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What is process art, and why is it important?

What is process art, and why is it important?
Posted on April 13, 2023 by CHS

Give a child a ball of clay, a dedicated space, carving tools, loose parts, some pictures for inspiration, and no final product directions, and there will be boundless creative possibilities. This is the very definition of process art. Process art is about the process of creating, allowing the child to explore materials without focusing so much on the final product.

What does process art look like?

Process art is:

  • Child-directed
  • Materials are open-ended, and no samples are provided
  • No two art projects in the classroom look identical
  • The experience is slow-paced and calming
  • The art activity is focused more on the discovery of the materials and process of creating

Process art does not involve:

  • Worksheets
  • Dittos
  • Coloring pages
  • Encouraging a child to copy a sample and follow instructions
  • Telling a child there is a right way and a wrong way to complete the activity

Some ideas for art supplies:

  • Clay
  • Homemade dough
  • Paint
  • Watercolors
  • Paint with unique tools such as a turkey baster, funnel, toothbrush, sponge, potato smasher, squirt bottle, reusable fork, spoon, or one’s fingers
  • Chalk
  • Crayons
  • Pieces of fabric or yarn
  • Bubble wrap
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Paper of different colors and textures
  • Fabric
  • Collage materials: tape, glue, glue sticks, scissors, tissue paper, chenille stems, and recycled materials such as egg cartons

When setting up an art corner, it is best to have a dedicated space where children can work without restrictions. This means there is enough space to make a bit of a mess, or for two or more children to have enough space to work independently if they so choose. Materials should be accessible, age-appropriate, and continuously rotated to ensure they stay in good working order and to maintain the child’s interest. Art materials should also be adapted to accommodate the child’s developmental needs. For example, you can modify materials or tools for children with limited use of their hands by providing larger and thicker crayons, paintbrushes with larger handles, or an ergonomic writing grip. Another way to make adaptations is by cutting a sponge in half, wrapping it around paintbrushes or writing tools, and using tape to hold it in place.

Why is process art important?
Children learn by playing and doing. Art activities can support children in all areas of development, providing valuable experiences that promote skills such as motor development, language, self-expression, social skills, science, and mathematics. For example, when children use their hands to mold clay, they use their fine motor skills, which is the development of the small muscles, most often of the hands. These muscles will later provide support to hold a crayon or cut items using scissors.

As children express themselves through art activities, they build their social and emotional development, increasing their self-identity as they make choices and feel validated. As you talk to your child, their language development increases when you name new materials or tools and have conversations about the projects they are working on. In addition, creating art is a valuable tool for a child to spark their curiosity and imagination, motivating them to experiment and be confident in their ideas.

Are you looking for simple, fun activities to do with your child? For more ideas, please visit the Children’s Home Society of California website, Art Activities.

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