Process Art Ideas - What is process art for kids and what are it's benefits?

If you've been following us for a while, you might notice quite a few process art activities that we regularly engage the kids in. But what is process art for kids? More importantly, why should YOU seek out process based art activities for your children? Well, I think it's time we talk about just that! I'll explain not only what process art is and why you should care... but also how it differs from other art projects, how to get started, and I'll even share some of our favourite process art ideas for preschoolers, toddlers and older kids!

What is process art?

If your little one enjoys painting you will love our NEW BOOK Fun Painting Projects for Kids which is filled with 60 fun painting ideas.

Scroll down for our full list of process art ideas.

Process art for preschoolers, toddlers, and older kids has an array of benefits beyond just an 'easy activity'. There are so many benefits to including process art in your regular activities so keep reading!

Be sure to check out some of our other articles too like the importance of sensory play and benefits of play-based learning.

What is process art?

First and foremost - how do you define process art? Simply put - it's focusing on the art process in which a child naturally goes through instead of the end result. You provide the tools for your child, sit back, and let them get lost in the experience.

Another way to put this, is it's an open ended art experience where the child is in control of what is created instead of you giving them step by step directions and assistance.

benefits of process art for kids

Benefits of process art

Aside from how easy this is, what are the real benefits? (But seriously, setting out a few supplies and doing NOTHING ELSE is kind of amazing in and of itself.)

Independence: Process art naturally puts your child in control so instead of expecting direction from you, they get to go wild! As they grow older, they won't expect directions and can easily dive in all on their own. They will learn to trust themselves instead of seeking external help.

Self-regulation: Process art is incredibly soothing and a GREAT source of learning self-regulation. Some children even seek out process art for sensory needs because it helps so much!

Creative thinking: The nature of process art means THEY have to get creative and think of what to do next! This can mean using materials in a new way, seeking out new or favourite materials, and choosing what to create. Product based art can be creative too of course, but not nearly to the level of process art.

Learning: While this approach to the art process seems so simple, kids are learning alot! Everything from what materials are available, the limitations and use of those materials, as well as cause and effect... kids minds are at work during this time! Depending on the activity, they may also gain new science or math skills without even realising it!

Experimentation: As previously mentioned, kids get to learn all about the materials they use. But this also extends to experimenting. They learn about different possibilities, cause and effect, ask questions, experiment, and so much more. For example, if you give children a selection of paint and paper, they may experiment by mixing different colours to see what happens or ask you about how to make different colours.

Confidence: Through engaging in process art, kids will learn to trust themselves and their own ideas. Overtime you'll notice them becoming very proud of their work as they gain confidence in what they create.

Motor skills: Both gross and fine motor skills are being practiced at this time, too. As they learn to hold a paint brush or crayon, children are practicing fine motor skills. When they are working with a large space, such as an easel, they are also developing gross motor skills as they gain muscle control.

There are so many benefits to process art for preschoolers, toddlers, and older kids - I could not begin to list them all. Just watch and you'll naturally notice all kinds of benefits they are embodying!

process art or product art

Process art vs product art

Many of us are familiar with product art (especially since it's all over pinterest!), but it's important to point out the difference between product art, or a craft, and process art. 

Additionally, understand that they can work together. They can easily coexist together, but what separates them is the intention and expectation surrounding the experience. If watching your child sway away from a project stresses you out and you jump in to try and "correct" them for example, that takes away from the process art components that may exist.

Product art usually includes the following:
  • Driven by an adult giving direction
  • Clear step-by-steps that are expected to be followed
  • Has a clear vision in mind for the end result
  • More work and preparation may be involved for the adult
  • There is little to no room for creativity trying to copy the sample

Whereas process art usually means it's:
  • Self-directed by the child with little to no direction
  • Allows the freedom for self discovery and creativity
  • There is no expectation for the end result
  • It is very relaxed free of expectations

You can easily combine both into one experience, however. You can take crafts online (such as those craft ideas found on this blog), and add a process art component to it. Use the project for inspiration and let your child choose how to move forward. Indeed we often like to look at famous artist art projects for inspiration. Allow children to choose different colours, materials, or techniques. Maybe they choose to follow it closely, or maybe they choose to make something completely different.

Process art very well can mean putting supplies in front of children and letting them go wild, but some level of inspiration or direction can be helpful. Kids who are more accustomed to product art and look for direction, may benefit greatly from this approach.

getting started with process based art

How to get started with process art

In order to have the best experience possible with process art, there are a few things to keep in mind when facilitating this process.

Offer a variety of supplies: Make sure the supplies you choose are self-serving that children can use on their own, are interesting to use, and allow them to express themselves freely. After a while they may have a preference for certain types of supplies and ask for these. 

Give freedom: Allow your child to come and go as they please, engage in a way that suits their interests, and reach out to you when wanted/needed.

