You might have heard the term “process art,” but what does that mean? How is it different from the “typical” art projects your child brings home from school? And what are the developmental benefits of process based art for your child?
Process art allows a child to be creative and explore with materials at their own pace, using their own ideas. There is no example or master copy that they are expected to follow. There won’t be 25 of the same project at the end of a class. Instead, children will have creative freedom, and because of this, they will ask questions about what they are doing and become more involved. The important part of the experience is the process and not the product. This allows for growth and development rather than just learning how to follow directions.
Product art usually follows a teacher model. All the crafts end up looking the same and children will often have a difficult time picking out the one they made. The teacher has already pre-cut or arranged the materials for the students and their only job is to “assemble” their craft by following the teacher’s directions. If the child makes a mistake the teacher will often “fix” their work. What you get at the end of a project like this, is uniformity. The result looks nice for mom or dad to put on the fridge or show off to family members, but what did the child learn? Really, they only learned to follow directions and during the project their creativity was put on the back burner.
When children can explore a variety of materials and test things out on their own, they will become more engaged. They will also learn more. You will often hear children talk to their teachers and their peers about what they are making. For example, a child might say, “look at what I am making! I’m adding more paint. Oh, what’s that?” By asking questions and explaining their thought processes, children are developing their language skills. They improve fine motor skills naturally by working with different materials. Finally, they gain valuable cognitive skills when they plan, predict and execute a project on their own.
Through trial and error, children will learn to self-regulate and use proper amounts of paint, glue, paper, etc. In the beginning they might dump blobs of paint all over a tiny piece of paper, or use too much glue to paste something together, but eventually they will learn how to use correct amounts. They will feel more accomplished and independent because a teacher won’t be constantly over their shoulder telling them they are using too much or too little of something. A teacher won’t be there holding their hand, basically completing a project for them. The students will truly be the creators of their own work. They will remember what they did and talk about it more freely and with a stronger vocabulary than if they were just “told” what to do.
Check out these links to learn more about process art and to get some great ideas of activities to do at home with your child!