Why You Need To Try Open-ended Art With Your Children

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  • Post last modified:May 27, 2023
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Providing open-ended art opportunities is so beneficial during the early years. Not only does it support a child’s creativity but it can also contribute to fine motor and sensory development, language development, cognitive development as well as social and emotional development. Open-ended art is something I encourage all parents to try with their children.

What is Open-ended Art

Open-ended art (sometimes called process-focused art) is about the process of creating rather than the product that was created. Crafts are adult directed and focus on the final product, everyone’s craft will look very similar. With open-ended art you are giving back control to the child. Letting them explore tools and materials to create what they would like to create.

Letting children lead allows them to explore their imaginations and express their own ideas. While you can direct your child and show them how to use materials, it is important to just let them explore it on their own. At first their art may not look like anything and that is okay. Ask them about their artwork “I see a lot of green over here, will you tell be about it?”. As children continue to use different art tools and materials their skills will become more refined and you will see a change in their artwork.

open-ended art painting

How Open-ended Art Supports Child Development

Children learn best through play. It allows them to explore the world around them to better understand it. Open-ended art is play. It allows children to express their ideas and experiences so they can learn more about them.

As stated earlier open-ended art can support all areas of development. Which skills are supported for each area can vary depending on the age of the child as well as the type of art they are doing.

Emotional Development

Exploring their creativity and self-expression through art is an effective way to support a child’s emotional development. Open-ended art can provide a calming and relaxing experience for children. It allows children to express themselves through their art which can lead to a better understanding of their emotions and provides opportunities to build self-regulation skills.

Physical Development

For physical development you will see a lot of fine motor skills at work. Strengthening of muscles through gripping crayons and pencils, hand eye-coordination as they dip brushes in paint then move the brushes across paper. If their art is more hands-on such as finger paint or modelling clay than not only are they using fine motor skills but also sensory skills.

child drawing

Cognitive Development

Cognitive skills can often be overlooked during art activities, nevertheless there are still plenty of opportunities for a child to engage in thinking and reasoning skills. Children plan out their artwork, make decisions, and even problem solve. They can engage in skills that use trial and error, cause and effect, or even use early math such as shapes or size. Exploration, experimentation, and creative thinking are all essential skills that can be supported during open-ended art.

Language Development

Open-ended art also provides an opportunity for language development. Learning the names of different art materials and tools provides a chance to expand vocabulary. Children can use descriptive language to explain their artwork and tell stories which also builds language skills. Be sure to ask questions about their artwork to engage them in conversation. “I see lots of lines and circles on your paper, can you tell me more about it?”

child painting

Social Development

Lastly social development is supported through interactions with others. Doing art activities together can encourage turn taking, exchanging of ideas and and promote positive interactions with others. Even just talking to your child about their artwork, “You worked really hard on that, would you like to tell me about it?”, encourages positive social interactions and sharing of feelings, ideas, and experiences.

3 Reasons to Try Open-ended Art

Open-ended art has numerous benefits to a child’s development. Here are my top 3 reasons you need to try it with your child.

  1. It supports the development of the whole child. By engaging skills from all areas of development, open-ended art provides multiple learning opportunities for children.
  2. Allows children to explore art as they wish instead of following an adult-led product focused experience.
  3. Encourages creativity that allows children to create individual and unique pieces of artwork.
open-ended art

Spending time on open-ended art experiences allows children to use and strengthen skills that will help them succeed later in life.

So does this mean you can never create a craft together with your child. Not at all, as long as your child is interested in it. Just remember to not put too much focus on the final product, it may not turn out perfect and that is okay. Let it be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

What We Do At Home

There are times where I have a specific idea in mind for an art activity for my daughter. For example birthday card leaf painting. However my daughter was more interested in painting her own pictures than my idea. She made 2 out of 5 cards with the leaf painting and then went with her own ideas.

child painting

We don’t craft often, and when we do I am mindful not to put to much pressure on her to make what I have in mind. I will encourage her but if she prefers to do her own thing than I let her. Forcing her to create something she is not interested in is not an enjoyable experience for her or me for that matter. I want my daughter to enjoy creating art as I am sure you do for your child as well. I want her to use her own creativity and imagination not ideas I give to her.

When I go with the flow and let her take the lead the final product is so much better than when I direct her every step of the way to create a product I came up with. One of the best things we can do as parents is let our children be themselves.

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