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Developmentally appropriate experiences are an essential part to early childhood development. Children must be exposed to aspects of play that encourage them to problem solve, investigate and be creative. Art is a great way to provide children with these experiences. When children are engaging in artistic play it is important that the process of the art is the focus instead of the product. The product of an art project can be the focus for specific projects such as a holiday or a gift. But along with product focused art there must always be process focused art. Art experiences help children develop a variety of skills such as fine motor skills, literacy skills by explaining their art work and most important social emotional skills. When children are creating free art work they are learning self soothing techniques, de-stressing and also expressing themselves.

When children are focusing on the process of their art work they are exploring the way the materials look, feel and can be used. They are able to create anything that they want with no direction or instruction on where to put things or restrictions on what materials they can use. The National Association of the Education of Young Children provides some great examples of materials that may be used to allow children to engage in process focused art work.

  • Easels with paint brushes of various shapes and sizes
  • Play dough and clay to manipulate
  • Stamping with stamps or homemade sponge stamps
  • Drawing with markers, crayons and pencils of all different colors and sizes
  • Making a collage using all different materials for free choice creations

In addition to using different materials, it is important for children to have the support and encouragement from adults who are engaging with them during free artistic play. When engaging with children during their art experiences, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Say yes to their ideas
  • Change up the material
  • Play music when doing art work
  • If you are going to display the art work, let them choose where it will go
  • Make it a joyful experience

Overall allowing children to engage in free art has many benefits to their development and can allow them to express themselves in different ways. This is a great way to spend quality time with children both as teachers or parents. It is important to understand why these experiences are so meaningful so we can purposefully expose children to developmentally appropriate activities.