Today Otto (2yrs) attended his first toddler art class. The studio was beautiful, amazing and vibrant. I felt so inspired that I made some adjustments to our art shelves as soon as we got home. But what had me thinking was the focus on process art and how many product driven arts and crafts my other children did at the same age.
I know that product driven art and crafts can be useful for a variety of reasons and are often used around cultural events (Easter, Christmas, at school fairs). But do children in the first plane of development need product driven art? I'd suggest not. Is it parents that are asking for it? I'd rather my children not bring any art home from class than a pre-conceived or adult led art project.
The advantages of process art include:
- It is child-led - the child chooses what materials (out of those provided) to use and how to use them.
- Can be more eco-friendly - as the aim is not the product often materials can be reused. Some process art is temporary and use less resources.
- Children learn by doing - while the adult may show the child how to use the materials the children learn by doing, not watching and trying to emulate or copy.
- Mistakes are allowed - perhaps even encouraged. 'Woops that line when too far', 'let's make it into something else'. In process art the child may draw off the page or put too much glue on but they learn from this and it can be absorbed into the creative process rather than it being wrong or incorrect and not looking like the teacher's example or how it is 'supposed' to look.
- Activities are age-appropriate - as long as the materials are safe for the child, the child is always able to participate.
- Independence is valued - in process art the child is less likely to need help, guidance or reassurance from the adult.
- There is no wrong way to create - there is no right and wrong, it is child-led, there is no copying an example, no template to follow.
- Everyone is accepted - all levels of ability are welcome, there are no judgements.
- Sets the child up for success - and can boost confidence. The child is able to see what they are capable of.
- Promotes strategic problem solving - ok this requires some higher order thinking however the child is able to make decisions, make judgements, estimations like how much of the materials they need, how far will it go/spread, do they need more/how much more.
- Can empower the child
- Can be more satisfying and rewarding for the child - the child can work until they feel satisfied and fulfilled.
- Can lead to greater concentration - the child can become 100% absorbed in the activity without having to check to see what the next step is or if they are doing it right.
- Can promote a love of art, and using art materials
- Can be more enjoyable for the child
- Child works at their own pace - even if they look around at other children they will not feel behind or like they need to rush to keep up.
- Can lead to more independent play - the child becomes less reliant on the assistance, the leadership and feedback from the adult and peers.
- There may be more risk taking - as the child is allow to experiment they may take more risks and ask more questions 'what happens if I...'
- Allows for self expression - the child can use art to decompress and to let out emotion or feelings. This can only be done if the art is freely done by the child and is not adult led.
Children need to be seen and valued as individuals, respected for their efforts and for what they can contribute. Process art is a way they can freely express themselves. Process art relies on some Montessori-like principles of following the child and freedom within limits. Children often have the best ideas, they can learn so much more through independent thought, they really don't need us to tell them how to create!
Process art promotes independence, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in ways that product based art and crafts cannot.
You may also enjoy: Inspiring Art Books for Parents (and Teachers).