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Creative Family Living Parent Resources

What is Process Art? (Here’s Why It’s Important for Kids)

Process art encourages open ended art making. An important component for developing kids’ creativity, confidence and problem solving skills.

Kids painting cake
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

I think for many of us, the idea of being an “artful parent” can be intimidating.  We see all those Pinterest-perfect Instagram squares and think, no way.  Because maybe you’ve tried a beautiful project and ended up with a not-so-beautiful mess.  Those colorful coffee filter butterflies turned out as squished wrinkled balls, and every time you bring out the paint it all ends in a goopy muddle.

Well I want to share with you the magical concept that will free you from shattered expectations and make art time with your kids fun again.  It’s beautifully simple and referred to as “process art”.

Here’s the wonderful truth: being an artful parent isn’t about those filtered Instagram images.  It’s about the mess and the imagination, the creation and (most importantly) the process.  

That’s great news, right?  The pressure is off!  Your job as an artful parent just got immensely easier. 

You’re not a teacher giving step-by-step instructions expecting amazing results; you’re a facilitatorAnd that, my friends, is a totally freeing concept. 

“Your job, as a parent to these creative beings, is to facilitate their art experiences– to make materials and a space for projects available.  Your job is to guide them gently when guidance is called for and to step back and simply watch when it isn’t.” (pg 15, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity)

Jean Van’t Hul
Child painting wooden box
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

What is Process Art Anyways?

At its core, process art is the idea that the journey of creation is more important than the final product you create.  It’s all about experimentation and play.  

In practice, process art might look something like this:

  1. Present your child with art materials like oil pastels, watercolor paints, and paper.  You might try leaving an “invitation to create” on a table for your child to find and interact with at will.
  2. For hesitant artists, try prompting with a question: “Which color will you choose first?”  
  3. Try stepping back and letting your child work undisturbed.
  4. If they want you to be present and involved, be conscious of the language you use while discussing their art.  Stick to questions and observations without passing judgment.
  5. Enjoy the work of creation as it unfolds!  Your child will explore the art materials and likely learn something new in the process.  

That’s it!  That’s process art in action.  Present materials.  Give gentle encouragement as needed.  Step back.

Marble painting for kids
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

You can also present a child with a new technique instead of just materials.  

Maybe you want to try marble painting with your little one:  

  1. Prepare the project
  2. Demonstrate how tilting the box moves the marble through the paint
  3. Let them go for it!  

Will they continue marble painting the way you showed them for an hour?  Maybe. 

Or maybe they’ll stick their hand in and start pushing the marble around that way, or making handprints on the paper, or request a paintbrush to use instead.  

That’s not a failed marble painting project; that’s process art in action!

Kids with art supplies and sitcker collages
Photo by Rachel Withers

Ways to Promote Process Art At Home

When we’re focused on the process over the product, there is no right or wrong way to do art.  And believe me when I say that’s as freeing for your child as it is for you. 

It empowers your child to make choices, solve problems, and gain confidence.  They will be more willing to take risks and embrace failure. 

And the best part? Those skills aren’t just great for art. They’ll take that confidence and grit and walk into their lives all the better for it.  I’d say that’s worth giving process art a try.

Child painting with sidewalk paint
Photo by Rachel Withers

Read More about Kids Art

Watercolor painting

Favorite Process Art Activities for Kids

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What is Process Art? (Here\'s Why It\'s Important for Kids)

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