Balancing Process and Product in Creative Art Activities

Toddler painting with squeeze bottle

Well-planned art experiences are a valuable part of the child care curriculum. Early childhood art activities need to balance process and product. Process is doing, product is the result. Young children are process-oriented. For infants and toddlers, the joy of art is in the doing and making. They usually want lots of finger paint, really squish it around, and then pay no attention to what happens to their picture afterward.

Preschoolers love to experiment with color and design. They do not worry that their entire page is covered in yellow, or their grass is red, or their play dough snake doesn’t really look like a snake. Preschoolers may choose to keep their finished product or forget about it once it is completed.

School-age children may become very product-oriented. They want to make sure their names are on their projects and may get very upset when papers tear or structures crumble.

When planning art activities, be sure to allow enough time for children to get fully involved in the process. Even though we want children to develop longer attention spans, we may actually prevent them from working for longer periods of time when we focus on the product and don’t let them enjoy the process of creation. Keep your schedule flexible and allow extra time for art activities that are involved or really capture children’s interest. With more flexible planning, art activities can actually help children increase their attention spans.

For More Information

To learn more about art in a child care setting, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

To find specific art ideas for your child care setting, visit our Hands-on Activities Database.

Photo by franklinparklibrary / CC BY