Process vs. Product

By: Jayna Hintz, curator of education on April 1st, 2009

Every month as I prepare hands-on projects for Toddler Tuesday, I have a “discussion” with myself about process vs. product. I think art experiences for young children should be more about the process, which plays a critical role in their need for self-expression, and less about the end product.

Toddlers love to shake sand on sticky paper. Does the sticky paper need to be cut into a recognizable shape or does an odd-shaped scrap of paper offer the same experience? I don’t think toddlers have a preference. They enjoy and learn from the process of shaking sand.

Every Toddler Tuesday is theme based. In March, Toddler Tuesday landed on St. Patrick’s Day, which provided a ready-made theme. To honor St. Pat, 140 shamrocks were cut from sticky paper for the toddlers to shake green sand on . . . a happy combination of process and product.

By shaking green sand on a shamrock, children were engaged in making art using fine motor skills as they experimented with the motions used to shake the sand. The outcome was a craft product.

When developing projects, one of my goals is to ensure that toddlers are in control of their project. Toddlers can shake sand without the help of an adult so youngsters are in control.

I plan six projects for each Toddler Tuesday. Three will be process experiences and three will yield take-home products. This balance is best for young participants.

Children engage in art making for the experience, the exploration, and the experimentation. Art making is about self-expression. Most young children are not especially interested in the final product – they’re more into “doing” art.

There’s really not a right or wrong way to explore creativity. Finding a balance between process and product for youth art programs is an ongoing challenge at the Woodson Art Museum.

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