Process Art for Children

Parent and child practicing process art together

Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive process of children than to the results they achieve in various fields of doing and understanding.
- Loris Malaguzzi, educator and founder of the Reggio Emilia Learning Approach

Children are naturally drawn to art. For them it is a form of expression as they explore materials and uncover possibilities. Children relish in participating in process-oriented art.

What is Process Art?

Process art is characterized by being open-ended, experiential, unstructured, self-motivated, creative, and unique. It focuses on the process, or the doing, rather than the outcome.

Benefits of Process Art in Early Childhood

It is through the doing that children learn so much: problem solving, experimentation, expression, innovation, scientific thinking, mathematical understanding and language development. Children gain confidence and feel a sense of competency when they create something based on their own ideas and efforts.

Here are some tips for getting started with process art.

Exploring Process Art with Kids

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Cover surfaces with newspaper or plastic tablecloths. Provide old shirts, aprons, or smocks to cover clothes. Have water, paper towels, soap, or rags at the ready. Discuss any guidelines to keep paint, glue, and markers away from furniture or walls. Ensure small items are not accessible to very young children and supervision is used as needed.

Set up space. If you can, find a designated space for creating. If space is limited, consider a small rolling storage container that can be wheeled outside or stored in a closet.

Compile a selection of safe materials to offer. Keep in mind the age of your child when planning activities and stockpiling supplies. Materials can include: paper in a variety of colors, textures and sizes, pencils, markers, crayons, watercolors, multiple colors of tape, glue, stickers, and collage materials. You do not need to offer all of the options at once. Remember, sometimes less is more.

Organize your materials. Organizational systems keep things neat and appealing, and inspire children's creativity. Use tackle boxes, small metal flowerpots, containers with lids, boxes, small baskets, small bowls, and muffin tins to corral like items and make clean-up easy.

Try making a collage. Cut or rip construction or tissue paper in a variety of colors into small pieces. Provide your child with a small amount of glue in a disposable cup, a thin paint brush, and paper. You can vary what you offer. Think about three-dimensional materials, such as paper towel tubes or cardboard boxes, and other collage materials, such as leaves, flowers, sequins, small tiles, or pieces of fabric.

Encourage creative independence. Process art is about your child forging his or her own path. If you feel tempted to give your child instructions on what to make, try stating, "Here are some art materials I collected for you. Let’s see how you use them."

Discuss your child’s creations and creative process. Engaging in a conversation about your child’s art helps him or her to become more cognizant of choices and actions, allows for verbal expression, and boosts vocabulary.

Try saying, "Tell me more about this," rather than, "What a beautiful house you drew." You may just learn that what you thought was a house, is actually, "a friendly monster ready to play with his friends."

Ask questions to encourage reflection on the process. "Why did you decide to use purple over here?" Or, "How did you figure out how to attach those pieces to the paper?" You can also share observations on what you see. "I see that you used multiple strips of tape." Or, "I noticed that you mix very thin lines, with large wide ones."

Remember, there is no right or wrong way when it comes to process art projects for kids.

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