Relax and have fun: Avoid watching too closely and make sure you are relaxed throughout the experience. Feel free to ask questions, comment on their hard work (focusing on the experience and not the outcome), or even provide inspiration from famous artists. You might comment by saying things like "Look at that new colour you made!" or "I love how hard you are concentrating on making those dots!"

Plan for mess: In an open-ended experience like this one, it can be stressful when you watch the mess ensue. Be sure you are preparing and expecting for this to happen. This might mean reminding yourself not to avoid the mess or setting up the area in a specific way to make clean up a breeze. Maybe you have your child wear a smock or clothes kept as art clothes, put down a mat to catch falling paint, lining the table with a cloth or paper, and having wipes available nearby. Make any rules that are important to you about containing any mess clear.

Start slow: Don't feel overwhelmed by needing to offer up 86 different supplies for 3 hours in one afternoon. Even just a big roll of paper paired with crayons, markers, and paints can be great for kids. Slowly introduce new supplies as desired.

This is also a great time to put on some music, lay out books for inspiration, and just have fun. You could even join in the fun if you enjoy art yourself!

process art ideas for kids

Process art ideas

Process art for preschoolers, toddlers, and older kids can be as simple as laying out supplies such as pens, paint, and paper. Or you can find projects that are designed to support the process. In fact, we have quite a few here on the blog I know you will love! (click on the pink links for full details)

Nature paintbrushes: Get outside and find some unique and abstract tools for paintbrushes! This is a lot of fun as you're not only outside exploring, you get to create some fun paintings too.

outdoor process art for kids

Paint with foil: The foil with the paint makes this one a lot more exciting, don't you think? Paper is so typical so when you bust out different supplies to create on, kids love it.

foil painting process based art

Squirt gun painting: Another fun outdoor activity is with water pistols and paint! Whilst this activity is totally about the fun painting process and not the product I think that you will agree that the finished artwork looks pretty impressive!

water gun painting process art for kids

Ice painting: Freeze some ice cubes with colour and use them to paint! Even paint can be fun and exciting when approached in a new way.

ice painting process art for kids

Painting with water: This has to be one of the easiest process art activities ever! All you need is water and a paintbrush. Get outdoors and have fun painting walls, floors, toys or anything in sight with water (or magic disappearing paint as my mum used to call it!) You could also follow our tutorial for painting with water on a chalk background for even more fun. 

water painting process art for kids

Wax crayon resist art: This is a great process art idea for children that enjoy drawing. After drawing a picture or even writing a message using wax crayons they can reveal their design by painting over it with watercolour paint! 

wax crayon resist process art for kids

Drawing with cars: Younger children that like playing with cars will love this process art idea. Attach pens to the back of cars and let your little ones drive them around until their hearts are content, making marks as they go. 

toddler process art ideas

Painting with cars: Cars can be really fun to paint with too! Kids will love painting vehicles, whizzing cars through paint to make painty tracks and then having fun washing the cars. 

painting process art for kids

Salt painting: This activity guides you to making an autumn tree, but it can be adapted to be more open-ended as well. Guide your child to make their own patterns or designs and only step in when needed! If you want to keep it really simple you can create salt painting art using cookie cutter to help create the outlines. 

salt painting process art for kids

Paper towel art: Have your child make their own designs on a paper towel and watch the magic of science happen! This would be a great activity to demonstrate first and then walk away as kids do their own thing. Allow them to get inspiration from you while still being in full control over what they create.

paper towel art for kids

Painting on paper towels: Here is another way to use those paper towels! Painting on paper towels can create an interesting effect. It can be fun watching the colours spread and mix together. This art tutorial is for painting on paper towels to make an Easter craft, but you could use this technique for many different things. You could also try painting on coffee filters to create a similar effect. 

paper towel painting process art

Q Tip Painting: Have fun using q tips as a paintbrush! In this example we created flowers, what will you create? 

Lavender q tip painting - process art ideas

Fruit stamping: This activity walks you through how to use apples to create pop art, but it can also be adapted. Grab some paper, paint, and cut up fruit and watch what your child does with it! You can set out various stamping supplies too such as apples, potatoes, celery, pears, or carrots - just make sure they are firm and easy to use. To make stamping even easier push a craft stick or fork into the fruit to use as a handle. 

apple printing process art for kids

Cardboard tube shape stamps: You can also make stamps by recycling everyday objects like cardboard rolls. Have a go at seeing what shapes you can create! 

easy process art ideas for kids

Sponge painting: There are many ways you can experiment with sponge painting. You can cut sponges into various shapes or experiment with colour. In this example we had a go at painting a rainbow using a kitchen sponge. If you drag the sponge across the paper once its full of colour you can create your own full arched rainbow! 

sponge painting process art

Sidewalk chalk paint: Chalk paint is great in the warm months as kids can create their own designs outside. With this recipe you can also make the paint fizz so it's a lot of fun.

