Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School
Dec 09

I’ve written before about “process vs. product.”  (It’s THAT important!)   Process art is when the children are given materials and they create whatever they want.  They just enjoy the process of creating, painting, mixing colors, and painting themselves!  (Don’t worry, the children are washable!)  Adults usually have no idea what it is.

If it’s process art, adults will need to say, “Tell me about it.”

I decided to do an experiment.  I confess, I knew exactly how it would turn out!  I decided to have the children do a stereotypical preschool “art” project.   I precut rectangles, and some yellow paper “flames.”  I told the children they’d be making candles. I told them to put the glue on the back of the paper, turn it over, and put it vertically (I had a sample for them to copy.)  Then I had them glue on the flame. 

Truthfully, I was embarrassed to be doing this activity.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I despise these types of “crafts.”  I did justify it because our younger ones are learning how to paste.  Yes, it’s a skill.  Taking the top off a glue stick  requires hand strength.  Twisting the bottom so the paste comes up is so much fun, sometimes it gets SO tall it breaks!  Put the paste on back of the strip of paper, TURN IT OVER, and paste it down.  (Many children put paste all over the paper and don’t realized the sticky part has to go down!)  Some like to put more paste all over the top of the finished project.  Why?  Because it’s fun, of course!

When they were done making their “candles” (in about  a minute or two)  I asked each one, “Tell me about it.”  


“I made a candle!”



“A candle!”




“A candle!”



“A candle!”

(You get the idea)

“A candle!”

“A candle!”


“I made a puppy!”


 Her friend turned to her and said, “You can’t make a puppy, you have to make a candle!” 

A preschool craft that has a “wrong” answer.  GAH!

Later in the day, I gave them paper rectangles that I’d precut, and  put them by the handfuls on the tables.  I gave children the same white paper and glue sticks, and this time, I told them to make anything they want. 

They worked on the same pasting skills, but many, many, times. One child spread paste all over the white paper, then discovered that the second layer of strips wouldn’t stick.   “Uh-oh, it doesn’t stick!”  When asked what she could do, she looked and said, “Put the glue here.” She then put it on the strip and turned it over.

I’ve found when children enjoy the process of creating, their language skills flourish.  Adults may not know what the project is, but the children certainly do! 

I was careful to use the same materials and verbal instructions with both projects. 

Look at the difference in the language skills:

 “I made this square.  I stick it together I put glue on it because now it sticks. I got many colors.  Red, blue.”



“This was a really fat one so that’s why he died. This was a living animal and he didn’t eat very good so he died. He said, “hello, hello, hello!”  This guy was swimming in the water.  This one has lots of stripes on it an also it has arms.   (I overheard him say to another child, “No, it’s not an Allosaurus.”  Friend: “I thought it was an aye-aye.”  “No, it’s NOT an aye-aye!”)




“Mine is a whole family of snakes and this is the mommy, daddy, baby, and sister snake and the baby sitter. And then they’re rattle snakes and they’re people and show the picture that they’re eating the people.”




“I got rainbow because I made it. It’s blue, red, orange, blue, orange!”




“It’s a giraffe.  It’s a lion. It’s a hippo. It’s a Grandma lion and Grandpa lion.” 




“This is a road and the dinosaur is on it an and he messed it up!  A spider came and tried to eat him.  Oh my goodness!”



“I’m not finished yet. I made it, it’s a letter I made. What number is this?  Yeah, I made the number T. When I made t his with some more glue.  N handed me her glue and and I colored with it.” 


Would you rather have your child be creative, think, and develop language skills, or be able to recognize a product?

Think about it.

Look at your child’s art.  You know what to say.  “Tell me about it.”  I think you’ll be impressed!

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