Process Driven Art
February 26, 2018 • By Michelle Ioannou

Process driven art may be an abstract term you have heard, but here is a description of what it is and how you can use it to do creative, engaging, age-appropriate art activities with young children.

What is process driven art? How does it differ from product driven art? How can you use process driven art to increase vocabulary, strengthen the parent-child relationship, and foster children’s social-emotional development?

First let’s talk a little bit about process- vs product-driven art. These terms can be confusing when both types of art can produce a product. When we talk about process driven art the focus is on process not the end result or a “product”. When a child is experiencing a new art tool like crayons, markers, glue, or scissors, they are learning how to use the tool not how to produce art. If the expectation is that the child will fill in a coloring page correctly or draw a picture of a flower, the child will fail and it will be a frustrating experience. When the expectation focuses on the exploration of the tools in an environment without pressure, the child will learn important school readiness skills such as self-regulation while building the fine motor control needed to learn how to write.

We have all used these tools for so long that it is hard to imagine not knowing how they work, but put yourself in the place of a child for just one moment. Think of an activity that you have never done before such as playing a musical instrument. Would you pick up a flute and be able to play a recognizable song without lessons and practice? Probably not. The same holds true for children when they are trying something for the first time. They need to explore the tool or medium, they need to practice with it and later they will reach the point where they will draw something that you recognize

Product driven art is art where the expected outcome is for the artist to produce a recognizable product like a drawing of a house or a painting of a cat. Product driven art is successful with older children who are already past the point of exploration and are ready to be challenged.

One of the great aspects of process driven art is that with a little help from a home visitor and/or a parent, the child can have fun learning about the process while still producing a product that everyone recognizes. Process driven art can be used as an extension activity for a book in the PCHP curriculum or as a stand-alone art activity.



Here is a wonderful extension activity to accompany the book “Cows Can’t Jump”.



This book is a great way to get children up and moving! There are many types of animals and examples of the ways they move such as “slither”, “wallow” and “pounce”. As an extension activity for this book, you can make a snake using a paper plate process driven art project. Paper plates (plain, white plate with no waxy coating) are perfect for process driven art as they are perfect for paint, dot markers, crayons, glue, and many other art mediums.


As you can see in this picture, the child is decorating the plate using markers and bits of paper he has cut himself. It does not matter how he applies the pieces of paper or how he draws with the marker. If he is engaged, he can work longer; and if he becomes tired of working on the project, it can end at any time.

The home visitor and/or the parent can narrate what the child is doing and ask questions about what the child is doing, for example:

  • I like that green square you cut out, where are you going to put it?
  • Are you going to put it next to the pink piece of paper? Oh, I see you are going to put it above the blue line that you drew.

If a home visitor and parent are working with the child together, the home visitor can encourage parent engagement by asking questions:

  • Would you like to hold the markers? He can ask you what color he would like to use next.
  • He has a lot of purple squares on the plate, can you help him count them?

While the child is creating and learning how to use these tools he will be hearing new vocabulary as well as hearing words he already knows.


When the child has completed the decoration to their satisfaction, the parent or home visitor can help cut the plate in a spiral and the child can glue on eyes and the tongue. The end result is a “slithering” snake that the child recognizes and is proud of.

When a child is learning in this environment, it can strengthen the parent-child relationship as they work together to complete a project. The parent can take on the role of the “helper” which can help build the self-esteem of the child who is normally the one in need of help. When a child completes a project like this, he/she learns what it is like to achieve a goal and complete a task successfully. If the project becomes frustrating, the child learns to regulate their emotions and to communicate their needs, which is key to social-emotional development.

If a mistake is made during process driven art, it is rarely important and a child can learn that in order to learn mistakes will be made and that they are part of the process and not something that should deter you from continuing to try. Success requires effort.

With a basic art kit of markers, glue, scissors, colored paper, and household items like paper plates, egg cartons, or paper tubes, families can easily provide children wonderful opportunities to create, explore pre-writing skills, and become confident and self-assured learners.



Here are a couple more examples of book-related activities you can make using process driven art.


Butterflies can be made with coffee filters, markers, and water (or rain!) and a pipe cleaner.

This guest blog was written by PCHP Coordinator Lynne Creed, of PCHP’s site at Encompass in North Bend Washington.