outdoor process based art for kids

Slide painting: Another fun outdoor process art activity is painting by rolling balls or cars down a slide or ramp. The kids LOVE this one!

fun process art for preschool and toddlers

Snow painting: If you are in winter right now rather than summer give this painting on snow art activity a try. This is a fun painting idea that really is about the process. Your art work will melt away, but not before you have had a lot of fun creating it! You can paint on snow outdoors or if you want to stay in the warm why not bring a small amount indoors for painting on. 

snow paint process based art for kids

Painting in the bath: What better place to do some process art than in the bath where clean up will be super easy. Follow our bath paint recipe or get some bath crayons and let the kids go wild. 

homemade bath paint process art for kids

Spin art: Have you ever put paint in a salad spinner? The creations made from this technique is incredibly fun! Give your child the supplies and let them have fun. This project guides you with a specific result, but you can easily give them supplies and step back.

spin art process art for kids

Puffy Paint: We have several different puffy paint recipes on the blog, but I love this one as it puffs up in the microwave as if by magic! 

microwave puffy paint process art for kids

Mess free painting - Here is another fun art technique. Try painting through cling film for a different sensory experience. 

mess free painting process art

Ziplock bag painting - You can try mess free painting in a ziplock bag too. This is perfect for younger children.

mess free painting process art for toddlers

Bread Painting - If you love painting, but want to try something new them mix it up a little and try painting on bread! Use the edible paint recipe to paint on bread, pop the bread in the toaster and then enjoy eating your edible art. We have done several versions of this, make a rainbow, patterns or even pictures!

Marble painting - Another fun and unusual way to paint is by rolling marbles, water beads, acorns, fir cones or anything that can roll over a piece of paper. Here we made bunnies by rolling water beads across a template. Give it a try, it's lots of fun! 

marble painting process art idea

Cardboard box crafts - Don't throw away any old boxes, turn then into houses, car parks, cars, boats or shields. The great thing about junk modelling is that a box can become anything you like, all you need is a little imagination. Check out our list of cardboard box crafts as inspiration or buy a pre made cardboard house ready to decorate as shown in the image below. Both options are so much fun. 

cardboard box crafts process art

Scrape painting: Have fun scraping paint across a piece of paper. This is a fun and easy technique that produces really fun results. Cut your paper into fun shapes and experiment with using different colours. 

scrape painting process art for kids

Yarn art: Create your own masterpiece with yarn for older kids. We made the starry night but you can create anything you like! Younger children may enjoy making patterns or piles of yarn. 

yarn process art for kids

Pour Painting - This art technique is messy, but oh so much fun! Pour paint over a clay pot like we did to create a flower pot or over a canvas, or even a glass jar. Whatever you choose, it is so much fun watching the paint drip down and the colours merge. 

pour painting process art for kids

Circle painting: Have a hunt around the house for everything circle shaped and then use the items to stamp paint onto paper. 

circle art process art for toddlers

Cookie cutter painting: If you enjoy stamping with paint you will love this painting with cookie cutters activity. You can go with any theme and mix it up a bit with different sized cookie cutters and different coloured paint. 

cookie cutter painting for toddlers

Bubble painting: What kid doesn't love bubbles! Why not bring a love of blowing bubbles to the art table. It can be a lot of fun making bubble prints, especially if the bubbles come pouring over the edge of the dish they are in. 

bubble painting process art for kids

Fork painting: If you have a fork and some paint you can have a go at making these fun fork painted flowers! The flowers are made by simply dipping a fork into paint and then stamping it onto paper. 

fork painting process art for kids

DIY Scratch Art: Children from preschool age upwards can have a lot of fun making their own diy scratch art paper and then filling it with their own designs or doodles. 

Painting on Ice:
On a cold winter's day there is nothing better than getting out into the fresh air and painting ice! Paint ice crystals in various colours and then have fun arranging them in the snow.

Painted ice - process art for kids

Some of the fun painting ideas from this list along with lots of other fun painting ideas can be found in our book Fun Painting Ideas for Kids

Lots of the projects in our painting book are as much about having fun with the painting process as the final painting. Getting our book is a great way of trying out lots of new painting techniques while having fun with your kids. 

art ideas for kids

Check out this fun A-Z of painting ideas from our digital shop too! These would make fun posters to display or you could work your way through the alphabet. 

fun painting ideas for kids

There are so many ways to incorporate process art and many activities can be adapted for the benefit of your child! Hopefully you now understand and can answer the question, what is process art for kids? and you have a few ideas about how process art for preschoolers, toddlers, and older kids can be incorporated. Do you engage in process art? We would love you to share with us your process art ideas. 

What is process art? Benefits of process based art.  Fun process art ideas for preschool, toddlers and older kids.

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