Art for younger children should focus on the pro-
cess, not the product. Process over product is a phrase
you’ve probably heard often as a teacher. Take a few
minutes to really think about what it means: that we
should encourage children to explore art materials
and enjoy the process of exploration. For a two- or
three-year-old, exploration means asking and an-
swering questions about art materials, such as “Can
I touch it? What does it feel like? What happens if
I use more?” It is more important for children to
have meaningful, exciting, and developmentally
appropriate art experiences than it is to produce a
product at the end.
For this age group, art is a very sensory experi-
ence. Young children seek input from art materials,
and getting input often involves using their hands.
Twos and threes really enjoy touching, feeling, and
squeezing art materials. They may also be curious
about the taste of art materials. It is typical for twos
and young threes to put items in their mouths.
That’s why safety and adult supervision are very
important. Careful observation and knowledge
about each individual child will help you deter-
mine what materials are safe for your group of
children to explore.
Young children need many opportunities for
experimentation with different kinds of art and
different kinds of media. Art projects should be
open-ended, with as little teacher direction as
possible. Accept that art exploration will be quite
messy. Remember that hands-on exploration is the
most meaningful and productive way for children
to learn. Embrace the adventure and excitement,
the fun and the challenge!
reflecting on Your role
As you plan art experiences for young children,
you must understand not only the children in your
group, but also yourself. You need to learn about
different art media, styles, approaches, and pro-
cesses. You need to try new things and step back and
observe what happens. Then you need to examine
your comfort level. You need to be comfortable with
what you offer and decide what—if any—boundar-
ies you will place on the children’s art experiences.
It takes time and patience to let children freely
experience and create art at their own pace and