Clay for little fingers

Joan Bouza Koster explains:

“Children need to be introduced to clay slowly, over a period of time. Its qualities are very different from the ubiquitous playdoughs, and children need too identify this new modeling material as something unique, requiring different ways of working.” (p.19)

She suggests teachers “put away the playdough and other modeling materials [when introducing clay]. The wet, cold, stiff clay does not compete well with these other soft, malleable materials that leave the hands clean. Offering clay on a daily basis over a period of time is best. Bold risk takers will dive right into the damp stuff, but more hesitant children need time to watch others use it and become accustomed to the unique feel of the clay. Children’s initial experiences should focus on exploring the clay’s qualities.” (p.20)

Ask the children what clay feels like to them, what marks they can make in it, and what happens when they add water to it. For very young children emphasize the tactile nature of the experience. Introduce comparisons such as wet and dry, smooth and cracked, stiff and soft. Compare what happens when water is added to the clay and what occurs when a piece of clay is squeezed and squeezed without adding water.” (p.20)

What is clay?

“Clay is mud. It is found everywhere, often on the banks of a creek or river or along the side of the road. Clay forms when the finest particles of soil settle out on top of the larger and heavier ones. Clay comes in many colors, depending on the kind of rock particles and other materials in the soil. There are white clays and red clays and gray and tan clays. Clay deposits look smooth. If they are moist, the clay can be scooped up and pressed together into a ball. If they are dry, clay beds may have many surface cracks and form a fine easily airborne dust when touched.” (p.18)

“Dust is a major problem with clay work. Even with hands kept damp, fine particles of clay dust spread easily around a room. the dust can contaminate food-preparation surfaces and be ingested. The fine dust also can trigger allergies and asthma and over time cause chronic bronchitis. It is important to avoid using clay in areas where food is served and to damp mop and wipe down all surfaces daily after clay use.” (p.20)

“An excellent book to share either before or after the children’s experiences with clay is A Potter by Douglas Florian (1991). Other useful books about clay include A Ball of Clay by John Hawkinson (1974) and Clay by Annabelle Dixon (1990). The Mud Family by Betsy James (1998) tells the story from prehistory of a young Native American who makes a family of clay to help bring rain to her parched desert home. Byrd Baylor’s When Clay Sings (1987) celebrates the prehistoric pottery makers of the American Southwest.” (p.19)

Clay tiles

Among more familiar suggestions, the author also suggests that: “A good introductory activity for fired clay is making clay tiles. Help the children roll out a huge slab of clay with a rolling pin and cut out tile shapes for each child. Tile dimensions of 6 by 6 to 8 by 8 inches work well for young children. Have them use their fingers and craft sticks to make designs in the clay. Keys, coins, buttons, and small toys make interesting patterns when pressed into the clay. Small pieces of clay can be attached using the magic-glue technique (slip). Poke two holes in the top of each child’s tile so that later it can be hung for display.” (p.21)

Ref: Joan Bouza Koster (1999) Clay for little fingers. Young Children March 54(2), pp.18-22


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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2 Responses to Clay for little fingers

  1. jmbkoster says:

    Thank you for sharing my work in your post. I have a new blog on WordPress you may find interesting and a more established one I definitely am interested in yours. We share a lot of interests.

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