Unlock the power of Soc-Emotional Learning- FREE GUIDE

Process Art Vs. Crafts in Preschool

“Every child is born creative. The challenge is to keep that creativity alive.” That is quote from Kristina Webb.  Pretty true right?! Sometimes without intent, our schooling systems try to put that creativity into a box by focusing heavily on product-art, rather than process-art.

So, what is the big difference and big appeal of process art over product art (aka: crafts)?  Read on to find out!

What is Process Art?

Process Art, by definition from Wikipedia, “is an artistic movement where the end product of art and craft, is not the principal focus.” In other words, the creative process of making the art is the focus – not the end product. In contrast – crafts are focused on the end product looking a certain way, not necessarily the creative process that got you to that end product.

Why Process Art over Crafts for Preschoolers?

It’s the opportunity to enjoy the creativity process without stress. There is no right and wrong way to do it. Children can let their creativity flow without the expectation of it looking like something that someone else deems ‘right’ in the end.

When children use their own thoughts and ideas to create art – they now get to tell us about it! They get to use language to share about what they created and get a sense of pride from creating something that was truly unique to them.

When children are in the drivers seat of their own art, they are…

  • Planning (Where should I put this?, How will I make it look like the ideas in my head?)
  • Problem solving (How am I going to get this to stick?, My scissors don’t want to cut this, what will I do? )
  • Predicting (What will happen if I mix these two colors? What will happen if I try using less water?)

How Do You Know if you are Encouraging Process Art?

Here are important characteristics of Process Art:

  • The art is child-driven and is entirely their own.
  • There are no instructions to follow and no sample
  • There is no ‘wrong-way’ to do it.
  • Each child’s end product should be unique, even if the same materials are used to create with.
  • Importance is placed on the exploration of art tools and materials

How to Bring more Process Art into your Classroom

  • Make sure your art center is stocked with materials children need for creation. Paper, scissors, glue, markers, crayons, things to glue. Also be aware of when things need refilled or replaced. And make sure that children are able to visit the art center anytime during free play.
  • Use an easel for simple paint explorations. Try different tools and different canvases for children to paint on. Find a list of ideas here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1H8hKruPJtlHRkwHk4lRJ9Y124ewCrYyW/view?usp=drivesdk
  • When planning for art in the classroom, ask yourself if the project you have in mind fits the characteristics of process art. 
  • Allow student choice over what materials to use, how long to complete their art and where to display their art (home or school).
  • Be on the look-out for different materials you can provide to children to use in their art. Think outside of the box!
  • When children ask for certain materials for their art try your best to supply them.
  • When talking to children about their art, be mindful. Asking ‘what’s that?’ might communicate to children that their art should look like something you can easily identify. Instead, ask children to tell you about it. When children bring you art they’ve created, they want you to be just as excited about the amazing art they made all by themselves as they are. Try to move beyond ‘Good Job’ and tell them why you think their art is amazing. For example: “You used so many dots, that is very neat!” The colors you chose are beautiful” or “The way you used the {insert tool here} is so unique!”

Process art and Play-based learning go hand in hand. Why? Because they are both discovery-based. They are both child-driven. And most importantly they are both researched-based.

While crafts might have a place in children’s lives (lots do crafts at home) – many are quite enjoyable afterall… process art should reign supreme in the preschool classroom. How can you bring more process art into your classroom?

Free Literacy Training

Learn about the three mistakes to avoid (and what to do instead) when implementing literacy into your early learning classroom.

Thank you for subscribing!


I love helping preschool teachers be the best they can be, by providing quality resources and sharing fun ideas!

If you’re looking for play-based learning ideas, free trainings and all things preschool – you are in the right place!