When planning Bible lesson activities for children, I am perhaps a Pinterest addict…check out my Pinterest boards for proof. I love cute sheep crafts as much as any Early childhood practitioner, but because I have been learning about the value of process art, I offered an open-ended art response for our lesson on the Parable of the Good Shepherd.
Process Art Activity for Parable of the Good Shepherd
If you are unfamiliar with process art, it refers to an understanding that the journey to create something is often as important or even more important than the finished product. In child art activities process art differs from crafts by emphasizing individual expression over a predetermined outcome or “product.” Children are offered open-ended materials and given freedom to explore them. Sometimes not even creating something recognizable. If they turn out something that looks awesome…that’s just a bonus.
Sometimes an idea for a craft can be tweaked to create an experience that values the process. And that is what I wanted to provide for children in response to hearing about Jesus, the good shepherd.
If you want to tweak a craft to make it more open ended, here are some of the things I have learned:
- Provide a variety of materials that children are already familiar with unless you plan to show them how to use an art media they have never seen before.
- Be careful about showing them a finished product. They will think they have to copy your work. You may show a couple of inspiration photos. I like to print out artist renditions of Bible stories from Google images and put it with the materials to invite the children into the activity.
- Provide enough time! At least 20 minutes. Children need time to gather their supplies and get into their project. You may have a couple who do something fast and want to do something else, but the majority will appreciate the time and even want more.
- This is a great way to use up leftover craft supplies (think old Oriental Trading crafts). Divide the materials by shape or type instead of handing the child the craft kit. When combined with other materials these kits have tons of possibilities.
- Be careful about how you affirm their work. Remember to affirm the process and not the product.
After hearing the parable of the Good shepherd (using the Godly Play approach). I provided:
- Colored construction paper
- Wool felt (this was my splurge item for this activity)
- Googly eyes
- Precut shapes that could be used for a sheep’s body, legs, head, etc.
This lesson was done at a summer camp so I purchased materials that went with the lessons I was teaching. In the classroom at my church, I typically keep the same materials out week to week and don’t worry about whether or not the materials always go with the theme of the story.
My directions were for them to create something in response to the story. I didn’t give any more direction unless a child came to me with questions.
This story was presented to a group of children who were not familiar with Godly Play and one of the girls, a 2nd grader, had a lot of questions about how she was supposed to do the activity, and wanted specific directions. But once she understood that she had choices, she lit up and really got into it.
I took these pictures after the children left because they really are so fun!
As you can see from these photos, the children created some great original pieces. I didn’t ask them for explanations of their work, but I see some green grass, some cool still waters and even some dark places to represent the parable of the good shepherd.
I was so happy that someone decided to include that wool felt I splurged on into their art!
One thing that naturally happens in open-ended activities like this one is that children are able to respond at their developmental level. This group had a large age range–Age 3-2nd grade. Everyone was able to participate in some way without an adult having to do it for the younger children.
Some of the younger children chose to just cut or glue in ways that didn’t directly relate to the parable of the good shepherd or even result in something recognizable. In Godly Play speak, maybe this would be a meditation activity.
One of the younger children spent her work time cutting holes in a piece of green construction paper. Then she glued the paper on top of a piece of black construction paper, “for the dark places.” I love that for her the dark places weren’t just glued on top of the green grass, but they were actual holes, like there was depth to the dark places.
Process art activities like this one allow you more insight into what they child thinks about the Bible lesson they have heard than most crafts. In their art, they are able to express more than what they can in words and the art helps provide them with the words to explain their experience.
You may also like these other examples of process art:
What ideas do you have to tweak crafts to make them more open ended? What part do you think the process of creating artwork plays in children’s understanding of Biblical truth?