What you might not know about process art

I have lots of teachers tell me that they would like to try process art but it makes them nervous, they don’t know how to try it, they can’t deal with the mess, or they fear that the children will waste the materials. If this sounds like something you worry about then this is what you might not know about process art.

Process art isn’t about getting messy

Not all process art is messy and process art isn’t about getting messy. Process art is about the experience of exploring and creating with a variety of art tools and materials. Some materials may be more messy than others but what I have learned is that the MORE the children freely explore art tools and materials, the LESS messy they are. You see, process art helps young children develop their ability to self-regulate. They get good at pulling up those sleeves, watching where they point the paint brush, and thinking about how much glue they really need BUT they need more freedom and time to explore and not less.

Process art isn’t a free-for-all

There is this misconception that process art is throwing every art supply and tool you have on the table and telling the children to just go for it. However, process art is more intentional than that. Yes, you set out art materials and tools for the children to explore and then step back to let them explore but you don’t set EVERYTHING out on the table at one time.  In fact, you can start simple. Just pick two to three materials the children can work with and set them on the table then step back and see what they come up with. I loved what our speaker at the Discover Conference had to say to those of us who are newbies at process art. “Start with three art materials – two that the children are already familiar with and one that is new. Let the children see what they can do with them.”  So, for example, you might start with Paper, scissors and add glue. Then the next time set out paper, glue and add some loose parts. Of course, you can get more creative than that but the point is to start simple and give the children different materials to explore over time as well as some of the same materials so they can master their use of all the materials over time.

Process art isn’t about wasting materials

You don’t have to give a child a full bottle of glitter and let them shake away. You can simply pour a small amount of glitter into another shaker and let them shake that one away. I learned that at the Discover Conference too. Same goes with glue, paint, etc. The idea is to give them the freedom to explore the materials so set it up so they can have the freedom to explore without you freaking out that they might be wasteful. There is always a way if you take a minute to think about it.

Process Art isn’t hard or brainless activity

Process art can make your planning way easier and far less time consuming and yet the learning is far more extensive and higher level. The children are learning to self-regulate, building their creative confidence, developing their ability to problem-solve, estimate, and make decisions. The children discover what will happen when they mix this color with that color or mix the paint with ice. They learn by doing and that is what process art is all about. Giving the children the time, opportunity, freedom, and materials to dive in and experience the wonder of creating.

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Available on Amazon

Here are some terrific process art materials that were recommended at this year’s Discover Conference!


By |2019-02-01T23:45:35+00:00February 5th, 2019|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.

One Comment

  1. Beth Stauffer February 11, 2019 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I love the whole process art. Allowing the children to express as they mature by creating is the same as
    not interrupting when they learn to put puzzles together. I like to compare this learning process of a childs
    development to a Butterfly drying her wings. Watch but do not touch. Also this is good when cleaning out closets and shelves that are filled with plenty of left over materials!

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