The Benefits of Process-Based Art

There is an important difference between an art project that is product-based and one that is process-based. A project that has the goal of a certain outcome is something that is product-based. For example, the ever-present Thanksgiving hand turkey is a common example of a product-based project.

A process-based art project is one that is open-ended, with only the goals of a child’s self-expression and experimentation in mind.

While some product-based art projects can really add to a child’s experience (for example: if your child is really fascinated with butterflies and you work together to create butterfly masks to wear during pretend play), the general thinking is that young children do not gain nearly as much from product-based art as they do process-based.

What children gain from product-based projects:

  • Practice following instructions
  • Muscle development (for example if there is cutting or gluing involved)
  • Potential for an item that can be incorporated into play

What children gain from process-based projects:

  • self-expression
  • experimentation with different materials
  • fine and/or gross motor development
  • language and vocabulary development
  • follow-through on a plan
  • sensory input
  • cause and effect

This is not to say that you should absolutely never do a product-oriented project, but just a reminder to think about the goals of what you are trying to achieve with any project you put in front of your children.

For inspiration, here are some of our favorite materials for process-based art.