- Easy Art: Air Dry Clay
- But why buy clay, if you have play dough?
- How we use it
- Other Materials
- Air Dry Clay Projects for Kids: fun tips and ideas with clay
- Air Dry Clay Projects
- So many possibilities
- Make Clay Ladybugs
- Making a mobile
- Clay Insects and Animals
- Products you might find helpful:
- What air dry clay projects have you made?
Easy Art: Air Dry Clay
Have you ever noticed that kids don’t need a lot of bells and whistles and fancy stuff to get creative, have fun, and feel on top of the world? Yesterday we foraged some cardboard boxes from a neighbor’s move because 4-year old Nutmeg has a vision of building a space station.
Today I’d to introduce you to ONE material that helps build creative thinking, and share some tips on how to use it. The idea is to keep your life simple while supporting your child’s curiosities.
Crayola makes a wonderful product called Air Dry Clay. You can buy it in 2.5 or 5 pound containers. The 5 lb. container is about $10, and if you store it properly it will last for ages. I’ve had our 2.5 lb. tub for about 5 months, we use it about once/month, and it’s still in great shape.
But why buy clay, if you have play dough?
I’m an enormous fan of play dough (here’s the BEST play dough recipe if you’re looking for one), but there are some unique benefits to clay:
- In terms of squeezing, building, and inventing, clay and play dough serve similar purposes, but the texture of clay gives children a different sensory experience.
- Kids will enjoy learning that clay is a special kind of dirt that can be molded and dried at high temperatures to create dimensional objects
- Clay is more dense and requires stronger muscles to mold it and work with it.
- Adding water to clay creates a slippery material that many children love to play with. In the real “clay world” a mixture of water and clay is called “slip” and it’s used to attach one dry clay piece to another.
- Clay can be molded into sculptures and objects that can be saved and later painted: pinch pots, bowls, alligators, rockets, etc.
How we use it
We always pull all the clay from the bucket and divide it in two, so that each of my kids has a hefty piece. Our table is covered with a plastic table cloth,, and at the end of the project clean-up is easy with a few wipes of a rag or sponge.
To begin, I usually give my kids a pile of clay…and that’s it!
I to scaffold my projects, meaning that I’ll slowly introduce materials to them. I do this because I find that extending a project this improves their ability to fully explore phenomena and keeps them from being done in 3 minutes flat. You’ve had that happen right?!
Once that runs its course, I’ll give my kids a small bowl of water so that they can add it to the clay to moisten it. Older children will probably dab the water with their fingers and add it to the clay as needed.
My monkeys, on the other hand, are champions of bowl-dumping. And that’s fine. If the table is getting too wet I’ll limit them to “x” number of bowls.
They love playing with the clay when it’s wet…it’s a totally different sensory experience.
And finally, I’ll introduce them to a simple tool such as popsicle sticks, toothpicks, wooden knife, glass marbles, etc. Again, I usually try to keep this to one material so that they’re not overwhelmed by choices. Having one material to add to the clay invites them to push their imaginations and test multiple solutions to problems.
When they’re done, the clay goes back into the container. While this clay is designed to “air dry” we solely use it for the purpose of sensory play, fine motor development, and imagination-building.
I wipe the table down with a clean, damp terry cloth rag. Any clay that gets on the clothes should wash right out. Put clumps of clay back in the container or in the trash. It’s important that clay doesn’t go down your sink, or it will clog your pipes.
I’m planning to write about other art and exploration materials: is there anything that you’d to see me write about?
Mr. Rogers Episode 1763: Celebrates the Arts. Mr. Rogers meets potter Dolly Naranjo who forages clay from a hillside, mixes it with volcanic ash (with her foot!), and shows us how to make a coil pot. If you have Amazon Prime, you can screen it for FREE by clicking on the link.
Clay and Children: The Natural Way to Learn. By Marvin Bartel at Goshen College Art Department. A wonderful resource by a potter on teaching children about clay.
What is clay? on KinderArt. Kid-friendly definition of clay, words used in the pottery studio (wedge, kiln, slip, glaze, etc.)
Make Air Dry Pendants, from Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree
Air Dry Clay Projects for Kids: fun tips and ideas with clay
Kids love to play with clay. These are just a few air dry clay projects that use nothing more than clay, a little string, maybe pipe cleaners and if you want, some craft paint. The idea is to get kids creating, so if a few ideas these get their imaginations running, then great!
There are affiliate links in this post. That means if you buy something from that link, I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you anything additional.
Air Dry Clay Projects
Air dry clay is great because it doesn’t involve using an oven. Projects can be created in the classroom or at home, then set aside to dry while the kids play, nap or otherwise get on with their day. These air dry clay projects are simple, even for younger kids, so feel free to use them as inspiration for even more clay crafts!
