Getting started with clay


Clay is an exciting, pliable material whose tactile qualities have an immediate appeal for young children. Thinking in three dimensions demands an imaginative leap, and the plastic, malleable nature of clay makes it an ideal medium for learning about form. Work in clay provides opportunities for expressing understanding of form through pottery, sculpture and combined techniques. It is also a very suitable medium for creating texture and for work in combining form, texture and pattern.

Slab-building provides opportunities for the child to experiment with the organisation of units in space as an additional way of constructing. Both the sculptural and the craft aspects of clay should be given adequate time, but in the absence of a kiln the emphasis should be on sculptural expression. It is important too that children are introduced to a wide range of craft pottery and sculpture. Like painting and drawing, clay as a medium can be returned to many times. Papier mâché is suggested as an additional medium for developing form, especially for large scale work with more experienced children. Children need some form of stimulus as a starting point for clay activities. This could include:

  • Working from experience and imagination
  • Focusing on materials and tools
  • Working from observation and curiosity