Grab your child and some clay. Today we are going outside to strengthen our hand muscles!
It's been a while since I've shared a clay tray. When I've been studying, I've had little energy for messy play. Working with clay doesn't have to be messy, but it always has the potential to get messy and absolutely requires some emotional energy to wipe everything down. So if not today, save this idea for when you are ready. Or get your clay tray organised - so when the time is right, your tray is ready to go!
I have three children and a ton of crafting materials, so my first thoughts are always:
- use what we have
- use found things - leaves, seed pods, bark, sticks etc
- use items that are compostable/biodegradable.
This means no googly eyes for us until they make a compostable version. However, as my children love to make robots, creatures, and monsters, we are going to use candy eyes. I know many people do not like to use food items in their art and crafts, but this is a good alternative for us. 👀
We are fortunate that we've worked collaboratively with Modern Teaching Aids in the past, and they sent us a large box of air-drying clay. My best tip for clay is to budget for it and buy it in bulk. Buying clay in small packets is more expensive, and I always like to have a spare packet (or two) on hand. Always remember to store the clay in an air-tight container so it can be reused.
I frequently get asked which clay we use. Generally, for my toddlers and preschoolers, I use terracotta air-drying clay. We have used and can recommend:
- Creatistics Air Dry Ceramic Clay Terracotta (AU)
- Luca Pottery Air Drying Clay (AU) - dug straight from the ground in South Australia; it is 100% natural terracotta coloured, non-toxic and air drying. It needs more than a day to dry, we can leave it out all morning and then wet it, and it can still be used.
- DAS Terracotta Air Dry Clay (US) (UK here).
Avoid buying very cheap clay or imported clay where the supplier isn't well known; some clay just smells off, and it's not worth the risk when children are going to be using it with their hands.
Do you use clay in your home or classroom? Last year, I toured a few preschools, including Montessori and Reggio preschools (some daycare). None had clay freely accessible to children. None of them uses clay regularly with their children. In the UK and Australia, our forest (or bush) school classes used clay almost every week. When we visited Peta's amazing parent-toddler class, she had a lovely clay table out, gorgeous 🥰. Anyway, we have control over what we do at home! Let's get into the clay.
A knife or even scissors are good to use to cut the clay into smaller pieces. Cold clay can be very hard, and it's easier for the child to use when it's in little pieces.
A Montessori style apron is good to use too, or an art smock, or sometimes we use an old t-shirt.
Remember, don't put any pressure on your child to make something real or outstanding. Kids (well, my kids) often make weird stuff. It's the process, not the product. ❤️
Previous clay trays and activities that you might like include:
- Montessori Toddler Art: Clay - the How and Why - for a child at 21 months.
- Toddler Clay Tray + The Materials We Use - for a child at two years.
- Clay Play - to Strengthen Children's Hands - for a child at three years.
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