Process Art with toddlers

Continuing our Reggio at home series the next topic is process art.

Process art vs a craft

A craft is a set activity with a predetermined outcome. Process art is kind of the opposite. I see process art as exploration. I personally believe crafts are great  fun for children about 6 and up as by then, they have worked on their fine motor skills and are better at following instructions. Crafts are fun and there is a time and place for them but today we are going to focus on process art with young children.

Why is process art important? And what does it have to do with Reggio?

Process art is important because young children learn through their senses. They need repeated exposure to materials so they can learn how to use it and the possibilities of the materials. As their fine motor skills are still being developed and refined they can get frustrated when doing crafts as it might not turn out the way they want it to.

Process art goes back to our image of child. Think about the learning that is happening during free exploration process art compared to a craft. In process art there are no mistakes, or final product to compare their work to. It is more about the journey than the destination. In Reggio inspired classrooms we teach children HOW to use materials but not WHAT to do with them.

Let us use watercolor paints as an example.  With watercolor and brushes particularly, we would need to teach them to be gentle with the brushes, to wash their brush between changing colors etc. We could encourage them to try out all the colors available and see what happens when more or less water is added. We would also give them real watercolor paper to work on when possible as it is a much better experience and they deserve to work with the best quality materials we can afford.

So basically what I am saying is, that, process art is when children are given art materials and there is no specific outcome. Process art is also a great way to introduce them to various media such as, oil pastels, crayons, watercolor, tempera paint, clay, markers, soft chalk etc. The more children are exposed to these various items the more confident they will become in using them.

As mentioned above it is preferable to use the best quality materials you can afford. There are shops that now offer decent materials and paper for a reasonable price. Until your child knows how to look after and use the art materials I would not put them all out at once.

But what about the mess!?

Children need to get messy. The best way to not get overwhelmed by the mess is to have a plan and be prepared. You know yourself and your child and how much ‘mess’ you are willing to deal with. If your child tends to dive into everything and tip everything upside down and goes a bit crazy then I suggest going very slowly introducing a few materials at a time.

Be prepared. Perhaps decide ahead of time what you would like to explore. Remember to be aware of your child’s attention span and level of interest.. If they are loving it, keep going. If they have very little interest that is fine, you can leave it out or try again another day. Don’t put pressure on you or your child.

Let us use the example of introducing watercolor with your  child.

What will you need?

  • A surface for your child to work on, it could be a small table, floor or sitting at a big table on a chair.
  • Something to cover your surface with incase of any spills, it could be a plastic sheet or newspaper spread out.
  • Watercolor paint, brushes (larger chunky brushes work well ) and clean water. (Tip-choose a large based container forProcess art with toddlers

Continuing our Reggio at home series the next topic is process art, specifically when working with younger children.

Process art vs a craft

A craft is a set activity with a predetermined outcome. Process art is kind of the opposite. I see process art as exploration. I personally believe crafts are great fun for children about 6 and up as by then, they have worked on their fine motor skills and are better at following instructions. Crafts are fun and there is a time and place for them but today we are going to focus on process art.

Super Cute Paper Fish Craft | Preschool crafts, Fish crafts, Summer crafts  for kidsExample of a craft

Why is process art important? And what does it have to do with Reggio?

Process art is important because young children learn through their senses. They need to be involved as much as possible and have various opportunities to use different media. They need repeated exposure to materials(media) so they can learn how to use it and get to know the possibilities of the materials. Process art is also great because each piece of artwork is unique and allows the child to have creative freedom and expression.

Process art goes back to our image of child. Think about the learning that is happening during process art compared to a craft. In process art there are no mistakes, or final products to compare their work to. It is more about the journey than the destination. In Reggio inspired classrooms we teach children HOW to use materials but not necessarily WHAT to do with them.

Let us use watercolor paints as an example. With watercolor and brushes particularly, we would need to teach them to be gentle with the brushes, to wash their brush between changing colors etc. We could encourage them to try out all the colors available and see what happens when more or less water is added. We would also give them real watercolor paper to work on when possible as it is a much better experience and they deserve to work with the best quality materials we can afford. The children can also add oil pastels to their work with watercolor.

So basically what I am saying is, that process art is when children are given art materials with no specific outcome. Process art is also a great way to introduce them to various media such as, oil pastels, crayons, watercolor, tempera paint, clay, markers, soft chalk etc. The more children are exposed to these various items the more confident they will become in using them.

As mentioned above it is preferable to use the best quality materials you can afford. There are shops that now offer decent materials and paper for a reasonable price. Until your child knows how to look after and use the art materials I would not put them all out at once.

Example of process art- painting with tennis balls

But what about the mess!?

Children need to get messy. The best way to not get overwhelmed by the mess is to have a plan and be prepared. You know yourself and your child and how much ‘mess’ you are willing to deal with. If your child tends to dive into everything and tip everything upside down and goes a bit crazy then I suggest going very slowly introducing a few materials at a time.

Be prepared. Perhaps decide ahead of time what you would like to explore. Remember to be aware of your child’s attention span and level of interest.. If they are loving it, keep going. If they have very little interest that is fine, you can leave it out or try again another day. Don’t put pressure on you or your child.

Let us use the example of introducing watercolor with your child.

What will you need?

  • A surface for your child to work on, it could be a small table, floor or sitting at a big table on a chair.
  • Something to cover your surface with in case of any spills, it could be a plastic sheet or newspaper spread out.
  • Watercolor paint, brushes (larger chunky brushes work well ) and clean water. (Tip-choose a large based container for the water, as that will be harder to knock over)
  • Experimenting with liquid watercolour¬†

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