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Children create abundantly as they explore the world around them.

Colorful imagination, ongoing acquisition of new skills and tireless energy combine to inspire an avalanche of projects, paintings and crafts. These reminders of your child's vivid thoughts become precious souvenirs of who he or she was at every stage of their development, and as a parent, it can be difficult to let go of any of these brightly colored, crumpled treasures. As a rational human being who doesn't want to drown in a pile of construction paper—it's essential. One way to elevate the treasure from the trash is to honor favorite pieces with a more permanent position in your household. Combine your practical ideas with your child's fanciful ones to make a piece of artwork that you can both enjoy daily. While the end result—a kid-made masterpiece you can cherish—is a beautiful thing, so is the process of creating it.

"Making artwork promotes many of the physical and cognitive developmental milestones that are vital for your child's growth,"
Erin Dower, editor at, a leading parenting website

Baby Love: Early Language Development

Even before your baby can talk, she's listening and observing the world around her, laying the foundation for her vocabulary and communication skills. "Beyond reading aloud to your baby, creating artwork together is another great way to introduce and reinforce new words," Dower says.

Children begin collecting mementos that help tell the story of who they are from the moment they arrive. First photos, tiny knit hats, pink and blue hospital bracelets and dark smudges of small footprints enter the world along with baby. Incorporate five of your favorite close-up photos into a personalized Shutterfly photo cube for an easy-to-change display of new beginnings and memorable milestones.
One day you'll want evidence that your rapidly growing child's hands were ever truly that small. Create your own with an easy (depending on how cooperative baby feels) craft. All you need is this printable template, some yellow paint and baby's hands. This sweet project will shine a little brighter with each passing year as the shape of those hands change.
Toddler Time: Building Fine Motor Skills

Scribbling with crayons, sculpting with playdough and stringing macaroni onto yarn... These toddler art activities may seem like child's play, but they're actually an important exercise of your little one's fine motor skills. "While it's tempting to plop your tot down with a tablet or gadget these days, encouraging him to do hands-on arts and crafts helps build hand-eye coordination and other skills he'll need to master real-world activities, such as handwriting, dressing and eating," Dower says.

Preschoolers are prolific producers of art, and although much of it is worth remembering, keeping physical copies would require a lot of space and a consistent organization system. Take a photo of each piece as it comes home and create a keepsake that will continue to inspire your child with a play tray featuring their best work.
Get creative and collaborate with your child by combining last year's artwork into one large art piece to be continually enjoyed. Choose a theme like nature, seasons or colors, and collect projects that complement one another. Alter or arrange them until you like what you see on the canvas. Then glue each piece down using spray adhesive before covering with two clear coats of Mod Podge to preserve.

Child's Play: Following Directions
and Fostering Independence

Following directions and fostering independence are two important lessons for young children just entering their school years. Fortunately, art projects offer many opportunities to practice self-sufficiency and following directions. "Read craft instructions together with your child and encourage him to participate in every step-from gathering all the materials, to pausing at the necessary times tvo allow glue or paint to dry (patience is a virtue!), and finally, clean-up time," Dower says. "Take a step back and allow him to create the artwork on his own—imperfections make it even more adorable!"

As kids progress in their school years (ages 6-12), they have a growing sense of self-awareness—and an ever-increasing desire for acceptance among their peers. "Maintaining positive self-esteem becomes more important than ever," Dower says. "Creating more personal artwork, such as a self-portrait or a collage that depicts her interests, is a great way for your child to show her true colors and feel proud of who she is."

Turn your child's self-portrait into personalized dinnerware with Shutterfly photo plates. Upload your favorite image and eliminate the "But I wanted the red plate!" debate at the dinner table while offering a fun new way to play with food.
So much of what a child brings home from school becomes an autobiography in art form. From self-portraits to essays and surveys about future hopes and dreams, these items are interesting and entertaining to reminisce over. Use a photo mat frame, a drawing of your child and alphabet stickers to decorate a "selfie" box to collect the many miscellaneous pieces of who your child is and has been throughout the years.
The Teen Years: Healthy Emotional Expression
and Connections with the Outside World

The teen years can be filled with emotional turmoil, thanks to physical and hormonal changes, mounting social pressures and a strong desire for independence. But all of this can fuel your teen's creativity, if he learns how to channel his feelings in a healthy way. "Teens understand abstract concepts and symbolism, so photography is an excellent creative outlet," Dower says. "When your teen leaves the walls of his bedroom to explore the outside world with his camera (or camera-phone), he'll discover people, places and things that strike a chord in him."

Teens are active about capturing their self image and often document their experiences online, usually in photo form. If they're comfortable with you checking out their social media accounts, create a Shutterfly Photo Gallery Grid of favorite images for a personalized decor item that highlights the excitement of young adulthood.
Make a statement in your teenager's room by having one of his or her favorite photos enlarged as an engineer print at your local copy shop. These black and white copies are inexpensive enough to change out frequently, but they make a big visual impact. Frame the print under glass to transform it into an erasable message board.

You don't have to be crafty to create an artistic collection that represents your child's journey to adulthood. Develop a system for archiving your child's art, and an eye for what you—and they—will appreciate even more as they grow. Save these memorable items from a future hidden away in a box by creating something beautiful, and when they've finally made the jump to adulthood, you'll both be happy that you made the effort.