Open ended art for preschool kids is something you may not be familiar with, so let’s talk about what it is, and why it’s so important for childhood development. 

process art for preschoolers showing a child holding up a mixed media heart

What is open ended art?

Open ended art (also called process art) is an art activity that focuses on the process of creating it and not on the final product. During process art activities you set the materials out and let the children immerse themselves in the materials and their creativity. Open ended art is different from product art, but both have their place, especially in the development of young minds.

Product art is usually adult-led, has specific steps to follow in a specific order, and intends for all of the final products to look fairly similar to one another. Product art is what you would consider a craft project to be. 

Click here to read more about process art vs product art

What are the benefits of open ended art for preschoolers? 

There are many benefits of open ended art for children of all ages including:

Creative thinking – Process art means that the children have to think on their own about how to use the materials they have been provided to create with. Process art is a great way to improve creative thinking skills in children. 

Motor skills – Process art provides children with the opportunity to improve their fine and gross motor skills. Grasping a paintbrush, gluing tissue paper squares, and cutting with scissors help to improve these skills. 

Boost confidence – By allowing children to experiment with a variety of materials in process art they are improving their self-esteem and building confidence. They can experiment with different ways of using materials, to see what the results will be, and what they like and don’t like. 

Decision-making skills – Process art also allows children to practice their decision-making skills. Since process art projects are child-led they have to decide how to use the materials they have been given, what to do next, and when the project is complete. 

Experimentation – You may only think of science when you think of experiments but process art gives children the ability to experiment too. From learning what happens when you mix one color with another, to seeing what happens when you use a crayon on top of paint;  open ended art is full of opportunities to ask questions and learn about cause and effect.

Click here to read about the importance of open ended art materials for preschoolers

process art for preschoolers image of child drawing on a large sheet of paper
A sheet of wrapping paper turned into a giant canvas for drawing

What are some examples? 

Drawing – Drawing is a simple example of process art. Encourage your children to draw often. Provide papers with different textures and colors, and offer different mediums for them to draw with like oil pastel, crayons, markers, pencils, and charcoal. 

Painting – Painting is an exciting way to learn cause and effect. What happens when we mix two colors together? How about three? Four? If we add a little water to the paint, does the transparency change? What if we add a lot of water? Try poster paint, watercolors, and acrylics. Provide a variety of brushes, sponges, q-tips, etc to paint with. And don’t forget finger painting!

Collage – Collages are another example of process art that kids love to make. A variety of paper, cardboard, cardstock, glue, beads, pasta, or even a collection of items that they have found on a nature walk is all you need for them to make a collage. 

Nature painting – Speaking of a nature walk, in addition to finding things to use for a collage, you can also find items to use for painting. Sticks, leaves, cattails, and rocks all can be used in place of a paintbrush. Let the kids try it and see what they come up with!

Click here to read more about exploring color and texture in open ended art for preschoolers

Process art can be messy, but messy is good as it’s important for creativity and it provides a lot of developmental benefits. Dont get hung up on what it looks like. As Miss Frizzle always said, “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Encourage your kids to make something and stand back!

What are your favorite open ended art projects for preschool?


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