In early childhood education, there are two important approaches to art: Process Art and Product Art. Understanding the difference between them is key for parents and teachers. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of each and why nurturing creativity is vital for our young artists.
- Process art focuses on the experiences of creating and experimenting with art materials. It supports individuality, creativity, and cognitive skills.
- Product art is typically adult-led and focuses on the end result. An example of product art is a holiday craft.
- Finding a balance between freely exploring art (process-oriented) and making crafts (product-oriented) is possible.
What is Process Art
An approach that values the creative journey over the end product, allowing children to explore materials and express themselves freely, fostering creativity and individuality.
Imagine a child entering the art center, choosing supplies, and creating art from their own ideas or observations.
What is Product Art
In contrast, Product Art emphasizes the end result, often guided by specific instructions. This can limit spontaneous creativity and personal expression.
Picture a child following directions to create an adorable animal craft or completing a coloring sheet.
Understanding the Difference
In education, the debate of process art vs. product art comes down to an art activity being child-led or teacher-directed.
Recognizing the benefits of both approaches is essential. Process art encourages exploration, imagination, and self-esteem, while product art teaches following directions. Both can lead to feelings of accomplishment.
The Benefits of Process Art
Let’s explore why process art is an important and valuable part of early childhood education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Embracing process over product means celebrating effort and creation. It’s about celebrating exploration and self-expression, not perfection.
Process art taps into children’s natural curiosity and investigative skills. Through creative activities, children build cognitive skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Flexible thinking and adaptability help them become better problem solvers.
Building Self-Esteem and Confidence
Children gain confidence and pride when their ideas matter. Freedom to make creative choices leads to more engaged learning. Process art nurtures children’s autonomy, self-expression, and resilience.
The Role of Product Art
Product-focused art has benefits in early childhood education too. Product art helps children practice following instructions and introduces new art techniques.
Product art can be an opportunity for children to work together towards a goal (creating a handprint rainbow).
Examples: Process VS. Product Art
Examples of Process Art Activities
Most popular art supplies are utensils for process art, including paint, glue, crayons, paper, scissors, markers, play dough, yarn, and paint brushes and rollers.
Even building with blocks is a form of process art! Learn more in my introduction to block play guide.
Nature Process Art
Nature offers limitless inspiration. Children can paint branches, turn flowers into paintbrushes, or create collages from found objects.
Process Art in Early Childhood Education
Role of Educators
Educators play a vital role in promoting process-based art. Access to a variety of materials and uninterrupted art time empowers children to explore art and develop art appreciation.
Tips for Adults
- Praising Effort
- You’ve been working hard on gluing all those ribbons.
- Nonjudgmental Observations
- I noticed you’re testing how to make dots with the markers.
- You found all the blue crayons for your picture.
- Open-Ended Questions
- Tell me about your picture.
- What are you going to do next?
- How are you feeling about this?
- Offer More Supplies
- We have a pencil sharpener. Would you like me to get that?
- Let me know if there is a color of paper you want.
- Showcase Art
- Where should we hang this up?
- Do you want me to write your name on this so we know who made it?
- Take dad to the art center and show him what you made today.
Balance Between Process and Product Art
The majority of children’s art time should be process art-focused. The best practice is to make process art supplies readily available.
Here are some tips to add creativity and exploration to product art:
- Instead of selecting specific colors (i.e., red and green for Christmas), ask children which colors make them think of *insert holiday or season.* Offer children the colors they pick because there is no right or wrong answer.
- Offer an idea and ask children how to make it happen. Then follow their lead. For example, “I’d like to make a giant rainbow on the wall. How do you think we should do it?”
For Educators and Parents Who Love Crafts
Crafts are product-focused. And for many educators and parents, letting go of control over the final outcome can be challenging. It’s normal for adults to dislike mess and appreciate structure. But ultimately, early childhood classrooms are for children.
Working in childcare and education, I have moments when things just clicked. That happened the first time I heard this quote:
“When you cut it for me, write it for me, set it up for me, draw it for me, find it for me, all I learn is that you do it better than me.”
Since then, I have approached every art activity with specific questions.
- Who is this activity for, me or the kids?
- What are the kids getting from this?
Unlock the door to enriched childhood experiences! Read my Types of Play article for expert guidance on fostering creativity, resilience, and overall child development.