Jo BaranekProcess vs product - what do our children prefer?

- Jo Baranek, Early Years Adviser

As Christmas draws closer, we'll no doubt have created all the Christmas bits to go home to parents. What a great time to consider process vs product.


 This has been a topic of all types of discussion in the early years for a long time.

So do we focus far too much on the product children create during expressive arts sessions, rather than the actual process they go through?

Christmas cardWhat is art work?

As adults we are under the misconception that art work has to be an actual picture or a product that the parents can display as a recognisable item, but what do children think? More often than not children just want to explore the materials and experiment with layering or using different tools instead of paint brushes.

How many times do we encourage a child who has only placed one paint stroke on a piece of paper to add more? Who's to say that the child hasn't finished their picture with the one stroke? Not us!

Does it have to be a Christmas card?

Why do we feel the need to always use paper or card to make Christmas cards?

Why not sandpaper, foil, bubble wrap, materials or the floor outside?

You can laminate other materials to make them stronger and stand up if this is what you are worried about, or simply take a picture of a piece of art created in the garden or mud area.

Allow children to get creative

Child making Christmas cardMass produced Christmas cards and calendars use foot or hand prints to create a "reindeer" or a "Christmas tree".

Having 20 Christmas cards all looking the same shows that this has been a predominantly adult led activity, with the child having very little opportunity to use their creativity.

This implies that staff are trying to meet the parents needs rather than the child. Having a photograph of the child enjoying the process or the child’s own work would be more personal and show individuality.

A great idea for a card or calendar is to have a photo of the child doing their favourite activity as this makes it individual to that child and their family and means much more than a mass produced item.

Sensory benefits

There is a place in early years for hand and foot prints as keepsakes for parents, but turning them into Christmas characters just does not have any meaning.

Why not make salt dough with the children, then get them to push their hands or their feet into it, then paint them in their own way?

This not only allows the children to use their own colours and paint, as little or as much as they like, but to also add glitter, sequins, feather, you name it! 

As well as being able to make the salt dough, children will learn to notice the change in materials, measure out ingredients and using their fine and gross muscles moulding it.

This is a much more worthwhile activity.

For the rest of the year help children to focus on the feel of the paint, exploring different mediums with their bodies (not just hands!), and to investigate materials and use them in their own ways.

Allow children to make large art creations outside using all kinds of found and recycled materials.


Remember, don't resort back to product rather than process due to different festivities - get creative!

Help children to express their artistic and creative sides with over 30 ideas for innovative artistic and creative activities in our brand new Art of Expression and Creativity publication.