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