Uses Of Clay In Children’s Education

Clay has many uses. One of them is that it teaches your child essential skills that can help him be better at academics, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, creativity and more.

By Jasmine Kaur

Uses Of Clay In Children’s Education

There are many uses of clay as it can be moulded into an endless number of forms. Humans have been making objects out of clay for ages — pots, plates, bowls, sculptures and so on. The fact that we have been able to create so many different objects out of clay is a testament to its versatility as a medium. One important benefit of clay modelling is the role it plays in early childhood education. Read on to learn how you can use clay to enhance your child’s learning.

Uses and benefits of playing with clay

1. Improves hand-eye coordination skills

Hand-eye coordination is a neurological process where the visual input provided by the eye is used to guide the hands in performing a task. For example, catching a ball, writing, pouring water into a glass, etc., all need hand-eye coordination. Moreover, having good hand-eye coordination can improve your child’s agility, athleticism and handwriting. Using clay during playtime will also help her engage the muscles in her hands and arms.

2. Encourages trial and error

Everyone makes mistakes, especially in the process of learning something new. Sometimes, these mistakes can be discouraging, especially if they are hard to erase. But, when it comes to working with a lump of clay, your child can easily correct the mistakes. It’s easier for your child to learn and keep trying new things when he knows that clay modelling mistakes don't have to be permanent. 

Since your child will be more comfortable in making mistakes while using clay, he is likely to learn better. A research paper, ‘Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance subsequent learning’, by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays and Robert Bjork published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition (2009) studied this theory. The authors found that people tend to learn better when they make mistakes compared to when they don’t.

3. Develops fine motor skills

These skills involve the development of the muscles in the hands and fingers. While similar to hand-eye coordination skills, fine motor skills differ as they do not necessarily require the involvement of our eyes. For example, typing can be a fine motor skill, without being a hand-eye coordination skill when practised by a skilled typist. 

A paper titled, ‘Fine Motor Skills and Early Comprehension of the World: Two New School Readiness Indicators’, by Claire E Cameron et al, published in Developmental Psychology (2010) found that ‘having good fine motor skills in pre-school is a strong predictor of a child’s later academic achievement in reading and math’. So, learning how to accurately use her fingers to get just the right shape out of clay, can help your child improve her fine motor skills and be better at academics.

4. Teaches creativity

Being creative is an attribute that is highly valued today. Using clay can allow your child to apply creativity in moulding different clay objects as per his desire. And, since one advantage of clay is it's versatility, your child can explore making many different objects through clay modelling with even a small amount of clay.

5. Encourages play-based learning

Play-based learning centres around guided play. In such play, children are still in charge and spontaneous, as they would be in free play. However, parents/educators also actively participate by curating the environment in such a way that the child can learn the intended lesson. This type of learning also comes under the umbrella of activity-based learning. 

A study published in Educational and Child Psychology (2009), titled, ‘Play, cognition and self-regulation: What exactly are children learning when they learn through play?’ by David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson and Rachel Lander talks about the importance of play-based learning. The authors state, ‘The experience of the ‘play’ condition was particularly effective in preparing the children for effortful, problem-solving or creative tasks which require a high level of meta-cognitive and self-regulatory skill.’ 

This means that including play in learning would allow your child to acquire better academic skills. Since one use of clay is its use during play, it can also be used as a tool for teaching different subjects to your child. For example, she can mould numbers and the letters of the alphabet out of clay to get better at numeracy and literacy. She could even learn about science by testing the various attributes of clay by experimenting and observing how clay reacts to heat, cold, water, etc.

As you can see, there are numerous educational benefits of playing with clay for your child. Using clay can help him in his creativity, physical dexterity and coordination, academics and problem-solving skills. So, even if his school does not use clay in classroom learning, you could get your child to use it at home. After all it's fun to play with clay!

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Written by Jasmine Kaur on 24 September 2018.

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