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Children’s Design International Collection encourages the collection, preservation and reflection on children's artwork

Children witness the world around them and their art reflects our time and culture
This image was made more than 20 years ago. The rainbow with clouds has been omnipresent in recent years. This is the earliest example of it that survived on paper known to volunteers at CDIC. It is unknown when and where it first originated and became a children's favourite.

When it comes to your children’s artwork, what do you choose to keep, and why?

This is a question that Léo Beaulieu, president of the board of directors at Children’s Design International Collection, encourages people to reflect on.

Children’s Design International Collection (CDIC) is a 100% volunteer-run registered charity, dedicated to archiving images created by children. It is the only organization of its kind in Canada, with just a few other archives existing worldwide.

"We aim to be a research archive for the benefit of researchers and the enjoyment of the public,” says Léo. “At every occasion, we encourage people to think about what their children are making and making sure that it’s not being lost.”

Why collect and preserve children’s artwork? Léo says that in their own way, children witness. They witness culture, family life, their surroundings, and their experiences. This makes their artwork a time capsule, reflecting society and even the role of children in our culture.

“The place of children in our society has been evolving for over a century, and will continue to evolve. We seem to think that childhood is a fixed experience, but it’s not. The way children are part of their families and part of society has been changing over the centuries,” says Léo.

The volunteers at CDIC decided that if they were going to archive the images, they might as well share them with the public. They have carefully digitized the artwork, which you can view on the organization’s website. Léo mentions that because of the art being visible to the public, some parents misunderstand the purpose of CDIC. The CDIC’s mission to archive is different from the role of an art gallery or a museum.

“If a parent comes to us in the hope that we’ll make their child famous, it’s not what we’re here for.”

Because children is in the organization’s name, some might assume that CDIC simply collects artwork from the current generation of children. But the volunteers have been busily reaching out to people of every generation, seeking objects that they’ve made and kept from when they were children.

“Our approach is about saying that you made this for a reason. We have as much interest in all the images that families toss away as we do in the ones that were part of an exhibition or winner of a prize, or celebrating a life event like mother’s day. Even the ones you tossed away, maybe they’re not hyper-significant, but they still have value,” says Léo.

If families are interested in donating children’s artwork, the CDIC can keep their names anonymous if preferred, as well as keeping the art in their archive but not posting it on their website.


The artwork archived by the CDIC is utilized by researchers, who compare things like the generational differences and the materials used to create the images.

CDIC is currently partnered with Research Shop at McMaster University, which works with pubic, non-profit and community organizations ‘to provide plain-language answers to research questions.’ A group of five graduate students and post-graduate students are working with CDIC to identify what the barriers or motivations are for families when it comes to keeping children’s art or not keeping it. The team picked 20 families to participate in the study, out of over 350 survey respondents.

“They’re looking at why certain parents keep some and some don’t; for how long; which kind of object or image do they prefer; whether they know it’s possible to archive them or not. They’re going to produce a report for us summarizing the key motivations within the families and the key obstacles,” says Léo.

“We’re interested in hearing from families who don’t necessarily have artistic experience in their families, but their children are drawing at school and at home. We want to know what’s happening to those drawings that don’t make it into a local art show.”

CDIC also has a current partnership with the University of Guelph Childcare and Learning Centre. The educators at the centre have been making art with the toddlers in their care for a couple months now, focusing on the theme of exploring connections: with nature, emotions, their city, and their community.

CDIC is going through the art that the children are making and mixing it with some of their own archival images. The art will be displayed at the childcare centre from June 10th - June 14th. Each classroom will have five frames, and each of those frames can fit multiple images. Every day of the week, the children will get to swap out the images how they see fit.

“Those toddlers will be entering in a conversation about what they’ve made and what it means to them,” says Léo.

On Thursday, June 13th, the public will be invited to view the images and enjoy an event at the facility to celebrate the partnership between Children’s Design International Collection and University of Guelph Childcare and Learning Centre.

Léo is passionate about the CDIC’s work, and is looking forward to seeing the event attendees appreciating children’s creations. He sees the historical and cultural significance in every image.

“I think that the 20th century was the golden age of children’s art. I think the last century was where we’ve seen the most production and creation made by children ever,” he says.

“It’s important, and a way to give children a voice.”

Learn more about Children's Design International Collection online here.

Léo Beaulieu, President of the Board of Directors at Children’s Design International Collection