• Search

Clay Play

By Mary Scott Hackman, Early Childhood Program Developer, Providence Children’s Museum

Clay and dough are sensational media for children.  It always surprises me how all-involving they can be, that a child can poke them, pick them up, push things into them for hours.  I recently made a few batches of dough for the Museum’s Preschool Friday class.  Once I placed it on the table and put out a few tools, the children were off and running.  They rolled it, squeezed it through their fingers, pressed it with the palm of their hand.  In short, they savored the experience.

Mar2010---Clay-PlayWhat is it about these materials that grabs their interest almost immediately?  I think it’s because clay and dough are malleable and children can control them quite easily.  Each goes where it’s pushed and moves according to how soft or hard it is pressed.  The act of manipulating clay and dough feels good.  Children can play with it endlessly or they can actually form it into something.  And if they don’t like what they make… voilà, with a push or a poke, they can change it!

Last fall, in Preschool Friday, we read a story about a bear who warned his animal friends that winter was coming.  Then the children and I went to work forming critters from clay and creating an environment for their hibernation nest.  I was amazed at the preschoolers’ agility as they used toothpicks to poke in the eyes and mouths, rolled tails, and pressed into the clay to make ears.  Each creature was different!  What an amazing process — you start with a clump and you finish with a critter.  Or you start with a clump and you end with a bunch of clumps.  It doesn’t matter; it’s the journey, not the destination.

Not only can children play with clay, they can help you make dough, color it and make it smell good by adding a scent.  Follow the simple recipes below and you will be amazed at the inspiring and absorbing experiences your children will enjoy.  Using the salt dough, they can make something that, when hardened, can be painted or colored with markers.  Try the cooked dough and you can store it for up to two months to be enjoyed over and over again.  Get out a few rolling pins and plastic forks and you have a preschooler’s dream activity at their fingertips…literally!

Salt Dough
Make this dough in a cool, dry room, otherwise it becomes too soft and sticky.  If you have to store it, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.  Keep all unused portions covered.  To harden, you can let it air dry or bake it in a slow oven.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water

To color, add food coloring to water

Cooked Dough
This dough is a pleasure to work with — smooth and just the right consistency.

1 cup flour
½ cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp oil
1 cup water
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a pot.  Mix oil, water and food coloring and add to dry ingredients.  Heat on stovetop and stir until dough begins to form.  Dough will be ready in 5 – 7 minutes.  Place on cutting board and knead when warm to the touch.

The next six-week series of Preschool Friday classes at Providence Children’s Museum begin Friday, March 5.  Children will cuddle with bunnies, explore magnetism, welcome the April showers and much more. Register today!  Click here for details, including registration information and a full schedule of activities.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 comment
  • fyi, it’s very easy to substitute most gluten free flour mixes for the all purpose flour for those children who can’t have it.