Process vs. Product - DuPage Children's Museum

Transportation Zoo | Saturday, July 20, 9–1

Get Tickets!
Close button

Process vs. Product

November 9, 2015

The focus of all of our Studio programming is on process-oriented art. What is process-oriented art? Process-oriented, or open-ended, art focuses on the experience of creation and exploration of materials, tools, and even techniques. There are no step-by-step instructions. There is no wrong or right way. ] It is self-motivated in that the desire to create comes from the child. The value of the activity is in the doing, the creating, not is what is created.

One of the fundamental beliefs here at DCM is that children actively construct their knowledge by interacting with the world around them (Vygotsky and Piaget). This in turn means that in order to develop and learn, they need regular opportunities to touch, see, explore, and manipulate objects and ideas. According to Christine Maynard and Kara J. Ketter, “Open-ended art is the perfect outlet for young children to process the information they take in” (The Value of Open-Ended Art). In process-oriented art the way that the children explore the artistic medium or tools is as important as the final creation. Begin by simply inviting children to explore the materials provided.  Giving children the freedom, time, and repeated opportunities to explore and work with materials as they choose will support the development of their skills and abilities to constructively use those materials over time. As Deborah J. Stewart shared (Click here to read post) regarding her preschool students’ experience as they transitioned from more product-oriented to process-oriented art,  “I have watched my students go from using too much glue on everything to self-regulating the amount of glue they need to complete a process. I have watched my students go from mixing every color of paint on the table to selectively mixing the colors to produce a desired result.”

November in our Studio has been all about Building Big & Small. In the far end of the Studio visitors had opportunities to Build It Big (more familiarly known as Giant Tinker Toys). The Tinker Toys have been a longtime favorite at the Museum. Build It Big supports the development of problem solving skills, coordination, and creativity to name a few. When they work together, this activity also presents child and adult or children and their peers with an excellent opportunity to practice collaboration and communication skill. In the front of the Studio visitors will find a variety of open-ended materials for free exploration.


To support the development of higher-level thinking we often use open-ended questions such as, “I wonder why you decided to use yarn instead of cotton balls” or “Tell me about those squiggly lines….” The next time you visit our Art Studio or are creating at home, try this – Comment on your child’s process, not on their product. For example, “You mixed two colors together to make one color,” or “I can see that you are really concentrating on gluing those pieces together.”

Have any stories to share about creativity? I’d love to hear them! Post them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.