Some explorations with clay

In this activity we want to allow little ones to explore clay; how it feels and what it can do. So we are setting up a couple of invitations for them to explore it and trying to follow their lead rather than giving them a set idea of what they have to produce. It can be tricky for parents to go with the flow like that but even young children enjoy directing their own ideas and you may be surprised by what they come up with. If you provide interesting materials and a little demo of ways they might work together and then just support them in what they come up with it will be really fun for you both.

Some ideas of materials to use:

  • Clay – air dry clay from the craft shop or you could use salt dough like this recipe
  • interesting objects that leave a mark when pressed in – we have used shells here but you could try a fork, sticks, toy figures, just make sure anything you use is safe for your age of wee one
  • some stick materials for construction – we used lolly sticks but you could also use actual sticks or straws or pencils
  • some water for smoothing clay or helping it stick
  • rolling pin if you have one or a can or bottle can work to roll out if you don’t

Our first clay exploration idea is to show little ones how objects can leave a mark in the clay. Help them to roll out a piece of clay to about a cm thick and offer them a selection of interesting objects. You might show them how an object can be pressed in to make a mark yourself and then see what they chose to do. They may want to make impressions or they may like to leave the objects embedded. Do they make a pattern or do it randomly. Even babies will like to see the park they can make as it lets them see how they can have an impact on the world. You can leave their creations to dry on a sunny windowsill if they are clay or in a low oven if they are salt dough. (If they are full of bits and can’t go in the oven salt dough will also eventually dry out on a window). On another day wee ones might like to come back and paint these.

Our next exploration is using clay to build a construction by combining it with some sticks like lolly sticks or twigs. Help little ones to create a base and show them how the sticks will hold upright if you put them in the clay. Then they can get started exploring the possibilities. Some may like to make something that looks a bit like a stick hedgehog or a Stonehenge. If you see that toddlers might like to build something higher, show them that clay can be used as a joining material by placing a ball where sticks meet. You can also show how a little bit of clay dipped in water can be smoothed over to hold pieces together. Sometimes things will fall down but that is OK, most children will enjoy the process of experimenting and you can let them try out different ideas and support them when they need it or have an idea they need help to realise. Ours ended up looking a little bit like an Eiffel Tower. You can let wee ones decide if they want to keep their creation and let it dry on a window or take it apart and save the clay in something airtight for another day.

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