Welcome the Mess of Process Art

Welcome the Mess of Process Art

By Kathryn Peck

Sometimes it’s hard not to hover. Sometimes it takes every ounce of will I have not to jump in to stop forthcoming messes from happening or show my kids the right way to do their art project. This is when I remind myself about “process art”—art that is child-driven and focuses on the process rather than the finished product—and I force myself to simply observe their discoveries and experiences in creating art. 

Experts say process art can improve a child’s focus and confidence, and they say the freedom to explore can also boost creativity and foster independence, as it’s the child making his or her own artistic decisions. And what’s more? It allows a parent to just watch and enjoy. 

Experts say process art can improve a child’s focus and confidence, and they say the freedom to explore can also boost creativity and foster independence. 

Process art projects can be put together from any number of interesting supplies around the house. Remember to offer self-serve supplies that a child can access without your help, allow your child the freedom to make decisions, and try not to gasp when things get messy.  

Here are 5 process art activity ideas to get you started:

Paint with Yarn. Gather washable tempera paints, yarn, popsicle sticks and paper and let your kids do the rest. Pour the paint into small bowls or empty egg cartons and cut up some pieces of yarn. Dip the yarn into the paint colors and use the popsicle sticks to make sure the yarn gets covered enough. Pull out the paint-covered yarn, place it on the paper, then lift it up or drag it around. Notice the colors, shapes, and patterns that emerge and repeat.

Create Collage Art. I love letting the kids make collages on broken-down cardboard boxes that we have around the house. Spend some time collecting materials outside, like leaves, flower petals and sticks to glue on. Have crayons and markers available for added engagement. 

Sculpt with Clay. I used to play with clay for hours upon hours as a child. For children that aren’t interested in painting or coloring, working with clay can be just as fun. (If you don’t have clay at home, check out our recipe for homemade playdough.) Consider having plenty of tools available to let your child get creative.

Explore with Tinker Trays. Tinker trays are as much fun to put together as they are to explore and dig through. Tinker trays are adorable, but you can really use any container with various compartments. Simply pre-fill the compartments with different objects, like popsicle sticks, pompoms, stickers, beads, and anything else you can think of and let your child do the rest. They’ll create their own art or simply delight in just exploring.   

Paint on Windows or Mirrors. Grab your brushes and using either washable tempera paints (mix in liquid dish soap for easier cleanup) or OOLYs Rainy Days Gel crayons, let your child create their art on a different surface. Use a wet paintbrush on OOLYs crayons to add an amazing watercolor effect. If opting for paint, you might want to put an old sheet underneath to catch splatters and drips. While we’re encouraging our children to explore and get messy, this might be wise to consider.   


About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.


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