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Preserving children's artwork

Paper will curl and paint will fade, but there are ways to preserve and enjoy this art for years.
Paper will curl and paint will fade, but there are ways to preserve and enjoy this art for years.
painting by E.A. Ailer, age 5

When it comes to children's artwork, parents tend to hoard. Who can possibly part with those one-of-a-kind masterpieces? But kids are prolific artists, and if you don't take steps to keep your collection under control, you'll have boxes of construction paper dinosaurs stashed in every closet in the house. Here are some ideas to help you enjoy and preserve these treasures.

1. Don't keep 3-D artwork.
No matter how many glue sticks were invested, that cardboard castle is not going to store well. For 3-D works not made from durable materials, the best way to preserve the piece is with photos. Make notes about the piece: Who made it? When? What is it exactly? You can keep these photos and notes together in an album which will be much easier to store and enjoyable to look at for years after the piece is gone.

2. Art materials disintegrate; make digital copies now.
Construction paper, markers, tape, tempera paint and a lot of non-toxic glues don't age well. All of these materials can change color and come apart in a matter of months. The safest way to enjoy these pieces is with digital copies of the originals. If you have limited technical skills or equipment, local print shops such as McClung Printers in Waynesboro and T&N Printing in Charlottesville can scan or photograph the artwork for you and give you the finished product in digital format.

3. Show it off!
Obviously your child is an artistic genius; now it's time to let the whole world know. With the help of some great online services, the digital images created by scanning or photographing your children's work can be turned into anything from lunch boxes to wall clocks. Websites like Cafe Press and Zazzle offer a huge range of printed products with no minimum order requirements.

Remember - the most important thing is to just enjoy your children's artwork. It will mean so much to them to see you putting a lot of value on something they created. Do keep some of their original work stored flat, but don't keep so much that you're overwhelmed by the sheer mass of it. These days of log cabins made from Popsicle sticks and self-portraits made of yarn are fleeting. Enjoy them!


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