Encourage the Process

Encourage the Process

Is your goal to encourage children’s creativity through developmentally appropriate art experiences? If this is what you are trying to provide for children then first you need to review the differences between process and product-focused art to help start you in the right direction.

Characteristics of process-focused art experiences

  • There are no step-by-step instructions
  • There is no sample for children to follow
  • There is no right or wrong way to explore and create
  • The art is focused on the experience and on 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
  • Ideas are not readily available online

You can often tell by listening to the children’s voice. If your art experiences are process-focused children will say things like:

“Look what I made, can I make another”?

“Can I have more time”?

Characteristics of product-focused art experiences

  • Children have instructions to follow
  • The teacher created a sample for children to copy
  • There’s a right and a wrong way to proceed
  • There’s a finished product in mind
  • The children’s finished art all looks the same
  • The children experience frustration
  • The teacher might “fix mistakes”
  • The whole class took part in an art project at the same time
  • Patterns and examples are readily available online

In opposition to process-focus, children participating in product-focused art experiences will say things like:

“Mine doesn’t look like yours”,

“Can I be done now”?

“Is this right”?

“I can’t do it”.


What you need to do is make art a joyful experience. Let children use more paint, more colours, more glue, more collage materials, more clay and make more and more artwork. Ensure you areproviding plenty of time for children to carry out their plans and explorations without feeling rushed.

Approach art like open-ended play—for example, provide a variety of materials and see what happens as the child leads the art experience. Let children come and go from their art at will, adding as they want to and developing until they feel they are finished. Keep the materials interesting and ensure there are plenty on offer. Notice and comment on what you see: “Look at all the yellow dots you painted”. You could play music in the background for inspiration and to create a sense of calm.

Don’t confine art to the classroom, take art materials outside into the natural light and bring the outside natural materials into your art. Allow children to choose whether their art goes home or stays in the classroom. Most importantly, remember that it’s the children’s art, not yours. Children learn and develop so much through the process of creating art. From being free to relax, focus, feel successful and have an outlet to express their creativity and feelings, to extending their literacy by discussing their art work or adding print to it if they want, to practising their fine motor skills to paint, draw, use glue and sculp using clay. Cognitive skills are also further developed as children compare, predict, plan and problem solve during the process.

So remember that ever important mantra…..it is the process that matters, not the end result.

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