Kids are exploring clay

Children adore clay and playdough

Do you remember when you were playing with these soft, colorful toys? It is very important to encourage your child’s development with creative activities. Clay and playdough provide a lot of creative play for kids.

Encourage Fine Motor Skill Development

Fine motor skills (small muscles in the fingers, hands, toes, and wrists) are usually associated with precise activities. We adults use these skills hundreds of times a day. But first, as children, we developed and strengthened them by catching, squeezing, playing with small objects, activities with clay…

Support is very impotant for your child’s independence

Children need to believe in themselves from a young age. You must be proud of every time you see your child acting independently. Children’s independent play should be appreciated because it builds self-esteem. Providing support for children’s independent creative play is invaluable in their world.

Release creativity and imaginative play

Children should always be encouraged to express themselves creatively. Different ideas produce different results. The free expression of one’s thoughts, turning them into life through clay, is much more than playing. The whole activity is a process from thought to action to creation. Over time, the child realizes that he can create anything he can think of.

Learning math through play

Playing with clay is a great tool that will allow your child to learn the alphabet, how to spell their name, memorize numbers, and how to combine plastic or wooden block letters.


When children laugh, it is very healthy and desirable. This means that the child is satisfied, filled with what surrounds him. And when they make stupid faces, monsters or animals with their playdough, laughter is always a part of the process. When they smile, the chemicals that develop are released. Your baby’s bloodstream is improved, her immune system gets a healthy boost and physical tension or stress relaxes for up to 45 minutes after a burst of laughter.


Kids learn about texture, shapes and forms
Kids learn about texture, shapes and forms

Clay is a natural resource that has no right or wrong way to be used. It can be cut, pinched, rolled, squeezed and moulded into different shapes and its texture can be changed by adding water. It can be reused and recycled when it is dry. Clay, like playdough, provides children with many opportunities to be creative and expressive. Clay can be used to create long-lasting shapes. Although clay is similar to playdough the different texture, consistency and smell means that children can produce different products and have different experiences when they work with clay.

Clay can help children to:

  • develop hand and eye coordination – squeezing, patting, pounding
  • develop finger and hand muscles – poking, pinching
  • be creative and learn about texture, shapes and forms
  • manipulate through rolling, cutting, making shapes
  • experience making 3-dimensional objects
  • socialise with others
  • express feelings and ideas.
Kids are making 3-dimensional objects
Kids are making 3-dimensional objects

Adults can support children by:

  • providing clay regularly so they become familiar with it and develop their skills
  • working the clay until it is soft enough for small hands to work with
  • making sure there’s enough clay for them to play with
  • suggesting ways to work the clay or dough e.g. rolling, thumping, smoothing, decorating
  • experimenting with clay to know how best to use it.

Using Clay

During the session clay needs to be soft for children to work with and this means keeping it damp. To prevent clay from sticking, clay is best used on a table or board covered with hessian. Roll the clay in ball sized quantities and bring a bucket of water around the clay for children to keep the clay moist and wash their hands as they wish.

Ideas for equipment

The great thing about clay is that little more than a damp sponge to keep the clay moist is necessary. Children’s exploration, handling, poking, shaping and forming the clay can be quite ample on its own.
Sometimes the group might want to provide other tools including:
• something to cut the clay (a length of nylon fishing line attached to wooden toggles works well)
• collage materials for decoration
• pieces of card for children to take their work home on.

Group work with clay, theme "My village"
Group work with clay, theme “My village”

Cover clay with a damp cloth and store in a plastic bag in an airtight container. If the clay gets really hard, break it up with a hammer and soak it in water. Drain off extra water when the clay has softened. Turn the clay out onto a cloth and sit it on top of newspaper. Leave it to dry to a manageable consistency before using again. Children enjoy being involved in the process of breaking up and re-wetting dry clay.

Finding clay

Clay can be bought from just about any art shop or potters’ suppliers or playcentre shop – or if there is an art school nearby, you could ask for offcuts or unused clay. In some areas clay will be available from the natural environment. An expedition to dig clay can be a lot of fun.

Read about:

*Exploring clay


National Association for the Education of Young Children — Promoting excellence in early childhood education

Adventure and junk play, Aotūroa

Written by

Irena Canji

I am a teacher in kindergarten. I have been working with children aged from three to seven since 2000. Also, I am a mother of two kids. My son is a teenager and my daughter is going to kindergarten. My main goal through the website is to show that the process is more important than the product. In childhood, kids need to play, have fun, learn through their experience.

The content of this website is an interesting activity for children. You don't need special skills, lots of money or too much preparing.

Just smile, only positive energy, and goodwill!