What’s the Difference Between Art and Craft in Preschool?


The debate between art and craft in preschool education has been ongoing for years. Hopefully, we can offer a fresh perspective on the topic by exploring the key differences between the two.

the difference between art and craft in preschool

Some people probably think that “art” and “craft” are just two words for the same thing, but when you examine the difference between art and craft in preschool, they’re actually quite different. While both involve creativity and hands-on activities, understanding the distinction between the two is important for creating a well-rounded and engaging curriculum for little ones.

Let’s dive into the similarity and differences between the two. We’ll also chat about the benefits of incorporating both art and craft activities into your preschooler’s routine and how you can encourage kids to explore their creativity and learn in a fun and engaging way.

So, what is the difference between art and craft? Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s take a look.

Definition of Art and Craft in Preschool

Let’s first begin by looking at the definition of both arts and crafts.

What is Art in Preschool?

Art activities for preschoolers are all about self-expression, exploration, and creativity. It’s when kids can create whatever they want without a set outcome or instructions to follow. Think painting, drawing, sculpting, or even dancing and singing.

The goal of art is to let kids express themselves and their imagination in a fun and safe environment, but there are different levels of creative freedom that kids are given while creating. Product art and process art are two approaches to creating art often used in early childhood education.


Product art is typically focused on the end result or final product that is created. The emphasis is on producing a specific image or object, and there is often a prescribed set of steps or instructions to follow. For example, asking children to draw a specific picture, paint a specific image, or create a craft using predetermined materials.

child drawing a house as an example of the difference between art and craft in preschool


Process art, on the other hand, is focused solely on the act of creating and the experience of exploring different materials and techniques. The emphasis is on the process of creating and discovering rather than the final product. In process art, children are encouraged to experiment with different materials and techniques and can create whatever they want without specific expectations or guidelines.

green, white, blue painting as an example of the difference between art and craft in preschool

While product art can be a great way to help children learn specific skills and techniques, process art allows for more creativity and encourages children to explore their own ideas and interests.

In early childhood education, both product art and process art are important and can be used to help children develop a range of skills and abilities. By incorporating both approaches, educators can create a well-rounded curriculum that encourages creativity, fosters skill building and promotes a love of creative activities and self-expression.

What Is Craft in Preschool?

Preschool craft activities, on the other hand, are more structured and goal-oriented. When creating crafts, kids follow a set of instructions to create a specific object or outcome, like making a paper plate mask, a paper ladybug, or a popsicle stick house.

ladybug craft, butterfly craft, and bumble bee craft as an example of the difference between art and craft

Just because there is a set of instructions and a specific outcome, this does not mean that there is no room for creativity. While some crafts are pretty cookie-cutter, others can provide lots of room for creative expression. Challenge yourself to look for crafts that DO provide some room for creative expression.

There are many benefits of crafts for preschoolers. One of the most important benefits is that crafts can be a very motivating tool to work on focused fine motor development for kids. Crafts can help kids develop important skills, like following directions, fine motor control, and problem-solving. Plus, they’re a great way to engage kids in a fun and hands-on activity!

What Is The Difference Between Art and Craft for Preschoolers?

When it comes to preschool education, art and craft are two different things. Understanding these differences can help you select an activity that meets your kids’ needs or help you understand how to alter an activity to meet the needs of your kids. Let’s explore some of the key differences between art and craft in preschool in more depth.

Materials and Tools:

You can use many of the same materials and tools in both art and crafts. Paint, markers, crayons, clay, paper, ribbon, yarn buttons, or almost anything can be used in the creation of both works of art as well as crafts.

In art, children are often given a variety of materials and tools and, most importantly, are given the freedom to experiment with those materials and tools. The emphasis is on the process of creating rather than the materials themselves.

feather painting as an example of the difference between art and craft in preschool

In contrast, craft activities are typically more structured, with specific materials and tools provided for children to use to create something more specific.

Process vs. Product:

Art activities are often focused on the process of creating, with the end result being less important. Children are encouraged to explore and experiment with materials and are often free to create whatever they wish.

In contrast, craft activities are more focused on the end product. Children are provided with specific instructions and materials to follow to create a finished product.

Creativity vs. Skill Building:

Art activities are a great way to encourage creativity and self-expression. When creating process art, children can use their imagination and explore their ideas. They have the freedom to play and experiment.

When looking at crafts, however, they don’t always encourage creativity and self-expression. Don’t stick up your nose at crafty projects because crafts do have some amazing benefits. Craft activities can be a motivating way to help children develop important skills, such as following instructions, developing fine motor control, building hand strength, and problem-solving.

use a hole punch to add holes to the petals on the flower craft.  This is an example of how to improve cutting skills and the difference between art and craft in preschool.

Don’t be afraid of doing craft projects. You CAN find craft activities that allow room for creativity and self-expression.

Materials and ToolsA wide variety of materials and tools can be used, with an emphasis on exploration and experimentation.Specific materials and tools are often provided with clear instructions on how to use them to create a predetermined product.
Process vs. ProductThe focus is often on the process of creating and exploring rather than on the end product.The emphasis is on creating a finished product that meets certain expectations or specifications.
Creativity vs. Skill BuildingThe focus is on encouraging children to express themselves creatively and develop their own ideas.The focus is on developing specific skills, such as following instructions, using tools properly, and completing a task.
Examples of ActivitiesPainting, drawing, sculpting, collage-making, free-form creation, etc.Coloring within lines, making a specific thing (e.g. a paper plate turkey), following instructions to make a specific product (e.g. a pre-made kit).

