Process Art in the Preschool Classroom

process art

It’s that time of the year again: a Pinterest search for “Preschool Art” displays a multitude of cute crafts designed to please the adults in a child’s life. The classic handprint turkey is the perfect example of what is so common in preschool art programs.  Although the product is aesthetically pleasing, there is little creativity involved and every project is identical. These types of projects are planned by the adult, have a “right way” to make them, and the child might not be able to make the finished product without adult help.

Alternatively, there has been a trend in early childhood settings to embrace process art. Process art allows children to explore and create through open-ended art activities without a predetermined outcome. Like the name suggests, it is more about the process of creating and experimenting than the resulting product. In her 1994 book, Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product, MaryAnn Kohl wrote, “Young children ‘do’ art for the experience, the exploration, the experimentation. In the ‘process’ they discover mystery, creativity, joy, and frustration. The resulting masterpiece, whether it be a sticky glob or meritorious gallery piece, is only a result to the young child, not the reason for doing art in the first place.”

At Children’s Garden Montessori, we strive to foster creativity and original thinking. We believe there is no right or wrong way for a child to create art. We have seen how open-ended art opportunities encourage children to explore materials, take risks to test creativity without fear, and raise self-esteem as children learn to trust their own decisions. Child development is supported by process-focused art as children predict, plan and problem solve; use small motor skills to paint, cut and glue; enhance literacy as children discuss their art; and develop social/emotional skills as children relax, focus, express their feelings, and feel successful.

Below you can read more on the principles of process-art, as well as tips and activities to try at home from the NAEYC website. The next time your child brings home an art project, your first thought may be “What is that?” Instead of asking your child what it is (the subject), try asking how they made it. More often than not, you will find there is more than meets the eye in your child’s art explorations.

Characteristics of process-focused art experiences

  •  There are no step-by-step instructions
  •  There is no sample for children to follow
  •  There is no right or wrong way to explore and create
  •  The art is focused on the experience and on exploration of techniques, tools, and materials
  •  The art is unique and original
  •  The experience is relaxing or calming
  •  The art is entirely the children’s own
  •  The art experience is a child’s choice
  •  Ideas are not readily available online

Provide open-ended, creative art experiences by offering activities such as

  •  Easel painting with a variety of paints and paintbrushes (with no directions)
  •  Watercolor painting
  •  Exploring and creating with clay
  •  Finger painting
  •  Painting with unusual tools like toothbrushes, paint rollers, potato mashers
  •  Printing and stamping (stamps purchased or made with sponges)
  •  Creating spin art using a record player and paint, squirt bottles, paintbrushes, or markers
  •  Stringing beads independently and creatively
  •  Weaving cloth, yarn, or paper
  •  Drawing with pencils, art pens, various sizes of markers, or crayons
  •  Using homemade doughs
  •  Making collages using tissue paper, various sizes of paper, glue, paste, glue sticks, scissors, and recycled materials

Tips for leading process-focused art

  1. Approach art like open-ended play—for example, provide a variety of materials and see what happens as the child leads the art experience
  2. Make art a joyful experience. Let children use more paint, more colors, and make more and more artwork
  3. Provide plenty of time for children to carry out their plans and explorations
  4. Let children come and go from their art at will
  5. Notice and comment on what you see: Look at all the yellow dots you painted
  6. Say YES to children’s ideas
  7. Offer new and interesting materials
  8. Play music in the background
  9. Take art materials outside in the natural light
  10.  Display children’s books with artful illustrations, such as those by Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, and Javaka Steptoe
  11. Let the children choose whether their art goes home or stays in the classroom
  12. Remember that it’s the children’s art, not yours

Reading Aloud to Your Child- The Many Benefits

Reading aloud to your toddler or preschooler can give them many advantages; expanding their vocabulary, insight on how to begin writing and reading themselves, knowledge of the world around them, and also empathy.

Children who are read to daily will quickly understand where to begin reading on a page, and learning that reading happens from left to right. This will also help them with their beginning writing.

As parents, you are speaking to your child each day, but by reading aloud to your child, you are enhancing their vocabulary as they are being exposed to new words they are not hearing on a daily basis.

A child’s concentration can also be affected positively by reading aloud each day. Their ability to sit and listen to a book for longer periods each time will help assist their concentration and working abilities in school

Reading to your child from an early age has many benefits that can be shown academically, socially, and emotionally. This is also a great winding down period for you and your child to bond at the end of each day.


