Process Art: What's the Point?

Many of our LEAPers get a kick out of the art station each week. We love to see little legs running over to check out the available materials! You may see clay, spray bottles, brightly colored paper, or paint popsicles. While we use different materials each week, our goal is always the same: to encourage creativity and exploration using process-focused art.

What is process art?

In order to better understand process art, it is best to look at process-focused art versus product-focused art. Process art focuses on the act of creating, whereas product art focuses on developing a specific creation.

Courtesy of NAEYC

Courtesy of NAEYC

Art is beneficial to children, no matter how it is presented. There is a time and a place for both process-focused and product-focused art. Process art, however, opens up a world of exploration for kids. They are free to use the materials however they choose and create something that is uniquely theirs. When a child is finished, it is unlikely that his or her creation will look like anyone else’s. It’s fascinating to see creativity at work!

Process art benefits the whole child. The freedom to work creatively provides social-emotional, language, cognitive, and physical benefits:

  • Social-Emotional – Children can relax, focus, feel successful, and express their feelings.
  • Language – Children and adults can engage in conversation about their artwork. This provides wonderful opportunities for caregivers to model language.
  • Cognitive – Children have the opportunity to compare, predict, plan, and problem solve.
  • Physical – Children use their fine motor skills to paint, write, glue, mold clay, and combine materials.

Throughout the LEAP program, we’ve tested many process art ideas. Some have been great successes, while others have been flops… We’ve listed a few of our favorite projects from over the years. They’re easy to do at home and can provide meaningful bonding experiences for you and your toddler!

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Animal Tracks & Bubble Baths

Grab your favorite animal figurines and some paint to create animal tracks. Then, use a small container of soapy water to clean your animals. Self-cleaning art time? Yes, please!

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Mud Painting

Mud is fun all by itself... but add some food coloring or spices and you have an entirely new experience! We love painting with mud because it's easy to find in your backyard and washes away easily. We especially love painting the big rocks outside of Children's Zoo :)

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Nature Sculptures

Kick off this art activity by taking a nature walk to collect materials - acorns, sticks, leaves, berries, whatever you can find! Use clay or Playdoh to create a base for your sculpture, then build away!

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Paint Popsicles

We are LOVING these paint pops! They create smooth designs, add an icy feel, and are super easy to make. You'll need paper cups, popsicle sticks, paint (we use BioColor brand, but any kind will do!), and a freezer. Pour the paint of your choice into the paper cup - layering colors is especially fun! - then place a popsicle stick in the middle. We covered each cup with a small piece of tinfoil then poked the popsicle stick through, which helped the stick stay upright. Freeze for a few hours and you're done!

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Puffy Paint

Mix equal parts Elmer's glue and shaving cream for one of our most fun process art activities! This paint goes on smooth but dries puffy. Add food coloring and essential oils to add a colorful and smelly twist!

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Sand Art

The grittiness of sand is an amazing texture! We use sand often in LEAP and always get a kick out of seeing LEAPers experience the feeling of sand between their fingers. We have 2 sand art activities that we love: Sand Paint and Sprinkle Sand Art. Sand paint is as easy as it sounds - fill a bowl with your favorite paint, add sand, and mix! You'll have chunky, gritty, colorful paint. Sprinkle sand art is created with glue and colorful sand. We mixed powder tempera paint with sand to create brightly colored sand, then we drew designs with glue and sprinkled sand on top!


Next time you’re at LEAP, make sure to swing by the art station. While it may seem messy – and a little unruly – it’s truly designed to be that way! It’s all about the process not the product, the journey not the destination!

Written by Nicole Filippone