Since my children were old enough to hold a crayon, they have both loved to draw and make things. We have boxes and shelves in the kitchen devoted to stickers and paper and glue and paint and cardboard tubes and beads and (the bane of my life), glitter. And when they started nursery I eagerly awaited the latest creations that they came out with every Friday: Handprints, their first homemade Christmas decorations, Mothers' day cards; even the scribbles on scraps of paper were treasured. I made a wall of my kitchen into a display area for their crafts and rotated their pictures, carefully storing the old ones in boxes and replacing them on the noticeboard with the newest arrivals.
Well, this was the theory. In reality I did pretty well up until the eldest was about 4, keeping most of their paintings and drawings but sometimes relegating the scribbles to the bin after a few weeks. But today I found myself throwing away a fresh creation, straight from school, with no more than a cursory glance. (Behind my daughter's back, of course). And now I hear you cry out "No!!" and throw your arms up in horror. What a terrible parent I am, not to nurture my children's artistic talents and appreciate every small mark they make on paper. I have spoken to other parents who claim to have kept every single one of their 7 year old's pictures and cards and scribbles, but I simply can't. When I think of the mountain of art they have produced I realise that if I had kept every piece I would be risking becoming one of the poor unfortunates on hoarders from hell.
I love the fact that my children love to draw, and paint, and stick, and glue, and make. I allow them to make a mess while they're doing it (and they're getting better at clearing up after themselves too). I understand that being allowed to get sticky and make and draw things is really good for them: For their imagination when they are convinced that they can turn an empty cereal packet, some yellow paint and 4 cardboard tubes into a lion cub; for their fine motor skills when they were first learning how to hold a pen and form shapes and letters; for their understanding of science experimentation as they discover what happens when you mix paint colours together; for their spatial awareness as they learn what size piece of paper they will need to cover a box; for their concentration and ability to see a task through to the end because they feel such a sense of achievement when their picture is completed; and for the development of their confidence and self-esteem when I really love what they have made.
So even when I surreptitiously crumple up the art and push it deep down into the bin where they can't find it because I know they'll never miss that one small piece of paper with a circle and two lines scrawled onto it, my children still know that I think their artwork is brilliant and that there'll always be the space and time in our house to get messy.