What to do with the craft crap kids bring home from school

crafty solutionsWhen I was four years old I made my dad a Fathers Day Present at preschool, which he loved and despised simultaneously. It was a glass-jar-penholder. I’d lavishly coated it in glue and rolled it in rice for a textured finish and then painted it red and blue. It was to take prize place on his desk at work and remind him of me….and remind him it DID, many times daily, as it shed copious amounts of rice all over his important documents. One day, rather sadly, he confided to my mother that it accidentally fell into the bin. I was none the wiser about this for a good three decades, until he finally ‘fessed up about how bad he felt. By then some of my own children’s artworks had accidentally fallen into the bin and I was able to be quite forgiving about it.

I believe the disposal of lovingly made Arts and Crafts from our adoring offspring is a universal guilt issue for parents all over the planet; especially those larger creations constructed from Sellotape and multiple colossal boxes that poke conspicuously out of the recycling bin, necessitating the heinous act of compacting these gifts of love with one’s boot.

Having two little ones under the age of ten put me squarely in the ‘Rudimentary Arts and Crafts Collector’ demographic. Each day, new and precious creations came through the door, each being declared too wondrous to ever be recycled. The fridge became plastered in paintings of handprints and trees and carefully drawn family portraits where peoples’ hair mysteriously floated above their heads. If I even suggested removal of one item I was met with large, weepy toddler eyes looking up at me,

But I made it for YOU Mummy, I thought you lubfed it?”

Ok OK!! I do. I just totally DO love it. I’ll need to go and buy more magnets. Stronger magnets. We’ll get a bigger fridge.

The house had become a fire hazard of Art & Craft kindling filling every room (even the toilet). I was engaging in the risky behaviour of sneaking things out to the wheely bin, which I wasn’t proud of. Eventually, after getting caught (“It must have fallen in the bin by accident!! THAT’S WEIRD!” – They totally bought it too), I devised an ‘Artwork Preservation and Appreciation and also Save the Planet Strategy’, APAAAASTPS for short, which I will outline for you below:

– For EXTRA good drawings and paintings: Frame it. Frame the best stuff in really nice picture frames with proper matting board and everything, all around the house. Each time a new and better drawing comes along, update it in the frame putting the older drawing to the back, record age/date in the corner. You’d be surprised how great it can look! Move over Picasso.

– For LESSER drawings and paintings: Fridge. For fridge displays, have a set amount of magnets per child and each time a fridge-worthy piece of artwork comes home, the artist, can attach with a magnet, if all magnets are occupied, the artist gets to choose which existing artwork (of their own!) goes into the recycling (go on and on about how good recycling is for the planet).

– For large and bulky pieces garnished with tin foil, string, pipe cleaners, Crete-paper, cardboard tubes, tin cans and the like – display for a week (or a time frame of your choosing). Next, layout the creations on the floor or bed and photograph for posterity, then recycle (again with the recycling talk and the opportunity to save the planet).

Tip: Let children assist in taking the photos. Write the details on a piece of paper next to the creation i.e.: “Made by Claire 3/5/2014”. When children are involved in this process they’re surprisingly more cooperative about the recycling bit. Some children (and often parents) may even enjoy actively partaking in the violent destruction of the now digitally immortalised artwork for the purpose of recycling and saving our planet.

I believe it’s really good to teach kids how to get rid of stuff. I’ve always instigated regular bedroom cleanouts with my kids, but I’ve never demanded they throw things away.

Always make it a fun activity with a ‘rubbish bag’ and a ‘give away’ bag; going through toys together, encourage your kids to think about the following:

How much do they really play with it?

Do they really like it?

Have they outgrown it?

And lastly, whom could we pass it on to?

The ‘passing stuff on’ was always a big winner, and to this day I still carry the warm and fuzzy emotions I felt about the (highly coerced) ‘passing on’ of Tickle Me Elmo. I felt we had ALL OUTGROWN HIM.

Epilogue: I was about 40-years old when my Dad told me the true story of what happened to the Rice-Jar-Penholder. That year, for Fathers Day, I made him another one and once again the rice kept falling off. I couldn’t help but think what a stupid craft idea that was. I guess it was from the 1970’s before Pinterest came along, and it is, after all, the thought that counts. I painted it, gift-wrapped it and posted it off to him. Although awaiting it eagerly, he informed me it must have got lost in the mail, as sadly, it never ever arrived. 😦


*Written for ChildBlogger

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