Bilingual Kid Spot

The Nature of Creativity: Why Is Scribbling Important?

Early childhood educators appreciate that growth and development happen in stages. Our job is to cultivate growth through understanding the behaviors that characterize each stage, and hold space for children to progress to further stages. At Children’s Garden Montessori, we recognize that just as a seed holds the potential to develop spontaneously into a plant, children too will blossom if they are provided with nourishment from their environment.

Creativity in young children also develops in stages. Rhoda Kellogg describes eight stages of growth in children’s creative work, progressing from scribbles to pictures that tell stories:

  1. Scribbles
  2. Scribbles become shapes
  3. Shapes are combined with lines and outlines
  4. Outline shapes become designs
  5. Designs become symbols
  6. Symbols become pictures of humans, plants and animals
  7. Symbols are used to create pictures
  8. Pictures tell stories

Each stage of development is identified by certain characteristics, which describe the child’s needs at a given stage as well as their aptitude for fulfilling those needs. For our purposes today, we will focus on the first stage.

Typically observed in children ages two through five, scribbles are one of the earliest and most important spontaneous expressions of creativity. Scribbles are marks made at random for the sheer joy of doing, without premeditation or intent. Although scribbling seems chaotic and crude, it fulfills the child’s developing need to express themselves. If given the chance, children will often describe their scribbles with elaborate stories and language that the adult would not have perceived simply by looking at the seemingly random markings.

Just as in all other forms of development, a child can only progress to the next stage if their needs are recognized and nourished with experiences from their environment. If their needs are not nourished, they are neither able to progress nor able to return to fulfill that need. By allowing them to scribble at this time, they will gain the strength, skill and confidence to progress to the line and shape stage. And by encouraging and accepting their scribble work, they feel safe and supported to risk expressing themselves again as they continue to develop.


References and Further Reading

Let Out The Sunshine: A Montessori Approach to Creative Activities by Regina Reynolds Barnett

Psychology of Children’s Art by Rhoda Kellogg


The Practical Life Area in our Classroom

Part of our day involves the preschool children doing their “work”.  Maria Montessori called school activities work because she considered play to be the work of children.

One type of work in our classroom is practical life.  This area is unique to Montessori and is always very popular with our preschoolers. The shelves have trays that hold various activities including tongs, tweezers, screwdrivers, nuts and bolts, spoons, buttons, snaps, a child size broom or mop, dust pan, clothes pins, and more.  The children take the tray of work to a desk, do the work, and return the tray to the shelf when the job is completed. The children build their fine motor while learning to care for themselves and their classroom environment.

The reason practical life activities are so important is that they help children develop order, concentration, coordination, and independence. By developing these qualities, the children and the learning environment are calmer, and learning is easier. These are also prerequisite skills to learning other things, like math and reading.  We love to see the concentration on their faces as the children work!

Preschool vs. Daycare


When evaluating a place for your child, you should consider more than the facility name or classification. For example, some daycare facilities may call themselves a preschool, but not have qualified teachers or appropriate materials. You may also encounter a preschool that does little more than a daycare would. So, you should evaluate each facility based on criteria important to you. Here are some things to consider:

1. A large portion of your child’s brain development takes place takes place during the early years of life. So, it is important that they not only be in a safe location, but also a stimulating one.

2. At this age, only so much can be learned in a large group. Smaller class sizes allow each child more one-on-one time with teachers. At this age children are at all different levels and progress at different rates. It’s important for children to have teachers that can offer a wide rage of appropriate materials and instruction.

3. A quite, peaceful environment is possible and important for a good daycare or preschool experience. This reduces stress and increases enjoyment for the child.

4. The facility should offer several options for your child’s schedule. For example, some may attend three half days, while others may attend full time to accommodate working parents.  Don’t make assumptions on the cost based on whether it is a preschool or daycare.

