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What is Process Art for kids?

The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” -Maria Montessori

What is Process Art?

12 Simple Art Supplies to Engage Your Creative Preschooler.

Process Art is art that is child-directed, choice-driven, and celebrates the experience of discovery. In process art, the final product is always unique and the focus lies in the creation of the work, not the outcome.

What are the benefits of process art?

There are so many benefits to process art! Process art is developmentally appropriate for young children because meets them where they are as sensory explorers.

Through process art, children…

  • will think creatively, independently, and imaginatively
  • will learn about the physical limitations and possibilities of materials.
  • are encouraged to use creative and critical thinking skills.
  • will gain confidence to realize their own ideas.
  • are motivated to ask questions and experiment.
  • will embrace experimentation and mistakes as part of the learning process.

Why adults love process art

As much as process art is age appropriate and engaging for young makers, parents and educators generally find that process art is easier to facilitate than product-focussed art lessons.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Adults facilitate projects and act as co-learners, so they don’t have to hold all the answers. In fact, not knowing the answers can be a huge benefit because it gives adults room to play and experiment themselves.
  • Process-focussed projects don’t require a lot of fancy set up or unique materials that are hard to come by. This saves both time and money.
  • Because the goal of process art is to explore and discover, rather than achieve perfection, adults are also emotionally free to support whatever the child dreams up as an ideal solution or end result. No fighting, tears, or half-completed projects.

How to facilitate a process art experience

  • Offer self-serve supplies that the child can easily use independently
  • Allow children to come and go as they please
  • Provide interesting art materials
  • Allow the child to follow his or her interests
  • Be playful and joyful in the art-making process
  • Ask open-ended questions and make objective comments about the child’s artwork

Process Art vs. Product Art

Sometimes I’ll hear people talk about process art versus product art as if they’re opposing ideas. In some sense they are, and I’ll explain what that’s about in a moment. First, however, I’d like to dispel a myth that process and product can’t work together, when in fact they can!

When people pit process against product, they’re generally referring to how children make art. Process art’s goals relate to what happens during the art sessions, while product art’s goals relate to the final outcome.

Something I’d like you to keep in mind with all of this is that we shouldn’t think about process and product as polar opposites because product is almost always embedded in process. When a child goes through the process of making a work of art, it’s likely that he or she has an idea, question, curiosity, or even product in his or her mind. It may not be evident to us as viewers, but there’s always an intention behind the process, and sometimes that intention connects to a final product.

This isn’t really what people are getting at, however, when they talk about process versus product. The debate is actually about the intention behind the art experience itself. Let’s take a look at the breakdown in terms of how a process project and a product project might look…

Process Art…

  • is Child directed
  • celebrates the experience of discovery
  • has unique outcomes with no two pieces looking alike

Product Art…

  • is adult driven
  • offers the child clear steps that have to be followed
  • has a specific outcome in mind
  • expects the final product to look like a sample
  • has expectations around a right and wrong way to do it

Five of our favorite process art activities

Watercolor Paint on Doilies: Process Art with a Beautiful Outcome – ages 3 and up

Collage with Leaves, Glue, and Cardboard – ages 3 and up

Sticking Tape to Paper Bags – ages 2 and up

Office Stickers inside a Drawn Frame – ages 2 and up

Cookie Sheet Monoprints with Tempera Paint – ages 2 and up

24 Comments

  1. Thank you for this very clear and concise description of process art..I am working on a project in Istanbul Turkey which I hope will encourage Turkish parents to experiment more with process vs product art with their young children (aged 3 and under) and will be happy to refer curious parents to this post!

  2. This is a beautiful explanation of process art. I am beginning hosting classes for toddlers and preschoolers, one of which is a process art class. Would you mind if I use some of your words as part of my class description piece?

  3. […] that you give kids a finished product and ask them to make something that looks like that, and art that is the child’s choosing. They are able to create and develop their own sense of style and […]

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