What Is Process-Focused Art And Why Is It A Great Idea?

International School, International School Singapore

The journey matters more than the destination – as with most things in life, this is also true when it comes to children and art. While some of us get hung up on making a perfect piece of art, focusing on the process often reaps far more benefits. For children, as well, the act of engaging and experimenting with art is what truly drives learning.

Arts and creative activities have countless benefits to a child’s development, especially in terms of building up creativity, self-expression, and fine motor skills. And just think about it: in order to practise these skills, it doesn’t really matter how the final product looks like, does it? That is why educators have made a distinction between process-focused art and product-focused art.

What does process-focused art-making look like?

It is quite self-explanatory that process-focused art-making puts the emphasis on the act of art-making, rather than being concerned with producing a perfect artwork. But to further understand what it looks like, we can envision it with some signs.

You will know it is process-focused art when the art process is not restricted by a set of step-by-step instructions or an exemplary sample the child has to work to achieve. The aim is for freedom of experimentation and expression, whether in terms of techniques, tools, or materials used.

With process-focused art, there is no right or wrong! Parents should restrict the urge to ‘correct’ or dictate what their child does, and let the child produce something that is uniquely their own. Oftentimes, process-focused art-making is a relaxing and calming experience for the child.

How can parents and educators facilitate process-focused art?

Now that you know what process-focused art looks like, the question is, how do you implement it? It might be useful to think of it like open-ended play, except this time, there is more focus on creativity and the use of art materials. Essentially, the parent’s or facilitator’s role is to provide children with an ample variety of materials for children to explore and experiment to their hearts’ content.

Allowing sufficient time to work on their creative pieces is a must! You definitely do not want to rush the process. Your child might even come and go from the art at will, revisiting it at a later time to complete it. As you might have realised by now, the key is to let the child lead the experience. This is a time to let them try out their wackiest, wildest ideas!

What parents and educators can add to the experience is their support and affirmation. Show your child that you recognise their efforts and thought process by making specific comments and questions about their work. For example, point out details like the colours they use, or the type of materials they’ve incorporated into the art piece.

What can children learn from process-focused art?

There is a time and place for process-focused art and product-focused art. For the purposes of child development, the former is often the most fruitful.

On the social and emotional front, art-making that embraces the process typically makes for a more enjoyable, relaxed, and satisfying art experience for the child. This type of art-making allows them to feel more in control, and have the opportunity to express themselves freely without being bound by rules or instructions.

A significant portion of process-focused art is also talking about the art; you can’t go without asking your child about their thoughts, inspirations, and feelings. This part of the activity is wonderful for promoting a child’s language development and ability to express themselves verbally.

The open nature of process-focused art allows for a unique platform for children to exercise problem-solving skills as well. Without any guide, they have to decide, plan, and find ways to achieve what they wish to do – simply a brilliant and non-intimidating way to nurture higher-order thinking skills!

Of course, we can’t forget the discovery-centred nature of process-focused art. Through free exploration, children hone their motor skills, learn what works and what doesn’t for different materials and tools, and discover new ways to do things. This prepares them for a life full of independent learning and thinking out of the box!

Try out process-focused art

If you’ve never heard of process-focused art, and you’ve been finding ways to encourage your child to be creative, maybe it’s time to give it a try. The tips given above should give you a good starting point for facilitating process-focused art at home.

You can also give your child more opportunities to dive into the arts with a school that has a thriving arts programme, such as the Canadian International School in Singapore. Widely regarded as one of the top IB schools in Singapore, CIS is not just a top-performer in academics, but also a school that promotes holistic learning – including having a very robust arts education programme. Their inquiry-led educational approach is also very much in line with the idea of process-focused art.