Process-Based Art: Open-Ended Art Activities for Preschoolers

Process-Based Art for kids

Try these fun process-based art projects with your little one. These open-ended art activities for preschoolers are the perfect way to teach and encourage creativity - even if you're not artistic yourself.

Your child can paint like Michelangelo!

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he stood on wooden scaffolding and painted above his head on the ceiling- for FOUR YEARS! Can you imagine? What if your child could do that too? Well, in a way, you can replicate this activity at home! Invite your child to paint on a paper or canvas secured to the underside of a table, above their head, similarly to Michelangelo. It's all about the process.

But how do you mimic famous artists without pressuring your kids with high expectations?

We all know that feeling, when you're trying to create a masterpiece and it's just not coming out how you want it to look. It's frustrating and often makes us feel like giving up completely.

So how do we help our kids explore art and learn techniques without pressuring them to create their own masterpiece or compare their work to those incredible famous artists?

The answer: focus on the process, not the product.

Enter Process-Based Art.

Process-based art allows children to explore the materials and discover their own process for the project, without feeling pressure to create a particular thing. Product-based art is more structured and asks children to recreate an existing product or create something where the final product is the ultimate goal.

Focusing on the end result stifles creativity and often leaves young children feeling frustrated by their lack of skills.

With young children, it's important to let them explore the materials at their own pace. The artwork may look totally different at the end from what you were expecting, and that's fine. Remember the final product is NOT the goal of the activity; the discovery and creation is!

How do you set up a process-based project?

Think of it like an open-ended art project (like a sensory bin!): you set out the materials, and see what your child does with them.

  • Limit the number of instructions given
  • Allow for plenty of time for exploration
  • Ask open-ended questions, and sparingly
  • Let your child come and go from the project
  • Check out this amazing article from the NAEYC about process- and product-based art to learn more

Super Easy Open-Ended Art Activities for Preschoolers (and older kiddos too!)

If you feel overwhelmed and you'd like a convenient short cut, consider subscribing to monthly Messy Play Kit delivery! Keep an eye out in February for the perfect kit containing 4 fun open-ended art activities perfect for your little one. It's called the Famous Artists Kit.

The Kit comes with all the materials needed to paint like Michelangelo - a paper backdrop to help protect the table, a plastic drop cloth to help protect the floor, 4 colors of paint, a paint brush, and multiple sheets of paper! So you can get started as soon as the Kit arrives!

The Kit also includes 3 other projects, so you can explore materials like other famous artists as well: Rodin, Picasso and Mondrian, and Calder.

Practice process-based art and remember that the finished project may look very different from the samples you see on the Kit instruction page, or from what you imagine. And that's OK! Your child's art should look different from mine! I've had more years of experience drawing straight lines and swirling colors of gelatin than they do.

Use this kit as a way to explore new materials and techniques, and to discuss the artists and their work. Visit a local museum and see artwork by other famous and local artists also!

Gardening Sensory Bin Under the Sea Messy Play Kit

To fully leverage the art skills taught by messy play, sign up for a monthly subscription and receive a new activity box each month!

Sign up here!