I have been inspired by art since I was a little girl. My mom and her three sisters are all artist’s in their own way, and my grandmother is a master crafter. She can do anything and everything with her hands. Growing up I took countless art classes and often would hide away in my room creating. Art was a source of peace, joy, and confidence. It was something that came naturally to me, that both my parents supported. It didn’t feel like anything I had to learn necessarily, it just came out of me and I loved it. Now, as an adult with two young daughters, I am consciously looking for ways to bring creativity into our lives. It’s one of the things that is most important to me as a parent. I want to foster confident children that are problem solvers. I want my girls to take risks and think outside the box. I want my girls to be happy. Art is the best way I can think of to achieve those goals. Click here to see a list of our favorite art supplies.
My girls are so young (3 and 20 months) that guided projects haven’t been a possibility just yet, and as a result I have dove heavily into the world of process art. Process art is just as it sounds; art that is about the process and exploration of materials, not the outcome. Process art is perfect for young children, and at it’s core, provides an experience that is open ended and engaging. There is no wrong or right in process art. There is no outside the lines or inside the lines. There is just what is.
I remember visiting the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco several years ago with my husband. We came across a Roy Lichtenstein drawing on a coloring book page. None of the colors were inside the lines. My husband was absolutely fascinated. “What is this doing in a museum?” he asked. “I can do that!” Later, he shared a memory from his childhood where he felt like he wasn’t an artist because he had trouble drawing inside the lines. He shut himself off from art and decided he just wasn’t an artist. After seeing that piece in the museum, something changed in him. He began to express himself more freely and actively engage in hands on projects with our girls. To me, that is the power of process art. You never know what will come of it or how it can affect you, but it certainly does.
Process art is not only fun for your children, it’s fun to do with your whole family. You can invite as many people as you want to experience whatever paints, markers, paper, clay, or other materials you have on hand. All ages can participate at their own level and pace. Process art brings about communication, opportunities for sharing, problem solving, fine motor skill development, introduction to new vocabulary, risk taking and imagination. It can hit all the senses and be a truly fantastic bonding experience for your family.
We recently had a visit from my mom, the girl’s grandma. We don’t get to see her very often since she lives in New York. Process art was the perfect way for us all to be together talking, painting, laughing and exploring. We used simple, natural materials we found in our backyard and explored them together with some paintbrushes and paint. There weren’t any instructions or rules to follow. We just played around with the materials, following each other’s lead.
I know not everyone has a lemon tree in their backyard, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find some leaves, sticks or rocks to paint. The materials don’t matter nearly as much as the experience of being together.
This is just one of many ways to experience process art. Here is a step by step tutorial on creating canvas art with toddlers that my girls just love and here is how we created with crayons as a family. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to go outside the lines.