By incorporating both art and craft activities into your preschool curriculum, you can provide children with a well-rounded learning experience that supports their development in a variety of ways.

Why Should You Know the Difference between art and craft?

While there are differences between art and craft in preschool, they both contribute to a child’s development and learning. Knowing the differences between the two can help you balance the amount of structured activities with unstructured ones, providing children with opportunities to both follow instructions and express their creativity.

Understanding the differences between art and craft activities can help you tailor your activities to individual children’s needs and interests.

Some children prefer more unstructured activities, while others thrive with more structured ones. Some children may need to be motivated to build hand strength, practice scissor skills, or build finger control. You can carefully select art activities or craft projects to give kids the help that they need to develop their skills and explore their interests.

Examples of Art & Craft Projects

Crafts and art projects are both great ways to encourage creativity and learning in preschoolers. Do you still need some help understanding the difference between the two? Let’s take a look at some examples.

An example of classic art activity for kids is painting….and there are so many ways to let kids get creative with their painting. In addition to using different types of paper or different types of paint, I like to let kids experiment with applying paint in different ways. Here are a few examples:

Additional art activities include drawing, creating sculptures, or creating free-form or torn paper art collages. These activities often focus on the process of creating and exploring, with an emphasis on creativity and self-expression.

Craft projects that you might try with preschoolers include making paper plate animals, making an Earth Day recycling truck craft, creating a beaded necklace, making egg shakers, or creating color tubes.

recycling truck Earth Day craft for preschool and kindergarten printed on teal, purple, and green paper.

These activities often have a specific end product in mind and involve following instructions and using specific materials.

Both crafts and art projects can be valuable additions to a preschool curriculum, and it’s important to find a balance between the two in order to create a well-rounded educational experience for your preschoolers.

The Art vs Craft Debate in Early Childhood

Some preschool teachers just aren’t into crafts. Why?

Some teachers feel like crafts can be too restrictive and don’t leave enough room for creativity. They also feel that there’s often a lot of emphasis on the final product, which can put pressure on kids to create something specific instead of just exploring and having fun.

bubble painting prints on paper an example of the difference between art and craft in preschool

It is important to find opportunities for self-expression and creativity, but completing a craft project can give a much-needed boost to a child’s self-confidence. Kids feel a sense of satisfaction when they complete something.

Easy Easter bunny craft for preschoolers made with white paper bags.

With specific instructions and materials provided, some teachers feel that kids have less room to try out their own ideas and interests while creating crafts. This can limit exploration and experimentation. If this is a concern, find a craft project that has room for experimentation.

For example, this snowflake craft started with making a paper snowflake using a simple cutting pattern. Using snowflake patterns, by the way, is an extremely motivating way to get kids to work on developing their scissor skills. But, look how a simple craft project like this can be expanded to give kids opportunities to experiment with their creativity. Markers, colored pencils, sequins, glue, glitter pens, etc. were provided so that kids could transform this simple paper snowflake craft into a unique snowflake work of art.

snowflake craft with glitter and coloring on it as an example of the difference between art and craft in preschool

Some teachers don’t think that crafts are developmentally appropriate for little kids. Young children may not have the fine motor skills or attention span required for some crafts, which can lead to frustration and a negative experience.

I think the key here is to find the craft project that is appropriate. Here are some things to look for:

  • Look for simple craft projects that are just right for your kids’ abilities.
  • Look for projects that can be adapted or easily differentiated.

Kids are coming to school with lower and lower fine motor skills. Craft projects can double as fine motor activities. They can be an extremely motivating way to encourage kids to build fine motor skills, such as hand strength, scissor skills, hand-eye coordination, etc. Here is an example of a project that includes simple cutting on a straight line, cutting on a curved line, snipping, hole punching, and tracing lines.

cutting and snipping practice with a seedling Earth Day fine motor activity and Earth Day crafts for preschoolers.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to preschool education. Some teachers prefer to focus on art activities that allow kids to express themselves freely, while others find that crafts can be a valuable tool for developing specific skills and providing structure. I find that a balance is good, but it’s all about finding what works best for you and your students.

Finding the Right Balance

So, what’s the difference between art and craft in preschool? While there is some overlap between the two, some key differences are important to understand as a preschool teacher or parent.

Art activities often focus on the process of creating and exploring, with an emphasis on creativity and self-expression. On the other hand, craft activities often have a predetermined end product in mind and focus on developing specific skills.

It’s important to note that both art and craft activities have value in preschool education. Art activities encourage children to think creatively and express themselves, while craft activities help children develop important skills such as building fine motor skills, following instructions, and using tools properly.

You can create a well-rounded curriculum that includes both art and craft ….one that helps your preschoolers learn and grow in a variety of ways. So, get out your paintbrushes, pipe cleaners, and construction paper, and start creating both art and crafts with your kids!

Buy Fine Motor Craft Printables Today

Are you looking for some fun and motivating ways to work on fine motor skills with your kids? Check out these printable fine motor craft activities in the store.

Insects Crafts and Fine Motor Activities
spring flowers fine motor crafts
Earth Day Fine Motor Crafts by Early Learning Ideas
St. Patricks Day Fine Motor Crafts for Kids
Easter Fine Motor Crafts
snowflake cutting patterns
fold and cut activities to practice scissor skills
Paper tearing fine motor activity printable pages
spring fine motor and hole punch crafts for kids
space fine motor craft activities
dinosaur crafts and fine motor activities
pond animal fine motor and hole punch craft for kids

Purchase The Fine Motor Craft Printables on TPT

Do you prefer to shop at Teachers Pay Teachers? You can also purchase the craft projects in my TPT Store.