CHILDREN'S ART Display treasures; don't bury them

You don't have to hang up every project your child does, unless you want to be inundated. Take the time to select some special pieces.
Your youngster has been in school for about 2 1/2 months now. To prepare dinner these days, however, you have to do an archeological dig to find the handle on the refrigerator door.
In fact, you've forgotten what your refrigerator looks like.
That's because it's buried under multicolored strata of construction paper, crayoned creations, finger-painted mysteries and carefully rounded one-inch letters pencilled on blue- and pink-lined paper. The content ranges from American flags, fall leaves and Halloween pumpkins to your child's rendition of "My home."
You see a pattern materializing. Soon, you realize, those treasures will be layered over with pilgrims' hats. Thanksgiving turkeys. Snowflakes and snowmen. If left unattended, a layer of hearts will settle in and calcify. Then George Washington's and Abe Lincoln's profiles. Shamrocks. Chicks and bunnies and other signs of spring. All of it increasing and multiplying before your very eyes. Panic rises.
How will you be able to feed your family if you can't find the icebox?
If the sheer mass of the art and schoolwork your child proudly brings home from school day after day overwhelms you, don't worry. You are not alone. Many parents have faced the same challenge; few saw it coming.
And none will admit publicly what really happened to all those masterpieces.
What to do: Nonetheless, the solution is simple. You need to peel away layers. Make some decisions. Employ some discipline. Throw some things out, determine how to display the prizes of the moment and secrete others for posterity.
Where to start? Take a deep cleansing breath. You're about to go on a treasure hunt. Be sure to pack a bit of attitude and a healthy dose of honesty.
If your child is up for the adventure, let him take part, but be sure he understands a price will be exacted. This will be a learning experience. You're seeking priceless gems. You'll be discriminating.
Not even every diamond warrants a Tiffany setting.
Now set some boundaries. Sift and sort. Decide how many items per week or month or holiday rate preservation. When you identify a treasure, date it and label it. You will thank yourself later (trust me). Be strong; items that don't make the grade must be discarded, lest they detract from the true trophies.
Next your role evolves from triumphant treasure hunter to curator. Determine where to hang the exhibits. Imagine your options. Kitchen. Stairwell. Laundry room. The merits of some masterpieces will best be recognized if they are stored for now, then retrieved and displayed later.
Monitor and update: Some families employ special bulletin boards, one per child, then rotate special treasures into keepsake boxes. Others adapt large works or a collage of smaller pieces into wallpaper. To remain effective, either of these techniques must be carefully monitored and updated accordingly.
Another option is to avoid the refrigerator or any other permanent display location altogether. Families that go this route often let the holdings reside in an ever-growing pile on the kitchen counter.
Or on the stairs. Or next to the desk. (Anyone whose risk-management skills are limited and who possesses a low tolerance for clutter should be discouraged from adopting this approach.)
Dedicating a bulletin board to the child's specially selected creations provides a unique opportunity. The youngster can personalize the board with decorative fabric, markers or stickers. You can then complement the results with theme pushpins that tie into his or her favorite hobbies or sports.
Keepsake boxes can be stored in a closet or under a bed. Acquire the box with limits in mind, however. You are the curator, and this is your vault. How many priceless gems are you willing to preserve? How many closets are you willing to sacrifice to the cause? (Of course, nothing is set in stone. Vaults can be emptied or expanded as needs dictate.)
Use caution: If you choose to let the myriad of treasures accumulate upon their delivery home from school, be wary. For many, this is the road to disaster, but there are those who glory in its ease. If your child's cache is going to be kept under control, you must, soon, and on a regular basis, glean those works that best exemplify the young artist's talents. Let spontaneity determine whether they are then taped to a window or tacked to an office door or hung on the mirror in the hall.
When should one collection be replaced with another? Letting the seasons of the calendar govern this decision often works well. As you hang a new collection, the display that comes down can be culled. At the end of the school year, the year's offerings can be re-sifted. Any that haven't stood the test of time can be discarded.
What's needed is a willingness to make decisions. And the discipline to stick to them. Consider the possibilities, then choose what works best for you. After all, won't you be glad to find your refrigerator again?

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