I read an article this morning on innovation which stated, “Child psychologists say that when you keep every single picture your kid has ever drawn, it actually stifles the child’s creativity. It’s better to pull out the really great ones and discard the rest.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but as someone with a little guy at home who loves to create pictures and crafts often…I feel like I would be the worst parent on the planet if I threw his art away!

I have a vision of this scene:

  • Child working feverishly to draw a picture for dad.
  • Child hands the picture to his dad, beaming at his accomplishment.
  • Dad says, “Thanks buddy!” and looks at the picture, scrutinizing it…
  • Dad takes the lid off the trash (recycyle bin) and throws the picture casually inside, smiling at his son.
  • Son looks dejected and runs away crying.

Ok, that is a bit dramatic, and obviously I don’t assume those child psychologists suggest throwing the art away as it is given to you. However, after some consideration, I think I get the point. We all know about conditioned responses (Pavlov’s dog) and how people respond (in general) based on previous experience.

It stands to reason that, if a minimum effort drawing (red scribble) gets the same prestige as a complete landscape the child spent hours creating, they may not be motivated to put all the effort in on the next time around. If really impressive artwork gets framed by parents, and simple art gets a smile and is recycled several days later…it stands to reason that a child will try and produce bigger and better art to get positive reinforcement from their parents/teachers/etc.

What do you think? Have you experienced this with your own children? Seen it backfire? Got another theory? Let me know!

Melina Young

My name is Melina Young and I am the director of marketing at Verity Credit Union. I love everything to do with marketing, advertising, public relations and social media – especially all the research that goes into making a product or service really work for our members and making sure the right people hear about it. In addition to my time spent marketing, I have a blog and write about celiac disease, which I was diagnosed with in 2010. Basically, I can’t eat any of those foods we all love that are made with wheat, barley or rye.

I have also recently started running and completed my first 5k in 2011. Some people may not know that I used to do a lot of acting, dancing and singing in my life. I was in a Nike commercial with Gary Payton in junior high (if anyone ever finds the footage please send it my way!) and I used to compete as an opera singer in high school. I almost majored in musical theater in college, but I’m very glad with my decision to study marketing!

3 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    Oh my gosh I can so relate. I have a little artist at home and I struggle all the time with whether or not to toss or keep. I almost always keep but the super cute ones always make the fridge. Then we decide which one come down when we need to make room for a new one. No reason to celebrate mediocrity but also no reason to belittle it either. Great post 🙂

  2. Lara Simmons says:

    Woah, this is so hard! I have stacks – AND STACKS – of my kids’ art work, drawings, school papers, etc. lying around just waiting to be recycled or treasured. I have to admit, this quote from an expert makes me feel better about what I have gotten rid of and will, hopefully, help me when it comes time to sort through the rest. I try and keep what I feel is a “representative sample” of their work at each stage of development (ie. the “Star Wars” period or the “comic book” phase), including school work and greeting cards they have received. You just can’t keep it all! Thanks for starting this conversation.

  3. laurel mcjannet says:

    I couldn’t take all the stacks of artwork piling up, so I sorted through my son’s “best” work and scanned each one. I then created a coffee table book using an online service when they had a sale (Snapfish or Shutterfly have specials all the time). The books make great presents for the grandparents and you can have a keepsake that can include notes and comments about each piece. And, I kept the scanned images, so I could create a slideshow someday.

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