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:

  • 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

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

To futher inspire or feed the artist and sculptor in you

Page updated Autumn 2019 by Cathy Gunning.

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