Most of you are probably wondering what exactly I mean by “process focused art”. Art is Art right? Well, I’m here to tell you that all “art” is not created equally, at least when it comes to young children. Just as children need time, space, and freedom in order to have a rich and meaningful play experience, they need the exact same things in order to have a successful creative experience. Process focused art is about just that – the experience. Unfortunately, in the product focused lives of young school children we often see the converse of this concept being put into practice. That is not to say that crafts, or product focused “art” is without benefit. When children are given a cute bunny to cut and paste together they are learning how to follow directions, put things in order, and are honing their fine motor skills. All of these are of course important, but the benefits of letting children be free and creative with their art far outweigh the benefits of having them create a product that they can’t really even call their own.
The creative experience is satisfying in such a way that it cannot be replicated or replaced by any other type of experience, and when we only allow children to participate in “creating” product centered art we are robbing them of that unique experience. Being given the freedom to create can help children to foster emotional health. These experiences create limitless opportunity for children to “express emotion and, by gaining relief and understanding through such expression, coming to terms with them.” (M.COX) This type of creative experience can simultaneously foster cognitive growth in that children are given the opportunity to express and try new ideas, problem solve, and use symbols to replace real objects, which represent ideas and feelings. These are just a few of the reasons process focused art should be the cornerstone of your little ones creative outlet.
One last, and I believe the most advantageous benefit of process focused art is the ability for children to find meaning and satisfaction in the here and now. At some point in our lives we have all heard and pondered the ever famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “Life is a Journey, Not a Destination”. There is a great deal of wisdom and truth in this one simple sentence, and I don’t know about you, but I think it is definitely a notion worth striving for. This is an attitude that I try to adopt in my own life because I want to be satisfied and happy in the moment, versus feeling unfulfilled because I am waiting for a specific end result, something that will satisfy me in the future. This is an especially important concept that children need to learn as they grow, even more so in our “everything you want or need is available at the click of a button” world we are living in today. As children grow out of the stage of life where if they need something, they get it right away, it is so important for them to adopt an attitude of patience and understanding. However, this is not something that will necessarily come naturally to young children, it is something that must be taught and something that parents can be especially mindful of. Letting your children engage in process focused art can help children to learn to enjoy an experience without the need for a predetermined outcome.
So, how can you help your children engage in process focused art?
1. Provide a variety of self-expressive materials for
- Painting – Paint (oil, water-color, etc.) Sponges, Brushes, Twigs, Logs, Pinecones, Seashells, Paper, Q-Tips, Cotton Balls, the options are pretty endless!
- Collage Making – Again, Endless Possibilities! Tissue Paper, Glue, Paper, Yarn, Magazines, Smooth Glass, Buttons, Small Twigs, Grass, Flowers, Leaves, Etc.
- Dancing – scarves, Musical Instruments, Wands
- Dough Play/Clay Play – Anything that can be pressed into or help to roll the dough! Pasta, Beans, Wooden Letters, Cookie Cutters, Rocks
These are just a few ideas, but let them explore and utilize any materials they wish!
2. Interfere as Little as Possible
- Let children explore the materials as their impulses and feeling require. Avoid the instinct to tell them how to do something, or that they are doing something wrong. This greatly limits creativity and suppresses the child’s instincts and originality.
3. Never Provide a Model for Children to Copy and Understand that the Process, not the Product is What is Important to Children
4. Allow Plenty of Time
- Children need time to work their way into an experience and to develop their feelings and ideas as they go along. Ideally you should give them as much time as they need or want.
5. Provide Enough of Whatever They are Using
6. Let Children Come and Go From Their Art at Will
7. Play Music in the Background
8. Take it Outside!
9. Say YES to Your Child’s Ideas
Keep these basic principles in mind, and have fun watching your child engage in meaningful creativity!