Toddlers push crayons across paper, poke their fingers into lumps of playdough, and dab paint on paper (and various surfaces). Doing those actions are a way for toddlers to explore their creative sides and manipulate their worlds, and this desire to manipulate their worlds stays with them as they become elementary-aged children. The only difference is that as elementary-aged children, they now seek to achieve results from their creative explorations.

Primary Art: It's the Process, Not the Product provides activities children ages 5 to 10 can take part in at home, at school, in after school programs, or anywhere children have the time, materials, and inclination to create. The art activities respect the children’s creativity, promotes their process of art exploration, and the end results have the significance elementary school children crave. Here are two sample activities for you to use with children to satisfy the craving they have for creative exploration and seeing the significance of their creations.

Clipped Insert Drawing

Incorporate a magazine clipping into the essential elements of a drawing.



  1. Select pictures from magazines or catalogs. Tear or cut out the pictures. Hint: Choose pictures with clear, uncluttered images. Adults can pre-select pictures and place them in a box, or artists can discover their own.
  2. Glue the picture on the drawing paper. For example, cut out a woman’s smiling face and glue this on the drawing paper.
  3. Draw a picture incorporating the clipped magazine image into a drawing in an imaginative way. For example, a smiling face could be:
    • the face on a clock
    • blended into a puffy cloud
    • peeking Out of a castle tower
    • a new planet in the solar system

Suggestions and Ideas

  • Cut out pictures of coins and glue on a drawing to represent flower blossoms in a vase.
  • Cut out a picture of a horse and draw wings to create a flying horse-like Pegasus.
  • Cut out a dog and draw an umbrella for it to hold in its mouth.
  • Change a cutout flower into a fantasy bird with wings and eyes.

    Hint: More than one cutout may be used in a drawing.

For Budding Artists

  • Glue magazine pictures to plain paper.
  • Make a picture out of a squiggle that is pre-drawn on paper.

I’m Wired!

Create a wire figure with a wrapping technique building thickness and features where wire is wrapped heaviest.


  • Heavy gauge wire, about 3’ (1m)
  • Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Block of wood
  • Stapler
  • Thin, colored wire
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutter (adult only)


  1. Choose to sculpt a human, animal, or abstract form. Begin with the heavy gauge wire. Bend the wire in one piece into the basic form or skeleton. Does it have two legs or four? A long neck or short? Bend until it holds the skeleton or basic shape.
  2. Bend the wire feet of the form with pliers or by hand into small loops or “Ls.” If a hammer is needed to help bend the wire, hammer the wire directly on the wood. Staple the feet of the wire to the block of wood. Use as many staples as needed.  (Adult help and/or supervision may be needed with this step.)
  3. To fill out the form’s shape, begin wrapping colored wire around and around the base form. Add more and more wire, building the thickness of the shape where needed. Bend and twist wires to add details like hair or ears.

Hint: The base wire will be virtually hidden by colored wire.

For Budding Artists

  • Wind a pipe cleaner around a crayon or pencil to make a curl, and slide it off.
  • Join two paper shapes together with a stapler.
  • Join two paper shapes together with a metal braid.

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for” —Georgia O’Keeffe, artist (1887-1986)