Learn The Definition Of Process Art, Plus Ways To Encourage It At Home

by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
Process Art
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As a parent, if you hear the words “art project,” it’s completely understandable if your first thought is something along the lines of, Oh crap, this is going to turn into a big mess. Trust us, we hear you. But then you might think about the look on your kids’ faces when they’re really in the zone while working on their art — part joy, part concentration, and at least 10 minutes of relative quiet. (Although if they get too quiet, that might be a sign to check your walls in case they ended up being the canvas!) In fact, you may notice your kids seem to get more out of planning and making their art project than the final product itself. That’s the idea behind process art.

Didn’t know that was even a thing? Don’t feel bad. Parenting is a never-ending education for all of us. So, consider this your next lesson: what you need to know about process art, including what it is and some of its benefits.

What is process art?

Process art is all about, well, the process of making art. In other words, the focus is on the experience itself, rather than on the outcome or final product of an art project. Not what you end up with, but how you got there. Process art is child-directed, choice-driven, and celebrates the adventure of discovery. If that doesn’t sound like fun, we don’t know what does!

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) describes process-focused art experiments as having some of the following characteristics:

  • There are no step-by-step instructions.
  • There is no sample for kids to follow.
  • There is no right or wrong way to explore and create.
  • The art is focused on the experience and on an exploration of techniques, tools, and materials.
  • The art is unique and original.
  • The experience is relaxing or calming.
  • The art is entirely the children’s own.
  • The art experience is a child’s choice.

What are the benefits of process art?

Curious how letting your child loose with some art supplies is actually helping them? Probably in more ways than you realize. Here are a few examples, categorized by the type of benefits:

  • Social and emotional benefits: Process art helps children relax, focus, feel successful, and it can give them a way to express their feelings.
  • Language and literacy benefits: Children may choose to discuss their art and add print to it (on their own or by dictating to a teacher).
  • Cognitive benefits: When children make process art, they compare, predict, plan, and problem solve.
  • Physical benefits: When children make process art, they have the chance to use and improve their fine motor skills during activities like painting, writing, gluing, using clay, drawing, and making collages.

What are some tips for facilitating process art?

Now that you’ve learned more about the benefits of process art, you’re probably going to want to make sure your kids have the opportunity to try it. But how do we do that? Here are some tips for parents who want to facilitate process art:

  1. Approach art like open-ended play — for example, provide a variety of materials and see what happens as the child leads the art experience.
  2. Make art a joyful experience. Let children use more paint, more colors, and make more and more artwork.
  3. Provide plenty of time for children to carry out their plans and explorations.
  4. Let children travel to and from their art at will.
  5. Notice and comment on what you see, i.e. “Look at all the yellow dots you painted!”
  6. Say yes to children’s ideas.
  7. Offer new and interesting materials.
  8. Play music in the background.
  9. Take art materials outside in the natural light.
  10. Display children’s books with artful illustrations, such as those by Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, and Javaka Steptoe.
  11. Let the children choose whether their art goes home or stays in the classroom.
  12. Remember that it’s the children’s art, not yours.

What are some activities that encourage process art?

Coloring pages may be all the rage (for adults, at least) and paint-by-number pieces may give you the opportunity to make art that looks like something, but they don’t exactly encourage kids to get creative and come up with their own ideas. Here are some activities that will get their creative juices flowing:

  • Easel painting with a variety of paints and paintbrushes (with no directions)
  • Decorating fabric using a tie-dye kit
  • Watercolor painting
  • Exploring and creating with clay
  • Finger painting
  • Painting with unusual tools like toothbrushes, paint rollers, potato mashers
  • Printing and stamping (stamps purchased or made with sponges)
  • Creating spin art using a record player and paint, squirt bottles, paintbrushes, or markers
  • Stringing beads independently and creatively
  • Weaving cloth, yarn, or paper
  • Drawing with pencils, art pens, various sizes of markers, or crayons
  • Using homemade doughs
  • Making collages using tissue paper, various sizes of paper, glue, paste, glue sticks, scissors, and recycled materials
  • Take a toy car and roll it in a splash of paint. Let your child’s imagination ride along on a piece of paper with their tiny vehicle. You can literally see where your child’s imagination takes them.
  • Roll out a long piece of white paper and have your child step into a tray of paint. When their feet are covered in color, let them run around the paper. This foot art activity should be done outside and watch their journey become a literal masterpiece.

And even though the goal isn’t to end up with the best piece of artwork in the world, you know you’re going to love your child’s creations. Better make room on the fridge, Mama!

What is product art?

Compared to process art, product art is more structured. It includes instruction. An example of product art is telling your child to mold a boat out of clay, based on a picture. There is a right and wrong way to complete the assignment, and the focus is more on the outcome than the process. The teacher’s goal during this exercise is to help students complete the project correctly.

Product art is an important activity for children to take part in because it teaches them how to follow instructions. In school, product art is used to teach kids lessons and understand topics or stories. However, a downside to this kind of activity is that it takes time to plan an assignment. Children may also become consumed with doing the project the “right” way, which can stifle their creativity.

What are the 7 different forms of art?

Process art is a free flowing practice that doesn’t restrict kids, especially in terms of the mediums they use. Art is one of the most flexible subjects kids encounter and thankfully, there are seven styles children can learn to expand their creativity. Check out the different vehicles students can try, below.

  • Painting
  • Architecture
  • Sculpture
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Theater/performing
  • Cinema

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