Household items, scrap paper and writing materials can be all it takes to get curious children to express their creativity. Artistic exploration isn’t confined to a classroom, experts say; parents can involve their kids from kindergarten to grade 8 in process art activities at home that allow them to experiment with everyday materials and use their imaginations.
The art of the process versus the art of the product
Process art can “refer to any creative activity that emphasizes exploration and experimentation, rather than focusing on a predetermined outcome or product,” says William B. Crow, director of art galleries at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a practicing professor in the Department of Art, Architecture and Design.
Crow, who previously oversaw educational programming for all ages at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, says process art allows children the freedom not to be overwhelmed by the criteria of an end product. While parents can help with the installation, children are in control of their artistic direction and are guided by their own discovery rather than expectations or judgments.
In comparison, product art refers to more structured and results-oriented activities. They are often led by adults and have clear examples and guidelines for the final work.
However, product art and process art are not opposed. In Pooja Bakri’s experience as a Certified Creative Arts Therapist in Montclair, New Jersey, “Kids often have a vision in mind and the product is always part of what they do. The end product can also be a source of self-discovery and a starting point for reflection and discussion, says Bakri.
What are the benefits of the art of process?
From using scissors to explaining creative choices, children in elementary through middle school can benefit from the art of the process by improving developmental skills such as verbalization, motor skills, spatial reasoning, social expression. -emotional and more, according to experts. Kids can also apply critical thinking to draw parallels between the visual arts and another field like math, science, language arts, and social studies.
Sean Murphy, an art teacher at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., Often makes the connection between the art program and his students’ other classes. When kids are learning quadrilaterals in math, for example, her class focuses on the abstract and real uses of form. Making these connections, he says, allows students to ask deeper questions and approach their works from an interdisciplinary perspective.
The artistic process can also open conversations about artists, art and culture from around the world. Children benefit from exposure to different cultures and can learn about their own cultural identity through art, says Murphy.
A great advantage of process art, says Bakri, is that children can “express themselves in a way that comes more naturally” – it allows them to externalize their thinking through visual expression. Crow agrees, noting that “when we engage in the art of process, in many ways we extend the reach of our mind. We really make the invisible visible. We try to articulate things that aren’t. ‘did not exist in the world before. ”
How can parents of K-8 students facilitate the art of the process?
For parents and guardians of elementary and high school students, here are four tips for taking a step back and allowing children the freedom to learn and play through the art of process:
- Use common materials found at home.
- Come up with a general theme.
- Consider different approaches depending on age.
- Ask open-ended questions.
Use common materials found at home
“Children have a wealth of ideas and imaginations,” says Bakri, and she is delighted to see them put together something she never thought she would create. Interesting and unique materials invite exploration, which means art materials don’t have to start and end with paint and markers.
Experts suggest giving children a lot of different options, which don’t have to be expensive or high-quality. “By using non-traditional and inexpensive materials,” Crow says, “you are communicating the message that art and artistic creation does not depend on access to expensive and highly specialized materials, but can be made from the material. daily.”
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Colored masking tape
- Shaving cream
- Plastic utensils
- Paper plates
- Cookie sheets
- Cotton balls
For inspiration, Crow suggests looking at the works of various artists and researching the materials they used. Then, rather than trying to imitate or replicate the work, children can experience these materials themselves and learn more about the process.
Many local art museums have in-person and online resources for parents to help children start thinking about materials for different works of art. If a parent isn’t sure where to find their local art museum, Crow suggests checking out the American Alliance of Museums or looking for local college and university galleries across the Association of University Museums and Galleries.
Provide a broad theme
While parental advice is helpful in starting art activities, experts say it’s important not to lead a child’s art with specific prompts or instructions. Instead, one way to start the creative flow is to simply ask, “What can we do with these materials? And let a theme form naturally.
In his therapy sessions, Bakri uses a simple word or phrase such as “dream,” and from there children can think about the concept as it applies to them. They can consider the feelings the word or phrase evokes and take their art in any direction without the weight of a parent’s expectations.
Keeping the theme broad can lead to healthy emotional expression, says Bakri. “We can’t assume that we know what’s going on with a child or their feelings. We can see something on the outside that looks like anger, but on the inside it’s actually frustration. or sadness. ”
The art of the process can allow children to freely show parents their inner thoughts and emotions, without a child having to respond verbally or even make eye contact if they are uncomfortable.
Consider different approaches depending on age
Experts suggest that parents who facilitate the art of the process consider the ages of their children so that their approach is developmentally appropriate.
Kindergarten to grade four. Elementary school children are often very direct and sincere in the way they communicate. “They’re also very keen to tell stories about what they notice,” Crow says. He recommends that parents encourage their young children to use these impulses in their art.
Likewise, Murphy wants his elementary students to ask lots of questions about art. When drawing inspiration from other works of art, he guides discussion from concrete concepts such as “Let’s identify what we see” to more abstract ideas by asking children to make educated guesses about the process and the process. intention behind a work. For example, he will make them finish the statement: “Because I see this, this is what I wonder …”
Bakri often incorporates a lot more play into his sessions with younger children, who typically have higher energy. She can read a story, make art and play with different tactile materials in one session to meet children’s needs for various stimulation.
From the fifth to the eighth year. When children reach their early teens, social pressures and peer outreach can sometimes inhibit their creative practices, Crow explains.
Along with his fifth graders, Murphy enjoys encouraging experimentation and failure to promote confidence. By the end of grade five, her students used the same sketchbooks throughout elementary school, allowing them to reflect on their growth and try iterations of work. Errors are welcome.
In practice, says Bakri, “adolescents are able to concentrate a little more and they often need a lot less direction.” They can usually work on a project that lasts several weeks and look at the different layers involved.
Ask open-ended questions
The art of the process is learner-centered and, as such, “should be guided by the intrinsic motivations of the learner,” Crow explains.
Parents often ask outcome-oriented questions with a “yes” or “no” answer. It may take a bit of practice to ask open ended questions that Crow says “really encourage a young person to tell a story, or develop an idea, or explore all the different possibilities.”
Bakri suggests the following: “Rather than interpreting or saying, ‘Oh, that sounds like this,’ ask a really open-ended question, like, ‘What inspired you? “” The question then becomes more of a conversation than a directive, and that keeps the process playful and the child present in the moment.
She also recommends making specific observations, such as, “I see you are working really hard on this part. ”
Murphy agrees, noting that “giving them encouragement that isn’t ‘what a pretty picture,’ but rather emphasizing how hard they’ve worked” places importance on their problem-solving abilities.
Finally, parents can also ask their children to ask them questions. “Children are asked questions all the time and are told what to do,” says Bakri. Process art allows them to turn the tide and control their works – and their emotions.