When children engage in process art, they all come away with individual and unique masterpieces. Here is an idea for winter process art for toddlers that does just that. All using the same process and the same materials, we ended up with 16 completely different works of art!
Gorgeous Winter Process Art for Toddlers
Every year, I include at least one winter process art activity in my winter theme preschool lesson plans. For some reason, I feel like winter offers so much inspiration for process art!
One year we made these beautiful, sparkly winter paintings using Epsom salts instead of glitter. Another idea was when we used wine corks to make snowballs.
This year, we made sparkly and snowy winter art on canvases. They were gifts to give to loved ones at Christmas, and rightly so because they are stunning! If you’re looking for a more traditional Christmas process art idea, you can try this one right here, too.
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, (like in the case of this activity), I do not force them to use said technique. If a child should ever be allowed to break the rules and step over boundaries, it should be in art!
Toddlers and preschoolers especially benefit from process art activities. And they are naturals at it too since they naturally question any process put before them. They are full of “why” and “what if” questions.
That’s just one of many reasons I adore this winter process art activity for toddlers. It not only presents a new technique to my preschoolers, but it also allows for plenty of freedom to manipulate the materials to create a specific desired outcome.
And this winter process art for toddlers is beautiful to boot, too! Just look at that! Like I said…frame worthy!
FAQ About Doing Process Art with Toddlers
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 experimenting. 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
True process art is simply allowing children a range of materials to use and allowing them to create at their own cares and whims. Ideas for inspiration can be posted, however process art is not about the outcome, but rather the intent of the creator.
Here are some fun process art ideas to get you started:
> paint and an atypical “paintbrush” like a comb or using string
> oil and water paintings
> magazine collages
> glue resist paintings
> cellophane collages on sticky tagboard
Check out all my process art ideas for toddlers and preschoolers here.
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
Winter Process Art for Toddlers and Preschoolers
There is so much I loved about creating these paintings with my toddler class. Although, my older preschoolers also made these same paintings. That’s right, this is winter process art for preschoolers, too!
In fact, I had a parent ask for instructions on the technique because she wanted to make one herself! (And I may have made a couple of my own, too).
- 8×10 canvas boards
- washable tempera paint
- empty gift cards
- liquid glue
- paint brushes
- course iridescent glitter (or Epsom salt if you don’t do glitter)
- snowflake confetti
How to Set Up for Winter Process Art with Toddlers
Like any process art, these can get a bit messy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. These are winter paintings with loads of paint, so you know where this could go.
Just prepare yourself mentally for the mess. It really isn’t too bad.
Plus, take extra precautions by having your toddlers wear art smocks. We used these art smocks for all our art projects, and as long as you don’t wash them too frequently, they hold up really well. (They are art smocks, so it really is ok for them to be covered in paint!) We also use them for sensory activities like snow floam or water table activities.
It also helps to offer your preschoolers trays to work from. I prefer these food trays because they are really inexpensive and they wash up easily. Depending on the art project, I just throw them in the dishwasher instead of washing them by hand.
Here is how to set things up:
- Place a canvas board on a tray for your preschooler or toddler. If your budget doesn’t allow for canvas, then try using foam core boards (found near the poster board), or even cardboard. (But cardboard will create a different texture).
- Have an empty gift card and some paint ready. Now, invite your kiddos to join you in making some beautiful winter paintings.
The Gift Card Painting Technique for Making Winter Process Art
Start by inviting your preschoolers or toddlers to squeeze some paint into their canvas.
When I let my students do their own squeezing, I always spend a minute teaching them how. I tell them that it doesn’t take a hard squeeze and I also share that they don’t need a giant blog of paint. In this case, I used an extra canvas to show them just the right amount of paint. (Too much paint will take away from the effect of the gift card painting process, and I explain this to the children, too).
Some of my preschoolers chose to make dots of paint, while others chose to make lines of paint. Either approach works, but it’s important to let your preschoolers have control here. (I know it’s scary handing over a bottle of paint for them to squirt themselves).
Now, using an empty gift card, push and pull the paint around the canvas to create the desired effect. It’s ok to leave thick paint on the canvas, and in fact, I personally prefer it. It will help create more visual interest.
