Welcome to the ultimate guide to process art in preschool! This post is full of information about how to begin process art, the importance of art exploration in preschool, plus art projects for preschoolers, and more!
What You Need to Know About Process Art in Preschool
Process art allows preschoolers the flexibility to experiment and explore, instead of creating a cookie-cutter craft. Process art is just what it says – it is the art that is centered around the process of creating.
Watching the process of a bunch of preschoolers making art is incredible! While it may look like “just play” or “just art” to the untrained eye, preschoolers gain so much from the sensory experience.
Preschoolers and toddlers use process art as a means to tell a story. Just listen to what they say as they work:
“See my apple tree? It’s big and has big red apples on it!”
You may look at your toddler’s painting and see nothing that resembles an apple tree or even a hint of red. But that’s not what matters. To your toddler, she is making an apple tree with big red apples on it (even if the apples are actually purple rather than the red she says they are).
And that’s just fine.
I love including lots of process art in my lesson plans because this kind of art allows preschoolers and toddlers the flexibility and freedom to explore art materials. To really use and manipulate them. I often tell my students:
“There is no wrong way to create art.”
And I mean it.
While in many process art activities, I will show my toddlers and preschoolers a specific technique, I do not force them to use a certain technique. If a child should ever be allowed to break the rules and step over boundaries, it should be in art!
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What is Process Art in Preschool?
By definition, process art emphasizes the act and process of making art over the product produced. It is open-ended, self-motivated, and based on experience and experimentation. Characteristics of process art include:
- no specified outcome
- no step-by-step directions
- no sample for children to follow
- work is entirely the children’s own, both in product and whether or not to participate
What is Process Art vs Planned Art in Preschool?
What is the difference between process art and planned art activities in preschool? Simply explained, planned art includes:
- Specific instructions for children to follow
- A teacher created sample for children to copy
- There’s a finished product in mind
- The children’s finished art all looks the same
- The teacher might “fix mistakes” for the students
- The whole class took part in the same art project at the same time
After reviewing the differences between planned art and process art, you can see how creativity and exploration drive process art in a unique and individual way!
What are the Academic Benefits of Process Art in Preschool?
Preschool process art is so much more than just painting paper. Inviting children to play with artistic materials encourages academic, social, and emotional support during play.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) touts Process Art as highly developmentally appropriate for the preschool classroom. Some benefit of process art includes:
> nurturing social and emotional health
> reinforcing skills like focus, relaxation, and emotional sharing
> inspiring creativity and problem-solving
> builds cognitive skills like comparison, planning, and problem-solving
> encourages vocabulary development and verbal expression of language
Improve Language Skills
Language develops naturally when young children interact and engage in art activities. Adults and peers discuss while children play. You might hear, “Look, I mixed these colors and now I see brown” Or, “I used too much glue, what should I do?” Children are so engaged with the excitement of process art that the language comes naturally and it’s a perfect time for the children and grown-ups to participate in conversation together and problem-solve through inherent ups and downs.
And it’s important to consider that through process art children learn to express their opinions. It’s a great time to learn that we accept and appreciate others’ artwork and use kind and thoughtful language to express it. We don’t compare or criticize, we admire and celebrate!
Develops Fine Motor Skills
So many process art activities naturally include a fine motor component. Squeezing glue bottles, holding a paintbrush, picking up tiny sequins, and bending pipe cleaners, to name a few, all help children develop their fine motor skills as they create their own process art. Offering children unique art materials including q-tips, cotton balls, and finger paint can be a sensory and fine motor experience combined.
Increases Cognitive Development
Process art is full of learning! Children learn to mix colors and develop an understanding of primary and secondary colors. Plus, the research is very clear – creativity blossoms when children are encouraged to pursue their own artistic ideas. That creative process helps develop reasoning and acceptance of mistakes and failures. When preschoolers have more free rein in their own artistic planning, they come across ways to problem-solve and make predictions as they go.
Don’t Forget the Art Books!
