The father of kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, believed that children should be involved in both making their own art as well as looking at and enjoying others’ art. To Froebel, art activities were not to be skipped because they encouraged each child’s “full and all-sided development.” Undoubtedly, art is an important part of early childhood education. It’s basic, but an incredibly valuable component of any program.
Today, there are two approaches to art in the preschool setting: process art versus crafts.
What is process art?
By definition, process art emphasizes the act and process of making art over the product produced. Characteristics of process art include:
- no specified outcome
- no step-by-step directions
- no sample for children to follow
- work is entirely of the children’s own choice, both in product and whether or not to participate
What are crafts?
Crafts are an example of art that has a specific outcome or product. They are popular in preschool because they make wonderful keepsakes for parents. Characteristics of crafts or product based projects include:
- a specific outcome or product
- step-by-step instructions for completion
- children make a copy of a sample
- right or a wrong way to create
- fixed set of materials provided
Combining Process Art with Crafts
Technically, any art activity that has any kind of specified outcome is not true process art, no matter how little instructions there are. True process art is simply allowing children a wide range of materials to use and allowing them to create at their own cares and whims.
However, absolute process art is not always an option in every program, so many teachers and parents choose a combination of process art and crafts. An example of this is having a product in mind but allowing the children to create in any way they choose. Sometimes these are called “invitations to create.” For example, in a unit study about snowmen, a parent might offer a child various shades of blue paper, white paper, black and brown paint, buttons,
For example, in a unit study about snowmen, a parent might offer a child various shades of blue and white paper, black and brown paint, buttons, googley eyes, felt scraps, glitter, and paint in addition to glue and scissors. While collectively these materials can create a snowman, they could also create a winter snow scene, a penguin, or a even spaceship.
The important point is to offer children the materials needed without to create without interfering with their own choices and creativity.