The preschoolers discovered that the more the moved the paint, the more the paint mixed together and blended colors. It’s hard not to tell preschoolers when to stop in this process, but just let them push and pull as they please.
You can stop here with just one layer of paint, but we chose to extend this art project out over several school days by adding more paint and repeating the process a couple of times. This created multiple layers of color, which added even more visual interest.
My classes experimented with using more or less paint each time we added more. They experimented with pulling the gift card hard by adding a lot of pressure, versus being softer and using very little pressure. (A hard pull with scrape more paint and reveal more of the texture of the canvas, whereas a soft pull will create more texture with the paint itself.
Thick layers of paint might crack a little bit as they dry, but I think that just adds to the winter effect of the art. Think of how many times you have seen cracked ice or thick, crackly frost on the windows. It was an unintended effect of using many layers of paint, but a nice surprise, I think.
You can continue this process as many times as you’d like. Each layer you add gives the canvases even more visual interest.
After that, we used paint brushes to slather glue all over the dried canvases. This needs to be very quick. Because we used washable tempera paint, the glue picked up some of the paint and blended the colors some. This will happen with any washable paint.
If you want to completely avoid this, you will definitely want to use acrylic paint, but be aware that acrylic doesn’t wash out of clothing very well, to protect those preschoolers with some art smocks!
Alternatively, you can invite your toddlers to also just squirt paint directly onto the canvas.
Once we had a fair amount of glue on our canvases, we then used the snowflake confetti to very deliberately place snowflakes all around our winter paintings. I encouraged my preschoolers not to sprinkle the snowflakes, but to instead place them one by one around their paintings. This ended up being some serious fine motor work, and my toddler class is always working on their fine motor skills!
This portion took my toddlers the longest, and also seemed to hold their interest the longest, too. They were all very intentional about the placement of their snowflakes. Just one of the many things that makes this a great winter activity and toddler art project!
The children continued to create, each at their own pace.
You can really see the layers of paint in these photos. Multiple layers of wintery colors would have been just fine with all the layers they created, but I love how intricate each piece became the more we added and worked.
I appreciate the thought that went into the creation of each of these winter art projects. Some of my students made sure that the blue snowflakes were placed on the lighter parts of their canvases, making them stand out more, and by proxy the white snowflakes on the darker parts.
Most of my toddler class ended up dropping them one by one onto their winter paintings, making them fall in random places like real snowflakes. I applauded their creativity, and when I asked what sounds real snowflakes made as they fell, my toddler class gave me a range of “whoosing” and “shooshing” noises.
Leave it to a toddler to add a little pretend and creative play to our art project!
Finally, we added just the slightest sprinkle, of course, iridescent glitter. We chose iridescent because I wanted to offer my preschoolers some sparkle without the extra color. Not all of my students chose to add the glitter, either. But the end results were stunning, with and without the extra glitter.
The student who created this wintery art piece ended up laying his gift card in the wet paint, creating the vein-like lines you see.
I love how the heavy layer of paint in this painting made the piece look like a leaf. You can see the multiple layers of color through the “leaf”, just like in real life.
This student painted quite a bit more with her glue, mixing the dried paint colors again and pulling up some of the colors to reveal the mostly purple layer she started with. I love that you can see the brush strokes on the left side of the painting.
This winter painting might be my favorite. I love the cool colors, the layers, and the cracking paint. The course glitter looks like salt of ice melt you might throw on ice. While every painting turned out beautifully, this one really reminds me of chilly winters.
And the best part if that since I have a child of my own in each of my classes, I get double the artwork to display in my home this winter. I made an example to demonstrate the techniques to my classes, but I also have a stunning piece from each of my little boys.
My preschoolers made these as Christmas gifts for their parents, and I think you can agree that not only can process art be beautiful but these, in particular, are frame worthy! They will sit on my fireplace mantle until summer, I’m sure!
A Note on Where to Get the Empty Gift Cards
Most department stores will share empty gift cards if you just tell them you are a preschool teacher and you need them for an art project. I’ve had great luck with Walmart, too. For this project, a parent who works retail brought in about 5o empty gift cards.
Looking for More Winter Art for Toddlers?
Take a look at these other process art activities. They are all great process art activities for toddlers, too!
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.