You can find air dry clay online or in discount department stores and craft stores. I got mine from S&S Worldwide, the company that sells my craft kits!
So many possibilities
For these air dry clay projects I’ve stuck with simplicity as the theme. Insects, animals, cars, houses, shapes, the possibilities are endless! You can even create clay beads and charms from air dry clay. Simply roll into a ball and poke a hole all the way through the ball using a toothpick or wooden skewer.
Kids can decorate them with acrylic paint I have, or get a little fancy by mixing some glitter into the clay while it’s still pliable. Another alternative is glitter paint, which gives the wow factor of glitter without the mess. There are other fun paints available such as glow in the dark, or neon paint, or even those with a metallic finish.
Kids can add three dimensional objects too, such as beads, buttons, twigs and gems. Googly eyes can be glued on after the clay dries, or you can stick them into the clay while it’s still pliable. You’ll see I’ve done this with pipe cleaners, sticking them into the clay before it dries to create legs for a spider or wings for a bug.
Make Clay Ladybugs
Making ladybugs from air dry clay is so easy you’ll probably make a whole swarm of them! All you have to do is grab some clay, roll it into a ball then flatten that ball into a disc. When the clay is dry, paint the ladybugs all different colors.
When that paint has dried, paint a simple black oval at one end for the head and add polka dots to their backs using the handle end of a paintbrush. When the paint is dry paint on a coat of clear sealer.
Once the sealer has dried you can glue on googly eyes to finish off your clay ladybugs.
Making a mobile
This air dry clay project turns out colorful and fun and is perfect for hanging in a child’s bedroom, play room, or even in the classroom.
This would be a great class project with each student making a charm to hang on the mobile! Simply form shapes with the clay and use a skewer or dowel to poke a hole in the top.
Some charms will need a hole at the top and bottom, depending on their position on the mobile.
Once dry, use acrylic craft paint to decorate the charms. When you are done decorating, tie string through the charm holes and hang them from a study stick or dowel. Tie strings from the top of the stick together to form a hanger.
Clay Insects and Animals
There are all sorts of animals and bugs, both real and imaginary, that kids can create with air dry clay. These projects are super fun because kids really get to be creative and invent creatures on their own.
If children need a little direction, show them that rolling clay into a ball can be part of a spider’s body, and rolling a piece of clay into a longer tube shape could be turned into a butterfly.
Be sure to insert pipe cleaners before the clay has dried so that they stay put and don’t require glue. If you paint your creatures, you’ll need to paint around the pipe cleaners when the clay is dry.
Making a caterpillar would be fun for kids that are a little older as it requires making several pieces, pushing them together, inserting pipe cleaner legs and once dry, painting all the individual sections.
This Clay Wall Vase would be a lovely Mother’s Day gift from your child! Using air-dry clay, this project isn’t as difficult as you’d think. Have the kids paint a design on the clay or leave it blank as is, and fill it with some flowers for a gift Mom or Grandma will love!
Products you might find helpful:
There are lots of different kinds of clay. Air dry clay doesn’t require baking, it just has to be set aside to dry. To help you find the right clay for your projects, here are some helpful products.
- Crayola Air Dry Clay – I used this product to create all of the projects above. It’s soft and pliable and easy to manipulate. The 2.5-pound container would make plenty of projects, though if using for a classroom, the 5-pound bucket would be more appropriate.
- 24-Color Set of Air Dry Clay – Instead of painting, you can purchase clay in different colors. This set has 24 bright colors for lots of creative play!
- 101-Piece Cookie Cutter Set – I have this set and there’s a cookie cutter for just about anything. It’s a great way for kids to get started using clay and creating without having to form their own shapes. You can also get these clay cutters for creating dozens of projects.
- Pony Beads – As I mentioned above, kids can use gems, beads and other objects to decorate their clay projects. This set of pony beads offers multiple colors and there are plenty to go around. Please keep in mind that pony beads can be a choking hazard for very small children, so use with parental supervision.
- Embossed Rolling Pins – Rolling pins with raised patterns can be really fun for kids working with clay. Kids can roll the pins over their clay to create fun designs and then use that clay to make a bowl or cup or other fun object. A great alternative for smaller hands are these unfinished textured rolling pins. They are smaller in size, therefore easier for kids to hold.
- Book: Modeling Clay Animals – If you’d to try some more clay crafts, this book has all sorts of adorable animal clay projects the kids will love.
What air dry clay projects have you made?
Do you kids love playing with air dry clay? What have they created on their own or with your help? Even if children just playing with the clay and don’t actually make anything, that’s okay! Younger kids will definitely benefit from manipulating the clay with their fingers and hands, it’s great for dexterity. No matter what type of projects you create, just be sure to have fun!