If you are experiencing this same crisis, let me give you a few ideas on how to handle this situation without the stress!
1. Throw Out the Guilt
As Latinas, we're often awash in guilt because no one is better than Mami or Abuelita in giving us guilt trips. (At least, that's been my experience.) Instead, I take pride and comfort in knowing that my kids are so smart and creative that there is simply no way I could hold on to everything they do.
First, I focus on artwork and crafts. Worksheets go straight to the recycling bin. There are occasional exceptions, such as the first time they signed their name in cursive, or a test/essay they are especially proud of.
What To Do If Your Child Sees You Throwing Out Their Work:
My son once found some of his worksheets in the recycling can. I told him exactly what I wrote above: "This is really hard, but I have to try and pick your best work to save because you're simply so smart and creative that we'd drown in papers if I kept everything!" I reminded both my kids that all the work they did is incredibly valuable because the skills they learn are ones they can use the rest of their lives. Then I invited them to help me choose which pieces to keep and which ones to let go.
2. Buy a Paper Tray
The tough part is that when kids are little, they want to keep everything, especially if they've just recently worked on it. So the best thing to do is give them time. I bought a paper tray and all the papers that came home from school went straight into that tray. Once a month or every few months, we would sit down and decide which ones to keep and which ones to give away. It's important to set limits. So I'd say, "Okay, we can only save 4 (or 8 or whatever number you think is reasonable). Let's find the best ones!" Typically, I would allow one piece per week of school to keep things under control.
This process allowed my kids to learn how to judge their own work and learn that it is okay to let things go, which is an important quality to develop in kids!!
3. Set Up a Display Board
After we had selected the work they wanted to keep, it went up on a display board in our school room. There are so many fun and creative ways to display kid's artwork in the home. We used a simple corkboard and pinned their favorite pieces to it.
4. Buy a Binder
When new pieces went up on the corkboard, old ones had to come down. I have one of those great, big, 2-inch binders for each child and each grade. As things came off the display board, they went into the binder. They are a fun reminder of all the learning and creativity my kids have done over the years. I also add important papers from that year like tests, certificates, field trip memorabilia, etc.
5. Use Apps
Now there are also tons of apps available to help you keep a digital scrapbook of your kids' artwork! It's pretty amazing what you can do now with your smartphone. Some of these apps even allow you to organize and categorize the work, so you could put all their 1st-grade art in one file, their 2nd-grade work in another, and so on. A few also let you share their work with friends and relatives, so Abuelita doesn't have to miss out on a single piece your little Picasso creates. Some apps are free, and others cost a bit more. Obviously, the ones you have to pay for have a few extra features. Here are some of the ones available for iOS and Android:
- Art My Kid Made - FREE for iOS. Save and print photos, share with family and friends
- Keepy - FREE for iOS, Android, and Kindle. Save photos & videos, add voice and video if you want to share the story behind the picture, share with family and friends, read/listen to/watch the comments they leave
- Canvasly - FREE for iOS and Android; Save and print photos; organize; share with family and friends; PRINT for gift giving on mugs, prints, cards, etc.
- Artkive - $4.99 for iOS and Android. Save photos; organize your photos OR have Artkive organize them for you; tag, title, and share; turn your kids' art into a hardback, keepsake book or other products.