25 Sep How to introduce young children to clay
As a child, creating in 3D is tremendously exciting and parents often ask how to introduce young children to clay. The French writer and philosopher, Gaston Bachelard wrote “the child is a born materialist. His first dreams are dreams of organic substances.” and “in order to create, some kind of clay is always needed.” This quote truly comes to life as soon as you spend any length of time around a child, particularly a young infant, who’s working with clay, as you get a strong sense that the experience of modelling clay is going to have a huge impact on their imagination. Clay is fun and exciting for children, there’s no doubt about that, yet not all schools have the facilities or budgets to accommodate a curriculum that includes 3D arts. I can recount the number of times I worked with clay when I was at school on one hand, which seems like a greatly missed opportunity to express ideas – clay itself is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, for our mental, physical, spiritual and creative strength. In this article, we will explore the benefits of working with clay, as well as offer activities and exercises on how to introduce young children to clay.
As a child, there are endless benefits for working with clay, experts in child development research believe that early interaction with clay can help boost key areas of the brain that are responsible for small and large motor skills, which are important to improve from an early age. Clay is one of nature’s gifts to the world, as it allows us to experiment, play, build and awaken our curiosity. Children are fascinated with materials and substances in general, discovering new textures, colours and smells can have such a great impact on their development and ultimately their creativity. The wonderful thing about introducing young children to clay is that there is no right or wrong way to use it, and having that freedom as a child to play can stimulate them. Often you will find that children can spend hours working with these materials, which is a good sign that they are focused and progressing their attention spans. Clay demands our attention and concentration, because ultimately it has its own will to sculpt and shape itself.
The therapeutic benefits of clay for adults is something that I’ve discussed in this article, and in fact, this soothing activity extends to young children as well. Clay is a powerful tool for them to express their emotions, relieving any stress and promoting a calmer mindset. Children are attracted to clay’s softness, malleability, resistance and tendency to maintain shape after endless manipulation of human hands. Studies show that natural materials have a direct influence on human behaviour and response towards the environment.
How to introduce young children to clay (Ages 6+)
There are many options for children to make clay creations without the use of a kiln, which is great for the experimentation process. Most arts and crafts stores sell air dry clay which comes in a range of colours ( white, grey, terracotta) which are generally suited to children aged 6 and over – you can find these clays online or in store at Angela Colls. Introduce your child to the basic tools involved with clay such as a rolling pin and wooden or plastic modelling tools for cutting shapes. The clay dries within a few days, and can be finished with paints for added decoration. Making a pinch pot is one of the most fundamental modelling skills that is often taught at the beginning of any clay course. The 137° blog article “The Freedom of Handbuilding” offers tips and instructions on how to master these methods and techniques.
How to introduce young children to clay (Toddlers)
For toddlers, products such as playdough will always reign supreme. This KidsActivitiesBlog gives you a fantastic DIY homemade playdough recipe using common ingredients found in one’s kitchen and it is safe for young children. Many child development experts believe in the benefits of doing such activities in small groups, with siblings and/or friends, to further advance emotional and social skills. Offer the children a task to build a familiar image, it could be an animal, or fruits and vegetables – this will engage them to consider colour, pattern and texture. You can also introduce other materials from the household; lace, for example, can be imprinted into the play dough or clay to create a texture similar to the pattern of fish scales and snakeskin. By adding extra materials into the mix, this will offer a lot of creativity and confidence to experiment!
Written by Freya Saleh