What is Process Art?

…and why is it important?

Process art is art play that emphasizes the child’s experience of the process over the physical product that results. When I think of product based art, lots of the pinterest-y, traditional preschool projects come to mind: paper plate animals, cotton ball bunnies, etc. If a group of young children produce projects that look very similar, with little space for individual expression, I would safely categorize that as product based art.

Many process art projects result in beautiful products, but the emphasis is on the child’s experience and allows for free choice and self direction to come into play. Product based projects may be good for fine motor skill development, but leave little room for big picture abstract thinking skill growth. I want my children and students to be practicing critical thinking skills, implementing their developing abilities to plan and carry through with an idea, and becoming abstract thinkers and creative problem solvers. Process based art play is much more conducive to this kind of skill development.

Process Art Every Day

Process art makes life easier for me as a caregiver, because my children have lots of opportunities to be engaged and self directed. It ticks so many boxes off that list of things you “should” be teaching your child in those formative early years: developing their fine motor skills important for writing later on, building resilience, growing abstract thinking skills, understanding cause and effect, planning and thinking ahead, expressing and learning to self manage emotions, fostering spacial sense as they grow pre-math skills, sorting and classifying shapes and colors, and learning to be creative problem solvers.

Developing a routine that includes process art play in your day to day life with your kids will make life easier and more engaging for everyone in your family. You can develop a style of facilitating this kind of play that fits your parenting style, budget and comfort level with mess.

You don’t have to have a background in Art Education to utilize art play in your home or classroom.

I’m here to tell you, you CAN facilitate meaningful art play for your kids and students! The beauty of process based art play is that it’s usually MUCH easier for an adult to facilitate than adult-controlled product based art. You don’t have to have a background in art or education. You don’t have to know anything about art. All you have to do is provide your child, already a natural artist, with the tools and materials to explore and experiment.

When facilitating process based art play, the emphasis should be on your child and their ideas. When you shift that responsibility from you (setting up all the tightly controlled materials and dictating where each cotton ball “should” be placed for the pinterest bunny) to your child, you can both experience the art process more fully.

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