Clay is such a beautiful natural resource for children to play with and one that is often underutilised. Clay is a core curriculum play experience offered at Prebbleton Preschool and Prebbleton Kindergarten. It is also a fantastic play idea to try at home. Though clay is similar to playdough, it has its own unique properties allowing children greater control over shaping and sculpting. You can purchase clay from your local Playcentre Shop for around $18 or find a local potter or clay retailer who can give you the best options for small fingers and low wrist strength.
The best surface for your child to work on is either a whiteboard or a hessian covered board (as the clay won't stick to this). Provide a sponge and a shallow bowl of water. This allows the clay to become malleable and be easily shaped. Most children, when using clay, are instinctively motivated to explore its inviting soft and responsive sensory qualities. They poke it, squeeze it, hit it, pick it up and pound it down, and so on. Each time they act on the clay, the clay adjusts and responds. These changes mean very little to us as adults, but for a child these changes in the clay are magical. The child is naturally fascinated, motivated, and empowered to keep experimenting. Working with a piece of clay develops a child’s large and small muscles. Clay play fosters eye-hand coordination. Soft clay is receptive and responsive to all kinds of emotional expression. Clay is so fascinating that some children work for long periods of time without any adult motivation to maintain their interest!
You can introduce other natural resources with clay. Sticks, shells, pinecones etc. for your child to make imprints or to build on their work.
It is valuable to give our children tools that they can be creative, and experiment with. Clay is a resource that is fairly easy to obtain and when in use can bring immense creative pleasure to a child.
Once finished, your child's creation can be dried and hardened. Or, with very little care, clay can be kept workable if you store it in a plastic bag, covered with a damp cloth, inside a bucket or container with a sealable lid.