My Daughter’s Crappy Artwork


It’s cute, and developmental, and important, and precious. But not all of it. Not all the time. There should be quotas.

My daughter Penny has so many talents. She makes up and sings little songs. She has a wonderful sense of style and already dresses better than her mother or me. She is a great big sister to her brother, Simon. She’s been breezing through 50 piece puzzles since she was three years old (she’s four now). What I’m trying to say is that she’s smart, funny, creative, and beautiful. Like most parents, I could (and sometimes do) go on for hours about how awesome she is. But this post is about something else: her artwork is for shit.

That is a horrible thing to say. I’ve never really said it out loud before. (And saying it on the internet is very loud.) My wife and I have whispered it to each other. We’ve thrown out countless drawings, feeling SO BAD each and every time. It wasn’t our fault. First of all, there’s only so much space on the fridge. And second, the drawings all looked pretty much the same. Penny described them as rainbows, but sometimes they were just different colored lines and other times different colored blobs. How many deconstructed rainbows can one parent pretend to love?

It’s difficult in any stage of a child’s development not to compare her to other children of a similar age. We all do it. There are books devoted to the subject. But the books are just guidelines. And they don’t really cover amorphous subjects like, you know, artistic talent. At least I don’t think they do. I pretty much stopped reading them at month six of child number one. But, when I saw what her friends were drawing – recognizable people with circles for faces, eyes & smiles – I felt the sharp sting of jealousy, followed by the sharper sting of guilt. My kid is amazing. Who cares if she’s not an artist?

I started blaming myself for her perceived shortcoming. Maybe I did too much roughhousing with her & not enough coloring. I’m no artist, but I’ve been known to doodle. Granted, all of my doodles end up looking like some version of myself, but that may be more of a reflection on my enormous ego than on my artistic ability. (Maybe not.) Penny was, and is, so active and outgoing. Sitting her down and drawing or writing was more of a chore than it was fun, for both of us. I was so shortsighted. Obviously I’d rather play with my daughter than do something neither of us liked, but it finally caught up with me…in her terrible, terrible artwork. I screwed up!

Of course, I’m an idiot. (I make no bones about this fact…it’s in my friggin’ URL, for crying out loud!) Penny’s artistry, like everything else at this pre-school age, is a stage of development that takes more time in some kids than others. No one is a born artist, like no one is born potty-trained. These things take time! She was just a little slower with her fine motor skills than most of her classmates. She had a really hard time writing her letters, even though she recognized them. And, as I may have mentioned, she couldn’t draw worth a damn.

But, as we’ve practiced her letters at home and she continues the lessons at school, a nice little bonus is that her art has dramatically improved. She’s no longer just drawing rainbows and, when she draws people, they look like people! This happened literally like a week ago, but the change has been dramatic. Penny’s classmates’ drawings have also improved over the school year. Some of them are truly remarkable! But none of them so adorably depict the people I love most.

A family portrait--she's an artist!

A family portrait–she is an artist!

We still have limited space on the fridge, but more of her pictures are being saved than are being tossed.

Don’t judge me…we can’t keep them all!

—Read more from Dave Lesser at


About Dave Lesser

Dave Lesser is a former attorney who much prefers his job as a stay at home dad to two hilarious and adorable children. He is lucky to have an awesome wife who indulges and supports his obsessions, which currently include running Spartan Races and writing his blog Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad. Follow him on Twitter @AmateurIdiot.


  1. Awesome article. As a non-parent, I’ve often wondered if all parents REALLY thought their kids were such great artists. So interesting to hear the perspectives of someone finally willing to speak the unspoken! Genius!

  2. Facebook commenter Lisa wrote: “There is a great ap called ArtKive. You take pics of the artwork, it stores them, and you can have it printed in a book. This helps me toss all of that stuff!!” Never heard of it, thanks!

  3. My son gets sent home from daycare with artwork that was either very clearly completed by his teachers or is a couple of scribble doodles on a page meant for coloring. I feel like a dick, but I fold them up and toss them all out at this point (he just turned two). When he starts making pictures or wanting feedback on his art, I won’t callously toss everything away. But at this point, it’s just paper.

  4. I recycle most everything. My wife gets very upset with me but the amount of crap that comes home from school, preschool and day care is ridiculous. Do know how many times my mom and I have sat down and looked at my precious art work. NOT ONCE, NEVER. My wife has boxes of crap from her younger years that her parents dropped off at our house one day. Do you think she has ever opened the boxes? The fact that I toss everything hasn’t stymied their artistic talents. If anything, its encouraged it.

  5. Alyssa Royse says:

    Right there with you…. WE did a lot of tossing. Before I realized we could have done a lot of scanning……

  6. Great article. I am an artist and former art teacher and my daughter is in the same boat. Her drawings are amazing and while I know all the stages of artistic development, I have a hard time letting go of a lot of these things mostly because I can see the different stages in her artwork but also because I am a pack rat and I passed it on to her. She gets so attached to these things that she creates. And while it is really hard to just throw these things away, if I didn’t we would be on the new Hoarders buried by artwork. The sheer number of things that my daughter creates, not including all the crap she brings home from school is astounding. I try to purge while she is at pre-school and in most cases she doesn’t notice but I always say “You can always make another one” which she does constantly.


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