Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How Does Clay Help Kindergartners Learn The Skills They Need?

One friend decided she wanted to make a Chihuly inspired Macchia out of clay. She asked if she could paint it. I told her that particular clay did not dry, but I had some that did. She really wanted to make one so I got out some air dry clay. She carefully worked on it and then painted it beautifully after it dried. 

When the other kids saw this, they wanted to make one also. This shouldn't have surprised me since this group loves everything that has to do with creating works of art! I asked if they wanted to learn how to make things out of clay and explore clay further. They were very interested! They told me what they knew and wondered about clay, then I set up a table for them to explore trying to make some different things out of clay. I put some clay pots and a clay candle holder for some inspiration.

They learned how to use observational skills as they observed sculptures both real and pictures. They learned how to look closer and notice things like texture and shape. They learned how to wonder and ask questions like how did the pots become shiny and smooth? They learned to research to find answers. They asked experts like our art teacher or used technology to help them find answers. 

They worked their fine motor muscles to help them with writing as they worked the hard plasticine to make models. 

They learned writing skills. After exploring, we incorporated writing by making a plan and then practiced making a model out of plasticine. They were focusing on putting spaces between their words. 

They also had to learn persistence and how to deal with disappointment as I did not always accept their model.  After telling them what the problem was they had to try again! 

They learned how to follow a plan. They took their plan and model to the sculpture station. Here is where the air dry clay was for them to make their final sculpture. 

They learned first how to make a basic pinch pot by watching a video. Then we learned about how to score and slip to make two pieces stick together. Scoring is when you scratch the surface.  Slip is watered down clay to a consistency of slippery mud that you paint over the areas that you want to attach together. 

We sat them in the window to let them air dry. 

They learned how to focus and concentrate. After their sculptures dried, they painted them. Their focus and concentration amazed me! They were so purposeful and careful with every stroke! Many wanted to let them dry and then add more details with a tiny paint brush. Being able to focus and concentrate on something is so important in order for these kids to learn in future grades! 

They learned to use resources for accuracy. Our friend below wanted to use a resource so that the lava on her volcano sculpture was just right!

They learned about the attributes of 3D shapes. Because of their interest in clay I put some plasticine out for them to try to create 2D and 3D shape sculptures.

They learned how to explore and get their hands dirty! They had wondered what would happen if water was mixed with the clay. This turned into a wonderful sensory experience! They loved the feeling of clay squishing between their fingers! They also wondered what clay was. We found out from a video that it is basically mud!

They also learned that things take multiple steps to finish! Many thought they could just go to the air dry clay and make a sculpture. It took a lot of patience on their part as they realized this was not a one day process. It took one day to plan and make the model, another to create the sculpture, and another to paint it.  In an age of immediate gratification, this was a bit hard for some to accept, but in he end, they could see that the process was important to get the end product. 

They also learned how to handle disappointment as some sculptures broke, and persistence when they had to try again. 

They also learned how to be proud of their accomplishments. Making these sculptures were not easy. I love seeing how proud they are when ey know they did something hard and /or created something beautiful! Here are the final products of those who were interested in creating something out of clay. Most wanted to make a pinch pot, cup, or Chihuly inspired Macchia. A couple made candle or plant holders, one made a person and one made a volcano!

Yes, these kids need to learn how to read, write and do math. There are other skills though, at this age that are equally important (if not more) for them to learn. In order for them to learn academic skills as they get older, we want them to be persistent if they get to a hard word or math problem and not give up and move on. We want them to concentrate and focus on details of a story or a problem in math. We want them think creatively as they work out a new math concept. We want them to try again if they get a wrong answer. Most of all, I want them to use reading, writing, and math because they naturally have to. All of these skills were practiced and used. By having to use these skills in their inquiry, play, and projects, they just use them. They naturally want to learn how to read, write and use math skills because they see a need for them in everything we do. That is why we will spend a whole two weeks playing with clay in our classroom! 


  1. Hi! I am wondering about your materials for this project. Was the air dry clay that Crayola stuff that comes in a margarine-like container? Did you use tempera paint or another kind? Also how long did the air dry models take to dry? Thanks :)

    1. It was a regular crayola air dry clay. It took a full 24 hours for the clay to dry, but they were very fragile. I know if I put them in a kiln, they will be much stronger but it is not always available. The kids painted their sculptures with crayola tempra paint!

  2. I really like your see think wonder page. Could you tell me where I can purchase it?

  3. Oh! I found it online!
    It's great! I like it better than the one I made.