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Managing Your Child’s Paperwork

a child drawing on a piece of paper with a crayon

Children seem to generate a lot of paperwork, especially in their younger years. Managing your child’s paperwork and making decisions on what to do with all of it can be overwhelming. Having a plan and a system in place will keep everyone sane and happy.

Keep on top of your child’s incoming paperwork. Check backpacks daily or at least weekly.

Like keeping up with your incoming mail, do an immediate triage. You know that some items can be immediately trashed or recycled. For example, if your child is doing well in school there is no need to keep items like spelling tests or math papers. It’s a different story if your child is struggling. If that is the case hold on to all of your child’s paperwork until report cards come out.

Fresh original artwork can be displayed on the fridge or a bulletin board or other display system. When new artwork arrives, put up the new and put the old in a temporary file. Any artwork that is just coloring in a preprinted picture can immediately leave.

Have a plan for what to do with the paperwork you are keeping.

Let’s look at three categories to help you manage your child’s paperwork.

Action file paperwork:

Paperwork that requires an action is best stored in an Action file in your communication center. The type of paperwork that lands here would include permission slips or consent forms, forms for athletic activities or camps, or reading logs. All of this type of paperwork requires that the child or parent do something and then send off the information. This file needs to be reviewed at least weekly.

Temporary paperwork:

Temporary paperwork is not as time sensitive and can be kept in a file folder or a bin with hanging files. The type of paperwork that you would keep here is schoolwork papers, pictures and art that you have displayed but now have been replaced by a more current piece of work, or communication from the school on your child’s progress.

If your child is doing well in school, you only need to keep the more creative and unusual work. If your child is struggling in a subject, keep all of it until grades come out. You will want to bring this work into a conference with the teacher.

At the end of the grading period or end of the school year, a lot of this can just be tossed or recycled.

Want to keep paperwork:

This is where you want a bin with hanging files for each child, binders with page protectors, or a portfolio.

The idea of a keeper box is that you keep work that shows what the child excels at in that period of time. Over the years it is great to look back and see the development of the child’s artwork or writing.

Determine how much of each category of paper to keep for each year. For example, you might decide that the parent gets to choose ten pieces of art or other work and child gets to choose ten.  Take into consideration that some items like the gold painted macaroni keepsake box, the pressed leaf bookmark, or the “log” house made of toothpicks or popsicle sticks may not hold up very well when stored so consider taking pictures of those items and store the pictures.

Put dates on all the work and sort the work either by the child’s age or school year.

Besides work produced by the child you may also want to store certificates or letters of recognition in this spot.

Ways to store this paperwork:

You might consider a product like Chatbooks  or Snapfish  where you can turn some of the very special art and creative writing into books.

The kids are more likely to flip through and enjoy the books than they are to pull out a file.

Either way it is fun to see the growth and development.

Finally, decide where to store these gems. Some possibilities are in the closet of the child or on some shelves in the den.

At least once a year take some time to look through the stored work.  What is the point of keeping and managing your child’s paperwork if you don’t revisit it?

If you are ready to develop a plan for managing your child’s paperwork, setting up storage solutions, or any other organizing project join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space For You clutter support group. The group will offer ideas, support, and gentle accountability for working on developing plans or projects.

Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.




  • Kid art and paperwork can become overwhelming if not handled regularly. I love all of the strategies you suggested for triaging things as they come in. We had a system that worked well with our daughters. All papers and art were put into a bin right near their backpacks. I’d check it daily to see if there were action items (slips to sign, pieces to discard, or others to file.) When the bin was full, I’d do another sort to see what could be eliminated. At the end of the school year, I divided the papers by kid and had them sort through to keep what was meaningful. The keepers were filed by kid/by year. Before they left for college, I had them look through their box. They enjoyed a walk down memory lane, saw their development, and let go of some of what they no longer wanted.

  • Seana Turner says:

    We took your advice and put together photo books of the girls’ artwork. We made one book for preschool and one book for elementary. I leave them out on the table in the upstairs TV room. I think it is fun to see that they share them with people who come home with them periodically. It’s so much easier to enjoy the art in this form than on the giant pages on which many of the originals were made.

    (They are also much easier to store!)

  • I agree, Jonda! Different kids’ paperwork should be assigned differently. I used to have a weekly paper board with a day of the week clips so the kids could clip it to whichever day they needed to remember the paperwork. If an event was coming up, say a few months away, it would be filed in a filing folder in my kitchen for easy access when the month arrives. All papers can not be placed in the exact location, especially if a parent has more than one child. Finding the right paper in a pinch will help the parent and student feel less stressed.

  • Great ideas for kid’s paperwork. Setting up a system is so important. I’ve started giving set-up system to new parents as a baby gift. One, cause it’s partial and two, it’s not usually something parents think about when their kids start school.

  • Julie Bestry says:

    You and I definitely dovetailed this week; I focused on the deadline-free but always-prolific artwork, and you concentrated on those truly important papers. I agree with everything, though I’d say a representative selection of not just the creative works, but those A+ papers can be a real boon to have when a child is having a self-esteem crisis. I visited my childhood home for a week recently, and not only are my funny creative works represented, but a few perfect scores and *especially* glowing teacher comments are there, knocking out the memories of a sometimes-bullied childhood. Each kid is different though, and yes, 3rd grade spelling tests can assuredly be replaced by later, more impressive performances.

    I love the idea of having that action file paperwork at-the-ready and often-reviewed for making sure those permission slips and event fees have made it where they need to go! Great stuff!

  • Jana Arevalo says:

    I love what you have outlined here! You keep it so simple, and this system would work well in any home with any number of children. I love the tip about creating photo books out of your children’s artwork. You’re right, they would enjoy it way more in a nice book than in a file kept in a box kept in a storage closet! Great article, thank you!

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