A magical thing happens when kids play with clay. The first thing they do is they dig their fingers deep into the clay and then they burst out laughing as if the joy they have inside is just too much to keep bottled up. Do your kids also do this?
The best way I can describe it is that playing with clay has a happy effect on our children. Whether you use salt dough, cookie dough, real clay, polymer clay of air drying clay, playing with clay has many many benefits.
6 Benefits of playing with clay:
1.Children get a chance to exercise their fine motor skills while molding and manipulating clay. Those little fingers have to push and pull and stretch and mold and pinch and grab. And when you introduce tools to use, even better! Now they cut and slice and poke and roll. It’s an endless list of fine motor movements that are strengthening those little hands. Remember, good development of fine motor skills are crucial to writing, making art and it’s beneficial for playing musical instruments.
2. Another benefit is teamwork. In our house everyone flocks to the dining room table when the clay comes out. The kids often run restaurants together and cook up a clay meal for us. As my youngest is only 3 years old she needs a lot of help, and what a great opportunity for my older two to learn patience and generosity while they lend a hand when she gets frustrated.
3. Social skills are being developed while playing with clay as well. Sometimes I limit resources so that sharing is necessary. Taking turns with utensils and sharing different colours of clay, help them realize that they have to use their communication skills to get what they want. You see, every moment can be a learning opportunity.
4. Playing with clay builds self esteem. I know this doesn’t seem connected to playing with clay, but have you ever seen your little one’s face when they create something for you and they display it with absolute pride? What an incredible moment for your child to feel satisfied and proud of themselves. And remember it’s not about what the art work actually looks like. If your child loves it, it has laid a wonderful foundation for self acceptance. Now it’s your job to love it too.
5. It teaches children problem solving and innovative thinking. Honing my kids’ creativity is very important to me! And anything that can get the creative juices flowing is a worthwhile activity. When your child sits down with a ball of clay the options are endless and it’s up to them to come up with ideas of what to create. Whether they sit and squash the ball, or tear it into pieces or create an intricate sculpture of an elephant isn’t the point. The point is that their minds start thinking and coming up with ideas. Whatever those ideas are, try to not interfere with this process. It’s good to allow your kid to just explore the material. Don’t focus on making something specific every time.
6. Another great benefit is that playing with clay has a calming effect on a child. It actually has the same effect as squeezing a stress ball. Playing with clay helps children to relax a little. I often cook up a batch of clay and mix in some good quality lavender essential oil to have and even more calming effect.
So now that you know how awesome clay play is for kids (and adults too)let’s whip up some clay.
Get your kids to help you mix a batch of clay and even let them choose the colours. Be careful though when adding the boiled water, the initial mixing process should be done by an adult as the clay is very hot.
The Best Clay ever:
2 Cups white cake flour
2 Tablespoons sunflower oil
2 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar
1/2 Cup salt
250ml-375ml boiling water (The exact amount will depends on the absorbency of the flour you are using)
Food colouring of choice.
1. Mix flour, cream of tarter, salt and oil in your mixing bowl. The easiest is to use the dough hook on your standing mixer.
2. Add food colouring to water to prevent your hands getting stained while kneading. If you want to make many colours, skip this step and add the food colouring at the end.
3. Add water slowly to the dry flour mix. DON’T add all the water at once. Rather add half a cup at a time and watch the consistency of your dough. Add water while mixing in between until you achieve the desired consistency. REMEMBER: Every flour has a different absorbency so take it slow with the water.
4. Scrape the dough onto your kitchen counter top and knead it through to make sure all the flour is nicely combined and that you have a nice soft, easy to knead consistency.
6. Add more food colouring if needed. A good way to do this is to poke a little hole in the center of the ball of dough and put the food colouring in there. Fold the dough closed and gently fold and knead it over to avoid the food colouring streaming onto the counter top. Use gloves to avoid staining your hands.
7. Let the dough cool down and have loads of fun.
Remember to store the clay in an airtight container like a ziplock bag to ensure the clay stays soft and smooth for months.
This recipe makes enough clay for one or maybe two small children to play with. If you have more than two kids I suggest you double the recipe to make enough for everyone.
May your family have many hours of happy times with this clay.