Kids grow like weeds…or at least they will grow tended to or not! But like any plant that you wish to bear good fruit, it takes training, nurturing and time. Kids need more than plants; they need our unconditional love and trust. Teaching children is certainly “a learn-as-you-go” experience. Their growth, as well as ours, takes much bending, pruning and tying. Learning new life habits takes time (and it may seem like a life long journey) until we get it just right. Teaching organizational habits in their formative years will set them on a path with less stress, frustration and procrastination, and who couldn’t use that in ones life.
As a teacher and a parent I have sat thorough countless parent conferences. Here are the two complaints I hear from both sides of the aisle
- Their children have poor decision-making skills
- They do not know how to prioritize.
The following exercise, when trained properly, will teach your children how to make decisions and prioritize according to THEIR wants and needs. Did I grab your attention? Beginning as soon as Tommy can hold a crayon, art work and school papers begin to encroach on our homes. More than multiplying rabbits, these precious “I can’t throw them out” papers, and art precious projects begin to take over the refrigerator and table spaces.
Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Keeping every piece of precious paper that comes into the home is just not practical, so, organizing kids’ papers and artwork starts here. It is time to make those tough decisions - which ones stay and which ones must make a graceful exit. Helping your child begin this process by asking them to come up with criteria for what they think is worth keeping. Hint…notice I didn’t say garbage. When you throw something away, that away is a place. If you can come up with an alternative for those precious items instead of the dump, it teaches your children another environmental lesson: recycling. I love to use artwork as wrapping paper. Not only does it save me a few dollars, but also you have a one-of-a- kind wrapping paper. Plus, your kids are proud to give away something they have made.
So how do we edit the collection? Ask your child to make a criteria list that they can attach to the artwork or paper. For example, do they want to keep everything with an “A” or do they want to keep only those original works or stories, or, do they want to keep those projects that they worked really hard on and feel great about? Most kids like to savor their projects, and getting them to make decisions/criteria ahead of time will automatically begin the eliminating process. This exercise may be the first time they are actually in control of their decisions. At first it can be a bit daunting, but never fear, if they keep at it they will exercise this mental muscle and those skills will become clearer each year. Remember, when everything is special, nothing is special.
Here are some of my criteria ideas just to get you started:
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.
Artwork that reveals important milestones, like the first time your son/daughter writes her name - keep it! . Self-portraits will be fun to look at later, as will artwork that provides insights into your child’s personality at that point in time. Be honest and eliminate anything that is not truly special. Remember to put a date on every piece and a small story to go with it!
- The Winner is…
Decide ahead of time how many pieces you want to keep, in either a flat file box for each year, or decide if you want to display their work. I prefer to displayed the art on a wall. Not only does it say that their work is valued, but it brings character and a unique presence into the room. You can keep frames on the wall in a permanent place and change out the pictures periodically. One tip though is to make sure the frames you have are easily accessible and easy to change. Otherwise you probably will not change the art as frequently as you would like. www.dynamicframes.com
- Scan it and Forget it!
Here’s another option to help decide to keep or purge. If you own a scanner use it to your advantage. Scan your pieces, and keep them forever. If scanning is not an option, then; take pictures of the artwork and save it in a folder on your computer for easy access and storage. This is a good idea for the ones that didn't make it to the top picks but were still worth remembering (example: the 3 foot volcano).
- Managing Long-Term Storage. Unless the work is properly stored, over time it will deteriorate. And while I do not like bringing more plastic into the home, plastic seems to make the most sense in keeping out water or insects to rob away the memories. Make sure this container is both large enough to hold over-sized pieces of paper and compact enough to prevent your collection becoming more clutter.
Everything your child draws and creates may seem like a masterpiece, but if you save everything, your child won’t know what was important. One suggestion is to make a holding bin for the creations your little artist makes in a 3-month period of time. Four times a year, maybe over the school breaks each year, together; pick out 5-10 items to save for the future. Let your child pick his/her favorites. Move the favorites to a portfolio or keeper bin. I always chose one special art project and have it framed or shadowbox. Display the art or special project in your child’s room or in your family room for EVERYONE to see. That creates personality in a room and let’s the artists recognize the work is valued.
Several years ago my eldest son called and said he was making a promotional resume (he’s in advertising) “Mom, do you remember the poem I made in first grade called “power lines?” I said of course I do. Well, Mom, please scan it for me and send it ASAP. I pray that by preserving your children’s past, they will one day call upon it for their future.