5. Finally, children need a wide open space outdoors and time to explore it.

Summer Enrichment Activities

Are you looking for something fun to do with your child this Summer?  Try some of these activities:

Literacy Development at Home

preschool montessori

Article from the April 2014 issue of Canton Life:
As teachers, we are often asked by parents: “What can I do at home to help my child? I read to my child every night, but I want to know what else I can do.”
Here are ten things you can try:

1. Play with letters and sounds: This helps children make the letter/sound connection. “Let’s bounce the ball and say /b/ every time it hits the floor.” Or “What does cat start with?”
2. Play word games: “How many syllables are in the word baby? Let’s clap it out.” “Let’s play a word game. I am thinking of glasses: the ones you drink from and the ones you use to see. Can you think of another word that has two different meanings?”
3. Hearing and creating rhymes: Research shows the repetition of rhymes teaches children how language works and builds memory capability. “Can you think of a word that rhymes with car?”
4. Sing the nursery rhymes together: Nursery rhymes are short, easy to repeat, and build language confidence.
5. Talk in whole sentences: At this age, children can understand more than they can produce back to you, so baby talk is not necessary.
6 .Have face-to-face conversations: Limit screen time and increase talk time. Tell your child a short story about what life was like when you were a child while looking through a photo album.
7. Ask open ended questions: Choose topics that interest your child. Respond, listen, and ask additional questions, going back and forth more than once.
8. Expose your child to new words: Read many different genres of books. However, if your child wants to read a favorite book over and over, this is also beneficial since they can predict what will happen.
9 .Count: “How many words are in this sentence?” “How many letters in the word_____?” “How many vowels are in the word_____?”
10. Exposure to the world around you: Taking your child many places (museums, plays, walks in the woods) gives them context to help interpret and comprehend what they are reading.

What Parents Need To Know

Montessori language

Article from the February 2014 issue of Canton Life:

Early childhood development drives success in school and life. A critical time to shape productivity is from birth to age 5, when the brain develops rapidly to build the foundation of cognitive and character skills necessary for success in school, health, career and life.  An early Montessori education fosters cognitive skills along with attentiveness, motivation, self-control, and sociability.

“There are 700 synapses formed per second in children under 3! This is an amazing time in a preschooler’s life”, said Laura Bertsch, Director of Children’s Garden Montessori in Canton. Her staff recently attended a workshop entitled “How Brain Science Supports Montessori.”

Montessori preschool can help a child in many ways:

School has become much more academic than when most parents attended. Testing, even in kindergarten, is so rigorous that you want the children to be able to show what they know.  A quality preschool education is now a necessity.

Larger class sizes in the elementary schools make it crucial for children to be able to focus in order to learn. In Montessori, we are always working on focus and concentration. Children choose the work they are interested in, and they can work without interruption.  Montessori materials are unique and very hands on. This helps to keep the children engaged.  “In our classroom, a wide variety of materials from math and science to reading and writing are used to keep students actively learning.”, said Tania Arras, Head Teacher at Children’s Garden Montessori.

Research shows that the teacher is the single, most important factor in your child’s education. Preschool is your child’s first introduction to school. The teacher is a guide in your child’s education.  A highly qualified Montessori teacher has the experience to find out what level a child is at, and then work individually to progress him or her as far as they can go.

Children build confidence and independence in Montessori preschools.  These children become leaders in their elementary years. Montessori classroom are a prepared environment, where children practice making choices and following tasks through to completion.  This gives them confidence to tackle new challenges and take academic risks.

Every parent envisions their child becoming a successful adult. The choices we make now for our children put us on the path to future academic success.  Montessori preschool can boost children’s skills in all areas

Finding a Good Preschool for your Child

Article from the June 2013 issue of Canton Life:

Montessori is a popular trend with parents, but it’s based on a method that has been around for 100 years!  Maria Montessori shifted the attention away from the traditional teacher-directed learning model to a learner-centered one.  By recognizing a child’s natural desire to learn and providing special materials, each child is able to develop concentration, coordination, independence, and a regard for order.

Over Laura Bertsch’s extensive career in education, she has taught both traditional and Montessori methods.  According to Bertsch, “The Montessori method really provides an individualized program for children, which accelerates personal learning and encourages multi-age collaboration.”  A common misconception is that Montessori is a franchise, when in fact each school is independent.  “It is important to research the school your child attends prior to enrollment.”  Some things to consider are staff education and experience, and what academic and extracurricular activities will be provided.  Unfortunately, many parents select the school without considering what their child will learn there.  Preschool and kindergarten are the foundation for success in school.

Coming from a family of educators, Laura has much exposure to early childhood.  After getting her masters in early childhood, her Montessori certificate, and teaching for 15 years, she will assume the position of Director of Children’s Garden Montessori.  It is a new school, located on the West side of Canton.  Besides the academic program, the children will tend a garden, cook, do hands-on science experiments, yoga, and sign language.