Art: It's the journey, not the destination

Focusing on the journey, not the destination is exactly what process art is all about. You may have heard us use the term or seen the sign hanging near the art station each week, explaining that we like to highlight the process of creating more than the end result. We do this because we want children to explore new materials, make choices of their own, gain a new understanding of a certain concept, and have fun while creating art.

So many art projects designed for children come with a detailed set of instructions. They tell you to cut this, glue that, color in between the lines, and lead to uniform results. You end up with a perfectly colored rainbow, ten identical construction paper snowmen, and a child’s creativity gets lost.

When we plan the art station at LEAP, we focus on what LEAPers will get out of the act of creating, the process of making something that is a product of their own decisions and imagination. We keep the station intentionally open-ended and simply provide materials to create with. We do provide some guidance, but never discourage children from altering the project to fit their own vision. In fact, you’ll often hear us encourage children to try something different and support their choices to use the materials in a way we weren’t planning for.

Just this week, a little LEAPer strayed from making froggy footprints and chose to paint the frogs themselves! That same day, another child ditched the frogs all together and brought two toy beavers over from the sorting station to paint with!

This type of art project encourages little ones to make their own decisions. It allows them to create something individual and unique. Not being told exactly what to do and not being stopped when they do try something different allows them to problem solve, to think both critically and creatively.

You may have noticed we don’t shy away from getting messy either! From week to week, we see toddlers with paint in their hair, blue hands (and arms!), and mud underneath their fingernails. That’s okay! It’s why we tell you to bring your child dressed in clothes that can get messy and why you won’t hear us complain when your little ones start painting on us, too!

Squishing, dipping, dumping, slapping, and squeezing paint and play dough allows children to explore textures and sounds. They can see how paint looks and spreads differently depending on the surface it’s on. All of these actions work toddlers’ fine motor skills which are still developing and strengthening at this time.

Next time you want to do an art project at home, think about how to focus more on the process than the end result. It’s always exciting and sometimes amazing to see what your little one can create! 

--Emily Van Laan