HOW TO: Archive Your Child’s Creative Work

I visited my mother last week and came home with a box of my childhood schoolwork. The box contains a selection of my made-in-school arts and crafts, book reports and award certificates from roughly age 3 to 10. Let me tell you, the sweet smell of success of a strawberry-scented scratch ‘n’ sniff sticker is still as sweet 26 years later.

Photo of a box with various pieces of children's artwork displayed around and on top of it.

Saved drawings and classwork become a personal time capsule.

The box seemed like a tremendous opportunity to compare my schoolwork to the progress of my daughter. I could compare her drawing and writing ability to my own at the same age. Oh, except very few things in the box are dated.

Having poured over my personal time capsule, here are a few thoughts on how to prepare one for your child.

On the backside of each item write:

  • Your child’s name. Art often lacks a name because it is homemade, or doesn’t get handed to a teacher for grading. The name is critical if you have more than one kid.
  • The year, and the child’s grade level and age.
  • For artwork and anything ambiguous, describe what has been created. For example, my vague painting of a circle with a bunch of blotches was later labeled as a dart board and darts. On a drawing labeled "How I spent my summer" my teacher or my mother wrote on the backside, "Van Dam State Park" (I suspect my teacher because the correct spelling is Van Damme).

Many early childhood art pieces will be on oversized paper. That means you have to fold them into a box for storage (paintings don’t do so well being folded). A better, but less space conscious option is to place large items into an oversized artist portfolio so that they remain unfolded. For 8"x11" sheets, you could go the easy box route, or slide the sheets into clear sheet protectors and store them in binders.

Go Beyond Art

Here are a few of the other gems my mother saved:

  • My Kindgergarten completion certificate.
  • An outline of my entire 4-year-old body drawn on butcher paper that was then illustrated and colored by me.
  • A detailed fifth grade autobiography, with family photos. One of my brothers died when he was 27-years-old, so it was especially valuable to see him mentioned and to see other drawings of my family that included him. Getting inside my fifth grade mindset reminded me of the List of Favorites I quizzed my daughter about just a few months ago.
  • My big fifth grade report about redwood trees that I wrote the night before, netting me an A+. My mother complained about my grade later at my parent-teacher conference because she felt it wasn’t earned. Thinking about it now, I suppose my elementary school education was formulaic. After a while you figure out how "the system" works, your  brain shuts off and you just plow through to produce the work a teacher is looking for.
  • A birthday card from a 3-year-old friend.
  • A handwritten note from me to my mother written on the backside of a school drawing: "MOM: I am at cARL’S home. love, AJ." That’s what is really missing from my time capsule… small notes from daily life. Everyone throws away those treasures without a second thought.


One Response to “HOW TO: Archive Your Child’s Creative Work”

  1. Mark says:

    I notice you started to say what time you’d be home from Carl’s house and then crossed it out. Obviously you learned early on to leave yourself an out. :)

    April 3rd, 2007 at 2:21 pm

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