How to organize and display toddler art

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About four months ago, I noticed that there was no more space on the walls, the windows, or the refrigerator for one more Mon Cœur (MC) masterpiece. Our daughter is only two and a half, and yet in her thus-far short career, she has made quite a few pieces of artwork. Between story time crafts, daycare crafts, various drawings or colorings created at different events, restaurants or friends’ houses, and the art we make at home, MC had amassed healthy collection.

Although there was clutter creeping in from all corners of the kitchen, I refused to throw any of it away. So I began taking all but the most recent works down from all the display areas of the house. (I keep the most recent art on display in various places of the house, and cycle them out monthly.) I gathered all of the rest of my materials.

I took stock of what I had, placed all of the papers in chronological order, and dated them. Then I began placing papers and artwork in sleeves, and in the binder. For artwork done on construction paper, I measured and cropped each artwork before placing in the sleeve, as the construction paper is slightly larger than the plastic sleeve protectors.

If I had not already put MC’s name and the date (-ish, in some cases when I couldn’t remember exactly), I put it on there. As I was labeling each with her name and date, I realized the importance of giving context to each piece of art. We will continue to go to story time and to make art at home (especially now!), and so it’s nice to give a little description about what was happening at the moment we made that specific craft piece.

The monkey above was made at story time – this was the first time that I really started labeling the art. An essential part of my description for our story time crafts is the title(s) of the book(s) we read. I am learning that MC (and maybe toddlers in general?) has a wicked good memory, and sometimes she will ask me about checking out a book from a previous story time. My memory is not as good, so I try to keep track in the description.

I also try to ask MC about her thoughts and include those in the description, too. Keep reading to the end of the post for some questions I ask.

For some of her art at the very beginning, I couldn’t remember the books we read, etc, so I wasn’t able to give a complete description. I make it a point now as soon as we’ve finished a craft to write the description, and those small details help me remember when I’m looking back later.

Remember these turkeys? We made a home for them in the notebook, too.

Additionally, I keep MC’s written stories in her notebook. More about how we make these stories and four other ideas to encourage literacy can be found here.

We don’t typically keep all the coloring sheets that MC does while out at a restaurant, and we definitely don’t put all the completed coloring sheets from home into this notebook. This coloring sheet was special though, as it marked a wonderful evening with family, and I made sure to note that in the description.

Why bother?

Why not? This took a little time to begin, since I had about 30 pieces to put together in the notebook. Since the initial organization, it just takes a few minutes each time we make a new craft to write a quick description. I put the art up around the house for display. Then, at the end of each month, I go through the house and take older artwork and “archive it” in a sleeve in the notebook and that only takes a few more minutes. To me, this is totally worth the time it takes.

Tonight we had the notebook out, and MC flipped through herself, remembering in vivid detail what was made at daycare (a yellow glitter leaf), what was made at Mooma’s (water paintings of animals), and what was made at home (a construction paper snowman). She saw one of her stories and asked me to read it to her. She asked questions about others, some of the first in the notebook. It was a great opportunity for her to look back at and give dialogue to what she’s done. As for me, I couldn’t have been prouder to sit and listen to her as she flipped through and told me about each piece.


Want to start organizing your tot’s art? It’s super easy, and you may have most materials on hand already:

Materials:

  • Three ring binder
  • Plastic sleeves
  • Pen for labeling
  • Artwork, organized how you wish (I prefer chronologically)

Questions to help with your description

Want to add a description that has your tot’s thoughts, too? This is just a sample of some of the questions I use when writing descriptions for MC’s art. I typically only ask one or two of these questions each time.

  • What was your favorite part of (story time, x event)?
  • (pointing to a part of the art) What is this?
  • How did you make this?
  • What [materials] did you use?
  • What colors did you choose? or
  • Why did you choose ( x color)?
  • What was the (easiest/hardest/most fun) part about making this?

Do you have questions about organizing and splaying your child’s art that weren’t answered here? Or do you organize your child’s art in a different way? Please share any questions or ideas in the comments section!

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