Clay Modelling For Kids

Clay modelling has many educational benefits for kids. Read on to know how clay-modelling activities improve your child’s hand-eye coordination, motor skills, dexterity, creativity and attention span.

By Jasmine Kaur  • 11 min read

Clay Modelling For Kids
“The important thing is to create” — Pablo Picasso

Clay is a substance that 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.

Clay modelling for kids

Put clay or play dough into the hands of kids and see how it stimulates their imagination and creativity. Watch as they enjoy the texture and doughy consistency of the clay and try to mould it into interesting shapes.

Clay modelling is an activity that is therapeutically beneficial to kids in many ways. One important benefit of clay modelling is the role it plays in early childhood education. Read on to learn how you can use clay craft to enhance your child’s learning and creativity.

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.

Clay activities for kids

1. Happy Birthday cake:

Clay Modelling For Kids

This is an interesting clay craft activity for tiny tots. Materials needed are mainly yellow, green and white-coloured clay. Here is how to do it:

  • Ask your kid to place a tray on the table.
  • Take some yellow play dough. Flatten it gently to form a round circular shape. Place it on the tray. This will form the base of the cake.
  • Now roll some green clay into a thin elongated piece. Decorate the edge of the circular yellow base with the green clay to form a border. Flatten it slightly.
  • Grab some white, red and orange-coloured play dough. Show your kid how to roll it into tiny balls. Now place the balls in the centre of the cake to form a cluster.
  • Roll some white clay to form a candle and shape the candle flame using red clay. Plant the candle in the centre of the cake.

Ask your child to make his own Birthday cake using the above steps.

2. Rain cloud and sun

Clay Modelling For Kids

This is another interesting clay modelling activity for young kids. For this project, your child will need mainly yellow and blue-coloured clay. Here is how to make it:

  • Take some yellow clay and roll it into a ball. Gently flatten it into a circle using a rolling pin. This portion will form the sun.
  • Now, roll another piece of yellow play dough on the table with both hands. Cut it into several parts of similar size.
  • Place the cut yellow pieces around the circular portion to form the rays of the sun.
  • Next, show your kid how to make clouds using the blue clay.
  • Take a piece of blue-coloured play dough and split it into two or three balls of different sizes.
  • Flatten the blue clay balls into random shapes to form the clouds. Place tiny droplet shaped pieces below the clouds.
  • Place the blue clouds over the sun to cover it partially.

Ask your child to try making her own sun and clouds using the above method.

3. Butterfly