Play with clay
Clay is natural, it comes from the earth. It is cool to the touch and soft on our skin. It has a deep earthy smell which invites you in. Clay can be sculpted far more intricately than play dough. Just by covering it over, clay can be returned to day-after-day, added to, sculpted, encouraging sustained inquiry and creativity.
Clay is strong, it can be sculpted higher and higher, on a much larger scale, encouraging problem-solving and critical thinking...from Authentic art materials for toddlers: introducing clay
Creating collaboratively with clay at Rachel Keeling Nursery School
I was lucky enough to visit Rachel Keeling Nursery School on the day a group of children put their finishing touches to a collaborative sculpture they had been supported in creating together.
The creative learning journey had begun three weeks ago with children playing with and exploring clay. They learnt about and experienced first hand ways of working with the medium by pinching, twisting, rolling and hammering. Children were then supported in their creations by looking at images of sculptures by other artists as stimulus and for inspiration. They then created their own sculptures which they talked about openly with, creating stories and illustrations.
In the last week of of this project a group of children worked collaboratively, talking, listening, problem solving, reflecting on and embellishing a large piece of art through the medium of clay. They created a thing of great beauty and returned to paint it once the clay was dry.
Once it had been painted, the children were waiting to give it a name. When consulted about valuing their stunning piece, they thought it should cost from £4 to £24 to £60 to £100 to buy. However, the team at Rachel Keeling say that they feel that it is priceless! Certainly the learning journey and experiential learning over the three week project was impossible to value.
You can view the journey and their final clay sculpture on their blog (see below for the link).
Clay is a natural resource that has no right or wrong way to be used.
(from Play idea: clay on New Zealand's government website for early education)
Further information about clay, sculpture and creativity in the early years
- Froebel Trust's Clay pamphlet
- Learning through play in the early years (see from page 81 about dough and clay play)
- The Rachel Keeling team used 13 sculptures that children should know for reference, which is part of the series "Children Should Know" about art and artists
- Using clay to scaffold and understand children's expressions and Using clay to nurture young children's development blogs by Earlyarts
- Reggio inspired: clay play blog by Fairy Dust Teaching
- Yorkshire Sculpture Park's amazing spark resource for teachers (pages 22-24 on clay)
- Tate kids' Who is: Barbara Hepworth?
Further information about Rachel Keeling Nursery School
- Sculpting together at Rachel Keeling
- Rachel Keeling's being creative website page
- "Grayson Perry eat your heart out" Rachel Keeling's blog about their clay sculpture
- Please contact them if you would like to find out more about their creative projects and leadership
To futher inspire or feed the artist and sculptor in you
- The National Gallery's website section for teachers and schools and their section on primary teachers' notes has some useful and interesting information that you could use in your practice
- Yorkshire Sculpture Park website and Exploring sculpture video (please let me know if you have visited and taken your school here - I would love to hear more)
- The Saatchi Gallery schools information
- The Hepworth, Wakefield and their What's on for early years information
- The artist Rachel Keeling refers to in connection with clay sculptures is Grayson Perry who exhibited his ceramic urns at the Saatchi Gallery
- Here is a video if you are interested in personally finding out more about the life and story of Grayson Perry who won the Turner Prize in 2003 (this contains adult content)
- Making sculptures from dry materials and clay is a video tutorial by BBC Bitesize (it is quite instructive, but for your own learning if you don't have any experience in clay, it could be useful to see a sculpture being formed)
- Access Art website gives information and advice for national curriculum sculpture in primary schools
- Miro: sculptor at Yorkshire Sculpture Park video
- The Yorkshire sculpture triangle includes The Henry Moore Institute, The Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Art Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park
- Pete Moorhouse, one of our Associates, is a sculptor and early years consultant.
Early Years Teaching News - out monthly!
For more information, news, research, articles and updates, members and Nursery School Teaching School partners can read the Creativity sections in our monthly Early Years Teaching News. Pedagogical inspiration at your fingertips!
Page updated Autumn 2019 by Cathy Gunning.