Building Artistic Minds with SmART Instruction

Product vs. Process Art

As an art lover I especially love to see children create. I love to see their minds and hands at work and creatively engaged. The need to create is eternal and divine. When providing creative opportunities for children it is tempting to expect a frame worthy result or a recognizable completed piece. This is often called “product art”, where a finished product is the goal. But children benefit just as much and even more from doing what is called “process art”. Creating for the love of it, enjoying the process, without concern for the finished result.  

Seeing Product Art for What it is

Granted, product art makes a great holiday piece for the fridge, and some kids just love a “perfect” result, but if your goal is developing minds and life-long art lovers be sure to make process art the bulk of your art instruction for young children. The following tips from the National Association for Educating Young Children can help you watch out for tell-tale signs that you’re pushing for product:

  • There is instruction and a right and wrong way to process.
  • You found the pattern online.
  • You are tempted to “fix” their work.
  • The finished art all looks the same, and there is an end product in mind.
  • Kids may get frustrated or say, “I can’t do it”, “Will you do mine”, or “Can I be done”.

Ingredients for Process Art

If you are doing the following, you are on the right track with art instruction.

  • The art is focused on the experience and on exploration of techniques, tools, and materials.
  • There is no right or wrong way to do it.
  • The art is original or unique and the experience is calming or relaxing.
  • Kids say, “Look what I made” or “Can I do another?”
  • You say, “Tell me about this piece.” or “Look at the red lines you made!”
  • You take materials outside sometimes.
  • Kids are introduced to artistic methods and styles through children’s books and illustrators.
  • You play music in the background. The experience is approached like open-ended play.

Benefits of Process Art for Kids

Besides developing small motor skills essential for later writing, essential cognitive development happens as children compare, predict, plan, and problem solve their work. The emotional benefits abound as well, providing opportunities to relax, focus, feel successful, and express their feelings in a safe and creative environment. To read more about the benefits of process art read Linda Bongiorno’s article at,