Clay creations

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By Lorraine Frankish an early years tutor and NVQ assessor.

Explore clay with tools and natural materials and make simple pots

children playing with clay

Exploring clay

Clay is a wonderfully messy material and changes all the time as it is pummelled, poked, kneaded and squeezed. Children can experiment with different textures, weights and shapes, as well as think about how clay behaves when it is shaped, modelled and pulled apart again.

Clay play provides the opportunity for children to acquire skills and techniques, while developing their concentration, hand-eye coordination and the ability to use tools. As there is no right or wrong way to play with clay, it can build confidence and help children to progress in all areas of development.

If possible, use washable surfaces, and allow the children sufficient space to operate freely. Involve them in clearing away as this can also be a fun activity. Any clay on clothing will dry to a powder and can be easily removed.

Avoid making models for the children to copy as this will imply that there is a set way of doing things. Instead, help the children to feel secure by taking an interest or just sitting quietly close by.

Suggested resources

Air-drying, self-hardening clay does not need kiln firing and is available from art shops and educational suppliers. Clay will set hard when left for a few days and can be painted or ‘varnished’ with PVA glue. Give each child a grapefruit-sized lump of clay or use one large bagful to foster cooperative play. Moisten the clay before storing it in an airtight container. Reconstitute hardened clay by soaking it in a bowl of water.

1 Sculpting clay

Experiment with a large piece of clay

Knowledge and Understanding of the world

Designing and Making

Development matters: begin to try out a range of tools and techniques safely (30-50 months).

Early learning goal: select the tools and techniques they need to shape, assemble and join materials they are using.

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