Fun is the Final Product

By Katie O’Brian

a paper plate with mixed swirls of purple, orange, green, and yellow, paint

Craft programs can be intimidating. What if it gets messy? What if I run out of supplies? With process art, the goal is to forget the prepared supplies and embrace the mess! Open-ended exploration of materials and techniques gives children autonomy. A different skill set is used when children come up with the answer to a question themselves, as opposed to being given certain options. The chances for creativity are increased, and they get to answer the open-ended question of “What if…?” What if I color on sandpaper? What if I use this pop bottle as a stamp? They get to make the decisions!

The developmental benefits of process art include:

  • Autonomy and self-expression
  • Cooperative skills, including sharing
  • Sensory exploration
  • Spatial awareness
  • Motor skills
  • Decision making

We’ve tried a lot of different programs, but these are a few of our favorites:

  • Bubble wrap art: Bubble wrap is such a fun, versatile material. I’ve used it as a stamp that the kids can press into paint, but I’ve also heard of it being used for messy stomping. If you cut the paper or the bubble wrap into fish shapes, the pattern looks like scales! From Popsugar
  • Q-tip pointillism: A chance to explore a new material and a painting technique! What impressed me most was how creative kids were with their Q-tips. They used them to make dots, sure, but they also rolled them, drew lines with them, and stuck them to their paper. From The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul.
  • Tissue paper painting: The kids loved using spray bottles in this fun activity and the artwork turned out like cool watercolors. (Make sure you use bleeding art tissue paper–regular tissue paper won’t work!) It was a project that kept kids engaged for a really long time. From Fantastic Fun and Learning
  • Salt painting: This is probably one none of your kiddos will have tried before and uses glue, salt, liquid watercolors, and pipettes. The pipettes are great for building fine motor skills and the kids and caregivers will spend a lot of time experimenting to get the effect they want. From Meri Cherry