Often times as I am writing about an art activity I will speak of the importance of ‘process over product’. In simple terms this means that we value the play experience more than the end result. I cringe when I walk into a classroom or see photos on the web of a bulletin board with 15 pieces of artwork looking exactly the same. So many learning opportunities are lost when we expect children’s artwork to look a certain way. Today we are exploring process over product during a fun rock painting project. I will be sharing the way I invite children to a new play experience, the language we use during the play and the importance of tailoring the play to the individual. Come play with us! If you have any questions please take the time to comment below. I am happy to help!
Today is a picture perfect Spring day, 70 degrees and sunny. After dropping my son off at school my girls were desperate to paint and I was desperate to get outside. Some quick mama thinking got us both. “Today we are going to do rock painting! Hmmm, but we don’t have any rocks! Let’s go outside and search for some!” I gave each of my girls a small bag and they ran off barefoot to explore.
This is a great time to focus on your children’s senses. “Oh, look at this rock. How do you think it feels? This one is bumpy. This rock is smooth.”
After collecting rocks I set up a rock cleaning station. I filled shallow pans or bowls with soapy water. Tip: if you are doing this indoors I recommend using the kitchen floor with a bath towel. Give your children small sponges and let them enjoy the soapy fun.
The soapy water is a wonderful sensory experience for your children. In addition to cleaning the rocks, allow time to explore how the soap feels on hands, arms and feet. You can aid these discoveries by giving language to their discoveries. This will aid their understanding. “Look at all the bubbles on your hands!” “Oh, the rocks are dirty! Time to make them clean. Back and forth, back and forth in the water! All clean!”
Watch for signs that your children have had enough of the activity. Sometimes they will become irritable or start to look off into the distance. And if they are my daughters they will simply get up, take their clothes off and walk away. Time to take a break and have some free play.
While we played the rocks dried in the sun. My girls tired of playing outside so we brought the rocks back inside and set up the painting activity. Each girl received a plate containing small amounts of red, yellow and blue paint. At age two I want the girls to focus on the basic primary colors and the self-discovery of coloring mixing. As they gain experience I will add white and black.
Painting exploration is a perfect example of ‘process over product’. I could have told the girls “Now we are going to paint the rocks blue. Then we add yellow spots”, but we would have lost out on so many learning opportunities. Instead I let them lead the play and heightened the experience through language. When speaking to children avoid stating “It looks like a…” instead focus on what you are seeing. “Look at the way you are pushing the red paint around on your rock. Now I see you added yellow.” Avoid statements that begin with “I like” as this implies that at some point you may not like the artwork and takes the focus away from the process.
When you focus on process over product the end result may not be the most beautiful image to an adult’s eye, but if you look closer you will see your child’s pride, a deep level of critical thinking, language rich moments and the freedom to explore.