A recent article in the New York Times called "Mom, You’re One Tough Art Critic", has caused quite a bit of controversy as it talks about this very topic. Should we keep the hundreds if not thousands of pieces of artwork, the drawings and crafts or children make over the years or chuck them in the recycling bin. Some of the parents interviewed mentioned they throw everything away because there is too much clutter. Some mentioned that they only want to keep the “good stuff.”
As a teacher and now a parent, listening to other parents say that they throw these artifacts of their children’s youth away makes me sad. Recently I had a student tell me (as she carried a pirate ship craft we made in class) that her mother throws all of her crafts away because there is no room for them. I know for a fact that this young student lives in a large house and I assume there is enough room for at least one box to store her hand made treasures in.
I watch my students draw and color everyday, whether it is during art class, craft time or during their free time. I see the amazing sense of joy and expression it gives them. Drawing gives them the chance to let their imaginations take over. I still remember how much joy it gave me to draw. In fact, I still love drawing!
One mistake many parents make is comparing their child’s artwork to their classmates. Some might look at their child’s and then another’s and says, “Wow, my kid isn’t doing well compared to that one.” Comparing one child to another is one of the biggest errors a parent can make. Every child develops at different rates and paces. Some children’s motor skills develop a little later than others. This in no way diminishes the quality and feeling behind their artwork. It also in no way diminishes how good they feel about it and how proud they are when they give into you.
I still remember how amazed I was and how good I felt when I last visited my parents in Canada. It was Christmas of 2009 and my father excitedly and proudly showed my wife a collection of letters my brother and I had written to Santa, teeth we lost as young children and yes, some pieces of artwork. The fact that my parents have kept these showed me how much they valued these precious items. It gave me the warm and fuzzies!
In the NYT article some people suggested making digital copies of your child’s’ artwork to save space. I liked that idea, but I would do it as a backup only. I still plan to keep all of the wonderful work my future little artist will produce.
I have been teaching for more than eight years and still keep most of the artwork and letters my students have given me over the years. I know they worked hard to make them and I know there was real meaning when they gave them to me. I also plan to encourage my son and can’t wait until the day I can have an art gallery wall in my office where he can see his work displayed.
Hey parents out there! When you save your child’s artwork, you are storing their legacy. You are documenting your family’s history. That is by no means a trivial thing.