Learn about art through high-quality literature! Take a look at some of my favorite art-themed books for preschoolers.
What are the Social Emotional Benefits of Process Art in Preschool?
Calms and Relaxes Children
Children often find art to be calming or soothing. For example, painting with watercolors is popular because the simple act of painting with colorful water can be very soothing. Consider using clay, painting with unusual tools (think potato mashers, toothbrushes, sponges, food items, etc.), and making collages with varied materials. All these process art activities lead to a soothing environment especially combined with some classical music!
Helps Children Socialize and Communicate
Participating in process art helps develop social skills, such as taking turns, sharing art materials, cooperation, and communicating with each other. In order to make process art, children are in close quarters and practice conflict resolution and communicating their wants with each other. Plus, the dialogue during process art is often so helpful and well, downright interesting!
What Are Process Art Ideas For Preschoolers?
There are endless process art ideas out there and they often use materials already on hand in many classrooms and homes. Here’s a list of some of your favorites for any time of the year:
- Healthy Eating Process Art
- Yarn Paintings Process Art
- Lettuce Process Art
- Butterfly Stamping Process Art
- Shared Process Art
For some extra special holiday or themed art ideas, check out this list full of themed process art fun!
- Valentine’s Day Process Art Collages
- Valentine’s Day Oil and Water Process Art
- St. Patrick’s Day Process Art
- Firework Themed 4th of July Process Art
- Fall Themed Process Art
- Fall Process Art for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Colorful Turkey Process Art
- Sparkly Winter Process Art
- Fine Motor Winter Process Art
- Christmas Collage Process Art
What Are Some Open-Ended Art Ideas for Preschoolers?
Providing the time and space for preschoolers to experiment with art materials is a great use of time. Feel free to add some of those open-ended art opportunities into your preschool day!
- Invite children to paint on an easel with a variety of paints and paintbrushes (with no directions). Tip-Easel painting is great for muscle development in young children!
- Provide stamps or sponges for printing and stamping.
- Provide an assortment of stringing beads and various types of yarn and string. This also builds fine motor skills!
- Supply an interesting assortment of pencils, art/gel pens, various sizes of markers, or crayons, oil pastels, paint pens, etc. for children to use freely.
- Gather supplies for collages such as tissue paper, various sizes of paper, liquid glue, glue sticks, scissors, and recycled materials
- Create homemade playdough and adding in colors and scents for a more sensory experience.
Materials For Your Process Art Activities for Kids
Having a few great options on hand to create your art experiences is a great place to start. I have included some of our favorite art items for preschoolers that we use all year round.
Tips and Tricks to Process Art in Preschool
We have put together some important tips and tricks, including safety reminders, to help you make engaging in process art the best experience for your preschoolers!
- Say YES to children’s ideas and do your best to refrain from jumping in with ideas and suggestions. It’s the child’s art so stick to commenting and noticing what you see in the picture. “I see pink polka dots and wavy lines in your piece of art!”
- Offer new and interesting materials! The more variety, the more creativity!
- Provide plenty of time for children to plan and create without feeling rushed or hurried.
- Some process art activities can take some children time to become comfortable with. Some children are very concerned about getting messy (think shaving cream, paint, glue, etc.) and can struggle to participate in art that uses their hands or even has a smell. It’s important to allow children to join in at their own pace and to encourage them to watch if they are not interested in participating.
- Process art can be messy… but if you’re prepared for the mess, it’s not so bad! Set the expectation to children that they must wear art smocks when painting. Using a wipeable or tossable plastic tablecloth also helps to make cleanup a bit easier! Invite children to help with the cleanup by placing paintbrushes in water and using baby wipes to clean the table.
I am an educator, book enthusiast, and a stay at home momma to two precious and long-awaited littles. My degree is in Early Childhood Education and Curriculum and Instruction and I have spent the last 15 years working with young children. I feel very fortunate to have this time to watch my babies grow and I can’t wait to share my passion for learning and reading with you!