We do a LOT of art and craft around here. The girls have free access to most art supplies (I draw the line at glitter!) and they are always creating. Sometimes from the minute they wake up until they go to sleep at night. My 5 year old particularly likes making things and representing her ideas through art. She is always coming up with new things to make. My 3 year old loves getting messy, experimenting with colours, mixing things, and cutting and pasting.
I often hear people comment that their kids don’t seem interested in art and that they have trouble keeping their attention when they set up a crafty activity. The secret (which is not really a secret at all) is process art!
Have your kids ever been given a craft kit and it’s been kept in a cupboard for a year because you dread the thought of having to help them with it? Then you finally sit down to make it with them and it ends in everyone getting frustrated and not listening to the instructions, things all over the place and pieces lost, the kids getting bored and leaving, and you end up completing it on your own? Been there! Not much fun! My kids are exactly the same. Although they love art and craft and are both very creative, they lose interest very quickly in anything like this. Why? Because they don’t get to use their creativity. Things have to be completed according to the instructions, they often can’t do parts of it themselves and need help, they can’t make it their own, they are just creating someone else’s idea.
On the other hand, if I present them with some art materials, with no explanation or expectations, they can literally stay engaged for hours.
The point of process art is not the end product, but the path taken to get there. The enjoyment and learning is in the creating process. Sometimes it will turn into a beautiful piece of art, and other times there will be nothing to show for it. We could have been painting on paper and end up with a room full of art, or we could have been mixing colours on mirrors and only have paint stained hands to show for it. Both are equally valuable.
It is easy enough to set up and you can use anything you have available. It could be a big sheet of paper with some paint pots in the middle, some contact paper and collage materials, black cardboard and soft pastels, play dough and natural materials, clay and water, oil pastels and watercolour paints, recycled materials… anything! When it is open-ended, with no instructions or direction, kids are free to use their own imaginations and creativity and the possibilities are truly endless. I often get some fantastic insights into what they’re interested in or thinking about, and hear some great stories about what they are creating.
There is no limit to what you can come up with. Children learn so much through play and when doing process art I have seen them problem solving, cooperating, developing their fine and gross motor skills, imagining, storytelling, increasing their vocabulary, sharing, expanding on previous learning, expressing feelings and ideas, gaining confidence, exploring new techniques, experimenting, and more!
While process art is more fun and engaging for the kids, it is also less work for me too! It takes barely any time to lay a few materials out and they are able to do everything themselves. Depending on how messy it gets there may be some clean up involved, but they usually enjoy some water play while rinsing things off anyway, and cleaning up is a valuable learning experience too!
And that’s all there is to it! The reason my kids love art and creating so much is because most of the time we keep it very open-ended and process oriented.