If you have children, chances are you have heard about the value of "process over product" many times- but do you really know what it means? (Don't feel bad, most people don't!) Let me start off by saying- if you drop your child off every day and tell them to "make a nice picture for Mommy" or focus solely on what your child brings home, you are setting yourself up to be a "product" parent. If, when visiting preschools, you were thrilled to see that there were 15 perfect cut apples with the leaves all in the same exact spot, not a single picture different from the others.....in a 3 year old classroom- its fair to say you are "product driven". Sure that your child would be the next Picaso....like the students who's work was displayed. The problem with that you say? Well, lets start with most three year olds are not able to even HOLD a pair of scissors, much less cut on the lines! And using the right amount of glue- or knowing what side of the paper to glue it on? You get the picture......there are plenty of preschools out there that cater to "product loving parents". There are plenty of great teachers who know that what they are doing isn't in the best interest of the child, educational, or even good practice.....why do they do it? Because parents want it. Parents expect it. I have to ask myself why? Why would a parent want a pre-cut, pre-glued, pre-placed, perfect work of art that the teacher made? Do they really think their child (the one that can't even wipe their own bottoms).....suddenly becomes a creative wizard once they walk through the doors? What they should wonder is "Was my child even AT the table when this was made?" I can't help but wonder if this could be why so many school age children claim that they can't "draw" or do art projects....have they already got the message that unless its "perfect", nothing less is good enough? That is so sad to me.....to deny a child the joy that comes from creation, the joy that comes from making something themselves....to deny a child the ability to believe in themselves. What can we do? How can we "fix" this mess.....how do we become "process" people? The first step is being realistic in what your child knows. Can they pick up scissors? Do they know how to hold them? Can they follow directions ("cut on the line"). The first attempts at "cutting" will usually be a paper cut into zillions of pieces, or little chopped edges - the lines won't matter to them- they are just THRILLED that they can make scissors cut. Once they get more practice, then you'll see perhaps a cut out that is missing an arm or leg- signs that they were cutting, but haven't gotten the "paper turning with the alternate hand" theory yet. Praise their ability to use the scissors, "hey great cutting" "wow look how much your cutting has improved, you can almost cut on the lines". If they are using gluesticks- see if you can see it? Do they get the idea that you need to glue the "backside, and flip it over"....that is a big concept. Are they bringing home a paper that is nothing but dried glue? Comment that you see they must really like to use a glue stick. Once their cut up and glued pieces have a "theme", check to see if they "get it". If they are making a person.....are the eyes on the feet? If so, they didn't really know what they are doing- ask them if they had fun cutting and gluing. Remember projects, art work and creative outlets should be FUN. If a preschooler is getting frustrated because their work isn't "perfect", be sure to take the pressure off them. Make sure that they have the "tools" to learn- Fiskar Scissors, glue sticks, glue bottle, paintbrushes, paper, crayons, markers. Give them a place to do artwork at home (the table ONLY) and rules to follow ("these are real scissors, if you put them in your mouth, you are going to bleed") Practice builds confidence. Confidence builds self worth. THAT is what we want for our children.......the process of gaining new skills and pride in themselves. The next time one of your friends shows you their perfect teacher made apple and you glance at your chopped up piece of paper.....smile to yourself knowing YOU are a great parent. You know what is important!