Process Art Boxes

I love setting out “invitations to create”, which are just supplies and materials laid out for the girls to stumble upon and get creative in their own way. These creative times usually require little or no assistance from me and they are free to explore the materials as they wish.

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I am a big advocate of giving my girls, especially while young, the opportunity to be creative with materials that encourage exploration and focus on process-based art. What is process art? Process art is a movement of art making where the end product is not the primary focus but rather the actual ‘process’ itself can be a learning experience and creative journey.

This article from the NAEYC, National Association for the Education of Young Children, explains process art best and gives great examples of the differences of process versus product focused art:

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

Characteristics of product-focused art experiences

• Children have instructions to follow
• The teacher created a sample for children to copy
• There’s a right and a wrong way to proceed
• There’s a finished product in mind
• The children’s finished art all looks the same
• The children experience frustration
• The teacher might “fix mistakes”
• The whole class took part in an art project at the same time
• Patterns and examples are readily available online


Lila received a ukulele for her 5th birthday a couple of months ago and it came in a great asymmetrical box, which I saved to use for another day. I was originally thinking of using it as a tray for catching paint or glitter but decided to let the girls decorate them.

This activity was a perfect process-based “invitation to create” that allowed them complete freedom to experiment with the materials. There was no right or wrong way or step by step directions.

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I gave the boxes a quick spray with a primer so the paint would show up and adhere a little better to the cardboard. I set out paint and several different items and loose parts for gluing or stamping such as wine corks, Pom poms, buttons, yarn, and plastic bottle caps.

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I stuck around for a little while to watch them create and to snap a few pictures but my presence wasn’t needed. It was lovely to see them make their own choices and decisions with their art making.

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It was funny to watch the girls create their boxes with very different approaches. Lila (5) was very cautious and particular about her colors and placement of each decoration. Willa (2 1/2) was a little more spontaneous and wild.

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Willa, as usual, LOVED free reign of the glue (and yes…she gave her self some marker tattoos!)

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In the picture above, Willa had left the room after a few minutes of working (as I expected!) and went onto more exciting two-year old adventures. Lila stayed and continued to perfect her box. This is what makes process-based art so wonderful…they can come and go as they please with worrying about the end result and someone else deciding that it is “finished”.

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These beautiful boxes are currently sitting on the top of my shelf in our art space!

Start saving your boxes and give your little ones some independent creative time!

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