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Process Art for Toddlers

This is the first post in a series of posts that explain a bit more of what process art looks like in each of my programs. Creativity is so important for children's development but it looks so different at various age groups. There is a reason each of my programs are different and I wanted to share a bit about that with you!

Toddlers are inherently curious. They are exploring so many new things in their world and they want to experience things through as many senses as possible! We need to provide as many opportunities as we can to allow them to explore that curiosity in creative ways. Process Art is a great way to allow them to have these experiences. It gives them opportunities to explore art mediums and techniques such as the way paint feels when squished through fingers or how different it can look when you paint with a leaf or a fork instead of a paintbrush. They can learn through trial and error when they notice they didn't use enough glue to adhere something and learn they have to use more to make it stick. When they use a brush of blue paint to paint over a spot of yellow paint and the color mixes to green, they experience cause and effect. They can ask questions like "what will happen if I drop this cotton ball full of paint onto the paper on the floor," and then get to immediately try it out. A toddler's curiosity only grows when they are able engage in Process Art activities.

These are also the years where toddlers really begin learning lots of life skills as well as the concept of right and wrong. They are learning to use eating utensils, putting on their clothes, and potty training. It's a lot of new, hard work that can be stressful and difficult at times. This is partially why we get lots of new "tricky" behaviors (mhm the terrible twos). They are hearing a lot of "no" as we try to keep them safe because let's face it, they get in to SO MANY things that they shouldn't and we are just trying to keep them alive half the time. Being a toddler is hard work. They need times in their day when they can explore and grow without stress and frustration. Art can be and should be an experience that allows them to do just that. There should be no right or wrong, no stress, and no frustration in a toddler art activity. In art, toddlers shouldn't hear us say things like "No, not like that," or "This goes here, not there." In Process Art, statements like that never need to be said (unless a child is attempting to paint on the wall maybe). It is because of this that the majority of art experiences that children under the age of 3 should experience is Process Art, not crafts.

So what is the difference between this Process Art I speak of and crafts? Crafts are step-by-step projects that get you to a specific looking end product. Process Art, is where artists focus on the way something is created rather than trying to get their art to match a picture.

Now I know what you're thinking... "But Taylor, that Pinterest Love Bug project with their footprint and the little heart wings is the cutest thing ever!" And you're right, it is, but when you think about it, what part of that was creative and exploratory for your little artist to experience? YOU painted or dipped their foot in paint. YOU probably will help them glue on the googly eyes in just the right spot. YOU will cut out little hearts for wings and YOU will draw on legs and black spots. Am I saying you can't do these projects? No! But I would recommend leaving out the paint and letting your toddler create and explore with it on another piece of paper while it's out if you do attempt these craft type projects! That cute craft, while adorable and nice to have as a keepsake for you, didn't allow your child to explore any part of the art process. They may have felt overwhelmed if you attempted to let them do all the other pieces but showed them exactly where the things went and how to do it. And in the end, they might even feel discouraged if their craft didn't turn out like the picture. Art at this age needs to be creative, personal, and an experience they can explore without fear of failure. So make sure when you make these cute keepsake crafts, you leave out the materials and allow your child to be an artist too!

Now you might be thinking that this all sounds well and good, but I can't have 10 pieces of random finger painted pieces of paper on my fridge. I want something that resembles art in some way! That is where the Creative Play Studio really shines. I love taking our Process Art Projects and turning them into something that your child and you can love and enjoy. Take our Shiny Stars for example. We took this Foil Collage process inspired by Pickle Bums which allowed kids to use aluminum foil as their art surface and turned it into a project. This is always a well loved process activity because the aluminum foil makes the art look so shiny and fun and toddlers always love when they get to work on something other than paper.

Well we took that process and turned it into a project for Star Week by wrapping cardboard shaped stars with the foil ahead of class time. So when my toddlers got to explore this process, they did so while also creating a project that Mom will love to hang up when they get home! We also added a step of coloring/scribbling/drawing with paint markers first to add another process to the project.

Now, not all of our activities become projects like this. At Creative Play Studio, our Toddler Program (Little Kid Classes) has 1 art station that becomes a fun project they take home such as this and then we explore 3 other Process Art Stations that don't necessarily have a "final piece" look to them. I want your kids to explore and create with different materials and mediums every time we get together. Sometimes these other pieces get to go home with your child too and other times they are just for fun, exploration, and for fostering creativity. We might all collaborate on a project such as these Fizzy Dropper Paintings.

Or explore different painting and printmaking processes like Bubble Wrap Prints.

Or maybe even explore painting recycled Items for a fun and new textured surface. We love to explore lots of different art processes each week and let your toddlers be the leaders of their creative process.

Betsy McKenna says it so perfectly in the book Art Workshop for Children by Barbara Rucci. She says "Process art represents the voice of the child, an authentic expression of what the child is thinking and feeling. It is through free exploration of materials that a child can take risks, gain increased self awareness and build confidence to experiment with new ideas."

I hope this has inspired you to take a look at the art your toddler is doing and to make sure the programs they are in are truly developmentally appropriate! I know you've got this mama but if you need a little help, I would love to walk this creative journey with you and your child! I hope you also learned a little more about what to expect in our toddler aged program, and why I do what I do. Let's get creative this new year!


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