Making : : Process vs. Product

Crafting :: Process vs Product Projects - the benefits of both via Crafting Connections

You may notice, when creating through the many craft tutorials and DIYs we offer, that projects seem to fall into two main categories: Process and Product.  You can think of process projects as more of an artistic creation – the ultimate product is not thought out in the beginning, but rather unfolds in the process – whereas product projects can be thought of as handicrafts where the craftsman knows from the start what she is making.

Process projects focus on creative making.  The point of these projects is not in an end result, but in the experimenting and exploring that goes into the making.  During process projects, we are not constrained by what something “should” look like; instead the focus is on exploring a medium, technique or idea.  Process projects are great for children, since they are specific enough that the child does not feel overwhelmed, but is open enough that they are able to follow their own imaginations wherever they may lead. A piece of paper may become a ticket, a hat, food, or a monster.  Because of the open nature of process projects, I often find my kids will engage in these projects for a longer period of time since they are continually reinventing during the creative process and because they never reach a formal end product.


We include process projects in our magazines as well because we believe that creating for the sake of creating is an important endeavor.  It’s another form of play, really, with all the emotional, developmental, and educational benefits.  Our current Winter Issue includes a project on creating “stained glass” with two different methods (one is pictured above).  The only constraints are the number of windows you choose to decorate and the medium or method you are using – that’s it – there is no “right way” to complete the project.  The result is a child not only creatively engaging for minutes on end on a project, but asking to do the project again and again since the process (the intent, the ideas, the imagination) is different every time.


Some Process Projects for you to try:

: : Paint an Adventure Trail : :

sidewalk chalk painting |

: : Outdoor Fabric Art : :

Fabric woven through park bench

: : Watercolor & Salt Winter and Snowscapes : :

preschooler painting with purple watercolors : :


Product projects focus on creating a specific finished item or decoration.  While the process is important, it tends to be more constrained by the end result.  For example, when working on the Treasure Bag, if the sides are not stitched up then no bag is created.  So whereas a process project is about open expression, product projects focus on practicing a specific method with a goal in mind, two equally as important skills for our little ones to learn.  When working on product projects, I find my preschooler will work with a determined focus on the task at hand that I do not necessarily see during process projects.


Many of the projects within our magazines are product projects (like the one pictured above), because it is a proud moment when a child is able to wear or use or show off something they created on their own.  However, if you have read our magazines, you will know that we do not include many finished product photos – enough to give you a clear idea of how the end product could look, but hopefully not so many you feel compelled to replicate the end result exactly.  Yes, even though you and your little one are working toward a finished product idea, we still want the projects to be open enough for you to add your own personality, your own spin.  We believe so much in the importance of breathing your own creativity into projects that you will find a Letter to the Grown-Ups in each issue, reminding you to read the directions, but then to follow your child’s lead.


Some Product Projects for you to try:

: : Salt Dough Beads (and Beyond!) : :

painting salt dough beads and a nest

: : Making Action Dice : :

(great for days when you can’t get outdoors!)

Ewan throwing the dice |

 : : Painted Mod Podge Lanterns : :

DIY Solstice Lantern Tutorial |

 I will say, though, that both process and product projects can be a bit of a challenge for us grown-ups.  When presented with craft items for a process project, my adult brain often automatically goes through the list of “typical” things that are done with the items – I start thinking inside the box – my preschooler, however, does not.  She sees possibilities in everything and often chooses to use materials differently than I anticipated she would.  Similarly, when working on product projects together, my first inclination is to work towards replicating exactly the intended finished product.  Again, though, my daughter thinks about how she can work towards the finished product in a way that is right for her, in a way that will result in the finished product she imagines.  In fact, in the end the project may not look anything like the finished product I had imagined.

But before you start feeling queasy that it didn’t turn out “just so” reflect over the whole project, because the creating was only a part of it.  The most important aspect of every project we share are the connections that are made while the crafting and creating is going on.  We do so believe that the connections you creatively craft today, are the foundations for the future, for life.

So, do you have a preference for Process over Product? Does one come more easily to you than the other? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

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