I’ll be very honest with you. I didn’t know what ‘process art’ was, before I set about creating a program for preschool kids, doing process art. I started Habitots because I saw an opportunity to create a beautiful unique business that celebrated simple living across retail, events, crafts & at home and what I found was that simple, creative arts was one of the ways to practice this. So I stumbled on process art and have now seen the power of it in practice with kids 1-10 years old.
What I often found when parents & carers came into our studio, was that they’d forgotten how to just play. When we were little, we would gather recycled goods, old scraps, crayons & markers and maybe a good cardboard box and we’d create, make & explore. Over the years, with more activities for kids to do, more technology at our disposal and toys at our feet, the perceived need to get creative has diminished. When in fact, the opposite is true. With more emphasis on excelling at school from a young age, use of more tablets, TV & gaming devices, sports & organised activities, the more we need open-ended play.
A side story about technology: We were at a new friends’ house recently and the kids were playing outside on the trampoline, playing army games (boys!), and just running around having fun. Charlie our 2.5 year old had followed his brothers around, played for hours and came back to check in with us and it was obvious he was exhausted and needed some down-time. I said, would you like to watch some Peppa Pig, to which he concurred and set about snuggling up on a couch to watch the cartoon until we left. Our friend when she saw him watching said ‘oh my, is he watching an iPad? I thought you were an earth mother!?’. I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond but I was confident in my response and whilst I could have been rude and told her to mind her own business, I explained that we thought it was fine in moderation and used them when ‘needed’. I am not apologetic for the fact that my 2.5 year old watches cartoons or that after some time at a restaurant, cafe or at a friends house, he might want some quiet time. I don’t feel guilty for it and none of us should. We can be earth mothers, modern mums who work, mums working from home and juggling kids and we all need to do what feels right for our situation and our children.
I find that process play is exactly what our kids need, no matter what their age. From a young age, we can start to build their confidence, self-esteem, creative curiosity and ability to problem solve – all life skills that would greatly help as they age. My 7 year old son is super busy and I find that setting out an invitation to play gives him some calm, gets him problem solving in a different way and he finds his zone in creative art. Our 2.5 year old loves to create as well, but his attention span is that of a flea so I adapt for him and still try. I can see when something clicks and something doesn’t for him and each month on, his development changes as does his attention and desire to create more. Our 10 year old is happier with a big project – paper mache or a more science-oriented project that incorporates creativity. His logic and rulemaking come into play and he’ll often join our sessions late if we start working on something first.
In the education field, putting out supplies & materials as an ‘invitation’ for kids to play is what educators call an Invitation to Play. By setting out some simple materials and letting kids just create, we are giving them the freedom to explore and create without the confines of an outcome or the need to make something pretty. Process art in definition is about exactly that, the process instead of the product that the art creates.
As a marketer at heart, I am often focuses on how parents will engage with something based on the way it looks. As adults, we want to know what they are making and I often try to find a ‘pretty’ image of the project to ‘sell’ this to parents. I still have to promote a blog post or an event and the way to get parents to understand what it is, is by showing them the pretty end product. But what we need to remind them/you/us is that the end product doesn’t really matter! It’s all in the process, the messy play, the exploring and investigating where the magic happens and the real creating happens.
We encourage you to give some simple tutorials a try, that often use basic materials and are geared for kids as young as 2 years old. The DIY Leaf mobile is beautiful, can incorporate a walk around your neighbourhood and whilst it is a project to do together, it’s simple and easy to do (and you can easily adapt to whatever season you’re in – leaves in fall/autumn/winter & flowers and leaves in spring/summer). While you’re out, you could collect some extra leaves, sticks and stones and bring them home to set up a simple invitation to play. Keep it simple, because the more materials you bring out the more they’ll be tempted to use and all they need are few bits of inspiration. Have fun and let us know if you give it a try!
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Want to learn a bit more about me (Suzanne!) and Habitots…click on over here and have a read.