Art: It’s all about the process

Art: It's all about the process

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.Art: It's all about the process

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.

Art: It's all about the process
Painting inspired by the Jacarandas in bloom in spring. Mixing different shades of purple and painting with different materials.
Art: It's all about the process
Play dough and natural materials.
Art: It's all about the process
Glue, salt, and watercolours.

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.


July 11, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Lovely post! Helped me be more relaxed about letting my kids make a huge mess!
I’ve seen a lot of posts on letting the kids have free access to art supplies and bits & pieces they can use to create but I have always had an issue with that as my 8 yo having free access to anything would mean her using all of it in one seating! How you manage to balance it? I’m a bit conscious about using lots of stuff (paper mostly) the thought of having paper with just one line drawn on it not used again (cause she changed her mind or it wasn’t how she wanted it) drives me insane! Please help!

    July 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I was the same Jessica. I put it off for a while, not sure they could handle it. But I thought the benefits outweighed the negatives. I put it all out on the shelf for them one day and told them that it was their responsibility to keep tidy and look after and then they could have free access to it. They have been really good with it! At first they did use a lot. And I didn’t refill it every time after they’d emptied something. But that settled down when the novelty wore off and they don’t waste a lot of things now. I would just give it a try. They might surprise you!

July 12, 2014 at 1:35 am

I love all of your pictures! We would do art 24/7 around here if my kids would let me! It’s hard to overcome the fear of making messes. I am pretty much over that now.

July 12, 2014 at 2:31 am

I love this post! My children are exactly the same. We paint most days because that seems to be the medium they love at the moment. We have a huge homemade perspex painting board outside that is their favourite place to paint. Every day it goes mostly the same way. They paint the easel with some fantastic back story about what they are painting, then my two year old starts to mix the colours, they progress to painting the art table that the paints are on, sometimes requesting additional items like glitter or rollers. And then the fantastic explosion turns into the next fun activity which is washing it all off, which they also love. We get to the end of an hour or so and there is nothing left but two messy little boys and a progressively more well loved outdoor art table.

Jessica Haroramos – one thing that I noticed when I gave my children free access to all of their materials (they were about 1 and 3 at the time), was that the first month was CHAOS. They loved to tip out containers of sequins, matchsticks etc. Or use EVERYTHING on one picture. I just went with the flow. I found that the novelty of tipping things wore off quickly (everyone pitching in to pick up sequins is not fun!) and that they soon realised if they used everything for one picture, it wasn’t there for them to use the next day. It is all part of the experimentation and learning that more is not always more. Sometimes they still use every last item from a container for a picture, but it is because in their mind the picture needs all of those items and this is fine. I love seeing a look in their eyes as they wander over to our art shelves to find the tub of whatever is needed to help their project.

Another fabulous discovery has been that art materials are not just used for art! I still remember the first time my eldest son ran to get two boxes of paddlepop sticks and tipped them on the floor. Rather than scold I do what I usually do, ‘what are you making today?’. A camp fire he said. And he sat there for an hour arranging the sticks just right, and then went back to the art shelves for cotton wool (marshmallows) and he and his brother were lost in their own amazing world for such a long time! What is mess in our eyes is so often something completely different in the eyes of our children.

January 10, 2015 at 9:05 am

I love seeing what my three kids 9,5,4 can create we paint or draw all the time. My favourite though when its raining is putting a huge roll of paper down the hallway and letting them go with crayons, felt pens or what ever they love to create with.

April 2, 2015 at 10:32 am

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Robin Le Roy-Kyle
February 7, 2016 at 6:55 am

This post caught my eye after I read another by you… because this one is the name of my blog. 🙂 I believe the ‘process’ of most everything is fascinating… including art! Great blog… as a 20+ year literacy educator, it’s fun to read how a dedicated mom infuses fun with learning. Bravo!!

February 8, 2016 at 5:15 am

I absolutely love this. I have two girls the same age, and even though they take part in school and nursery we love to do all this. I wanted to home ed them but didn’t have enough support to try (at the moment) and decided to try how the school thing goes.

We also have a just two year old and baby due in April so it’s pretty full on and I sometimes struggle to keep up with all the ages with craft. He will do a lot of what they do but then can take over sometimes and will need more supervision (scissors/ glue etc)

Fab post though, I’m hoping to get a better balance and decide in the future about our schooling X

Little jam pot life

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