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Know the Difference Between Art and Craft

- it's Important for your Planning!

By Susie Busby

There is a clear distinction between art and craft activities for children, each having its own physical outcomes and learning experiences.
It’s a good practice to know the difference and refer to each activity correctly. Both give valuable experiences so, depending on the result you want, you need to decide which activity will be appropriate.

What is Art?

Creating art is quite a different process to making craft. When making art the child is encouraged to explore the materials, discover how they can be manipulated and think how they can use them. Most importantly with an art activity the outcome is unknown and therefore will be unique to the child.

What is Craft?

Craft on the other hand is reproducing a pre-formed idea. The child will follow instructions on how to make a specific thing and every child’s finished product will look similar to each other.
So, art is creating and craft is imitating. Both have a place in the development of a child but their outcomes are quite different. Art is great for developing thinking skills and craft is useful for learning practical skills and reinforcing themes.
The table below shows the differences at a glance.
Art Craft
Creative, unique and original Reproduction, identical to other children’s work
Comes from within the child Directed by an adult
Open ended – end result unknown Closed, known result
Process more important than the result
The result more important than the process
Copying and imitating
Discover techniques, solve problems
Practising directed techniques

The Value of Process over Product

By engaging the child in open ended art you are placing more value on the process than the result. Children will love this.
The finished product will reflect the learning and creative process. It will be totally unique to that child at that time and, I would argue, far more intriguing as a piece of work.
Very young children may be unconcerned with their finished piece, moving on quickly to start another one. The experience of exploring and the process of making is where the value lies for them rather than in the final product.
Giving the child the freedom to discover and explore builds their self-confidence as they learn to trust the choices they make. They will also learn to understand how a material can and can’t be used and learn to work within its limits.
When involved in the creative process children will often repeat and remake the same thing, manipulating the materials to give themselves a variety of experiences and results.

What Children Learn Through Making Art

Thinking and Reasoning Skills

Problem solving
Trial and error
Planning and organising
Estimating and measuring
Sequencing, matching and patterning
Spatial relationships

Language Skills

Symbolic representation of ideas

Emotional Skills


Transferable Skills

Creative thinking
Lateral Thinking
Intuitive Reasoning
Thinking outside of the box

What Children Learn Through Craft

Craft activities are great for supplementing learning and reinforcing topics being covered in other parts of the curriculum. They are also great fun and will satisfy the expectations of adults more readily.
Making craft also gives the children chance to practise techniques such as gluing, cutting, applying paint and so on. There is also great satisfaction for the child in finishing something and it looking like what it should.

Developing Other Skills

Both art and craft help develop physical skills such as hand-eye co-ordination plus fine and large motor skills.
So, now you understand the important differences between art and craft and you’ll be able to plan appropriate activities for what you hope to achieve with your children.