Process vs. Product and Your Preschooler

When planning projects and activities for your little preschooler(s) it’s important to understand process over product. Children learn by doing, not by simply producing something that’s of beauty to us as adults. As adults we are focused on the end result, whether it’s writing a provoking story, painting a beautiful picture, or arriving at a destination. Children, unlike adults, take their time and care less about the end result of their work and more about what happens along the way. As children age the end product will look more “correct” to us as adults, but that doesn’t mean the child whose product looks wacky didn’t learn anything through the process. To read more about this concept and get ideas for preschool art projects, check out Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product by MaryAnn Kohl.

Here’s an example of some work my daughters and I did recently. The first picture is my product. I did the project in front of them, so they got to see how I did it instead of just seeing the end result.


This next picture is what the girls produced. The craft on the left was done by my nearly 5-year-old Caley. Generally things are in the right place and proportionate to one another. The craft on the right was done by Amelia, who just turned 2. You can tell that hers has all the necessary elements but things aren’t in their “correct” places. Obviously we were going for a Jack-O-Lantern but hers is a bit unconventional.

pumpkin project

Both girls learned similar things during this project but their crafts turned out differently. We cut pipe cleaners and shaped them into eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and this reinforced learning shapes and emotions (happy or sad mouth). We mixed the colors red and yellow to make orange and they painted the paper plate which reinforced the color wheel and fine motor skills of mixing and manipulating a paintbrush. Then we placed the face elements on the plate, which reinforced positioning of body parts.

As Amelia was doing her craft, it was difficult for me not to “correct” her and prompt her to put the eyes, nose and mouth in the “right” place. I had to remind myself that she will eventually produce a craft that is “correct” and it’s not a big deal for now if her products turn out this way. She is still learning and still had fun doing the project, and that’s really the goal.

Check out these links for ideas on preschool art projects, and please share any that you may have!

Art for Young Preschoolers

Preschool Lesson Plans and Activities

Christian Preschool Printables

What are your thoughts about “process vs. product?” Is it ever challenging to not worry about the finished product when doing projects with your kids? What other home pre-school or  home-school topics would be of greatest interest or help to you?

(Post by: Addie)


3 Responses to “Process vs. Product and Your Preschooler”

  1. 1 Shilo October 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    These sort of posts are so helpful to me! The ideas seems so obvious after I read it…but I don’t normally think of it on my own. So I say, keep up the practical ideas in the context of what you are teaching us! 🙂 Thanks so much, Addie. I feel more like I can do this (by God’s grace) after just reading a few of your helpful posts.

  2. 2 Ashley L October 31, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Addie, I also love this post and appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge with us! I found a project that I did with my kids recently and my 2 year old’s project looked as good if not better than my 4 year old’s… because I “helped” him! Uh oh! I realized after reading this post that my “help” might not actually be that helpful. I love learning about the theory behind how to help kids learn, as well as love all of your activity ideas.

  3. 3 Addie November 1, 2009 at 3:16 am

    Thanks for the great feedback! I’m glad this post is helpful to you.

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