 at systemsbysusie.com.