The What, Why and How of Process Art in Preschool

Art lessons used to be about copying the teacher, following instructions and creating the same-looking art pieces.

We call this process as product-focused art, where there IS a right and wrong way to work on the project and typically require a specific skill and technique to create the artwork. We are glad to share with you that the current preschool art experiences are moving away from product-focused and work towards process-focused.

In process-focused art, the children are provided with a variety of materials to choose from. They can explore different ways of using and manipulating those materials. They do not necessarily need to create something recognizable or “nice” in the adult’s standard. They can take their time to learn about the properties of each material and what happens when they combine more than two materials together. With these constructed experiences, their subsequent artworks will be more elaborated and distinguished.

According to NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), process-focused art is the most developmentally appropriate art experiences.

process art marvellous mess process art mess

What is Process Art in Preschool?

Process Art, as the name describes it, is an art experience where the focus is on the process of creating and not the end product. The artist has the freedom to direct the experience, choose the materials, techniques, and medium available. It celebrates discovery through exploration in different ways to maneuver the materials and experience.

The final products are always unique from one child to another despite the same materials used. There will be no cookie-cutter art pieces on the class bulletin board or “wall of fame”. The audience may think an outcome of the specific art-process experience is nice, that’s great, but the end product is never the focus of process art. Sometimes, the audience may consider the end product not visually nice, that’s okay too, as the little artist actually used that particular experience to learn something about the materials, medium, colours, lines or techniques. It is a valuable experience for his/her art practice and development as an artist.

process art foam

Why is Process Art important?

Process art is freeing without step-by-step instructions, and any samples to follow. It is entirely driven by the child’s choice and motivation. This encourages a greater sense of ownership over their art because it is all their own choice and work.

The children need to bring in their curiosity, and also their positive attitudes towards play, exploration and discovery when doing the process-art. As they learn the best through play and open-ended activities, process-art is just the perfect opportunity that allows them to explore, ask questions, and see how things work. It also allows them room to be themselves, to focus, to make their own decisions, to take risks and just to create!

There are also other benefits of process-art such as practicing motor-skills, co-operation, wondering, thinking, predicting, planning, making connections, daydreaming, revamping ideas, looking at things closely, noticing details, generating ideas, counting, recognizing shapes, experimenting, and many more. It is endless!

benefits of process art by art spark

How to Encourage Process-Art at Home

A simple setting with a piece of blank paper and a variety of drawing materials should be provided in the environment for your child to use. Extra pieces of blank paper or a paper roll should be readily accessible. The size of the paper matters too. If the paint is made available, provide other tools besides paintbrushes. It could be lego blocks, ribbons, potato mashers, feathers, popsicle sticks, pom-poms, and other random things. These can be great non-traditional brushes that inspire creative thinking, experimentation, and out-of-the-box artwork.

Allow your child to choose what they want to draw with, what they will draw and how they want to draw. Let your child glue more than two googly eyes wherever he/she wanted.

Refrain from using compliments such as good job, nice painting, beautiful drawing and the similar as these will indicate the “right” way to draw something. Comment on the art elements used by the child, such as the lines, colours, shapes, textures, space, and patterns. For example, “It is interesting to see how you mix the blue and the orange together.”

Keep in mind that process art for kids can get messy. Do plan on how to deal with the mess during and after the experience. If there is no access to a clean water source nearby, have baby wipes ready in place. If the paint is used and staining the clothes is one of the concerns, put on a smock, an art apron or an oversize old t-shirt over your child’s clothes.

Most importantly, accept that messiness is part of the process 🙂

Do check out our article about the benefits of cookery experiences at preschool: Cooking with Children at Schools – Why it is Important.


Let’s make time for process art,


Capella Preschool team