Playing with Clay. Free Creative Clay Modeling with Preschoolers

Clay, play, kids

Clay’n’Play is a new approach to clay activities with children. We play with clay the same way we would play with a construction set or in a sandbox. During the play, we fantasize freely, communicate, develop and learn. Sometimes we play a well-known and beloved fairy tale, sometimes we come up with a plot on the spot. Children can take any roles, create what they want, while the teacher helps everyone and encourages everybody to play together.

You can play with clay at home with parents and friends, in a children’s art studio, in a ceramic workshop, or in a kindergarten. Technically, it is a very simple method that does not require any artistic ability from either the children or adults.

While it can be just a fun family time, during Clay’n’Play, the parents might also observe many important personality traits in their children. Additionally, a teacher or an art therapist running regular classes with a permanent group, can set and reach some very specific educational and psychological goals.

In Clay’n’Play, many methods of child psychology, art therapy, and play therapy are intuitively used. Free, open-ended playing with clay not only develops coordination of movements, bodily activity, fine motor skills, constructive abilities, speech, imagination, communication skills, but also relieves stress and aggression.

General information about Clay’n’Play in English can be found at the internet site: .

I run hands-on Clay’n’Play workshops for teachers, art therapists, psychologists and parents in Moscow. I am happy to come to any other city and deliver one- or two-day workshops.

My book in Russian has been published about Clay’n’Play method: Alexey Lelchuk."Playing with clay", "National Education" publishing house, 2015. It can be bought at online stores, for example, at Ozon:

Up-to-date information, photos and descriptions of classes are published in the Clay’n’Play groups on Facebook and Instagram social networks in Russian language:игравглину

You can ask a question or sign up for a visit by phone/whatsapp +7 925 804 2435 or email:

Communication with children through creative activities

Clay’n’Play differs a lot from most educational activities with children. Its essence is a free creative play rather than learning how to make something specific. This is a process-centered activity, where results are not really important to us. We do not sculpt things, but rather build worlds and experience situations. We focus on creativity, but mostly on its psychological, not aesthetic aspects.

Children under seven years old express the visions of their inner world in their artwork. Small children can only reproduce things or events as they understand and experience them. Drawings and other artistic works of young children are a kind of ‘telegraph’ through which they broadcast their inner state to the outside world. By expressing their fears, mistakes, or aggression through drawing or modeling, the children process the feelings and become free from them, as if they had re-lived them for real. Children can also express joy, victory, self-confidence, empathy, love through drawing or modeling. In this way, they shape and affirm these feelings in their souls. The more kids express themselves in drawing or sculpting work, the faster and more efficiently the process of their psychic development will go.

Until the age of seven, it makes no sense to teach children to "correctly" draw or sculpt the world around them. It is much more important to communicate to them through their "drawing telegraph". You can learn a lot about a child and their inner state from their drawings and other artwork.

Importantly, the "drawing telegrams" can be not only received, but also sent. Playing with children in drawing or modeling, entering their created world, an adult can influence certain traits of their characters. By delicately correcting, encouraging children to find harmonious solutions to various play situations, the adult gradually helps them to cope with these situations in real life.

Creating vs modeling vs sculpting

I have to write some words about the words.

The clay gods blessed the Russian language, because it has a wonderful word “lepka” which means just any manipulation with clay or other ductile material, whether intuitive or after a model. Intuitive manipulation is very important, because with kids, we create things truly freely, with no reference to any model – just straight from our imagination, emotions and thoughts. And there is no word for that in English.

In English, the word “modeling” can mean intuitive free manipulation with clay but it has this “model” in it, which suggests that there is a model that we are copying. Well, you may not mean it, but the reader sees this “model”, and an image of copying immediately appears. Another word – “sculpt” – is in some way better, since is suggests truly artistic free expression. Though, unfortunately, it reminds of sculpture, sculptors, art schools and heavy training, which implies even more strict knowledge of models and anatomy. In short, it sounds too serious to be used for free children playing with clay.

Well, English speakers! May I suggest you a new word for your language – “lepka” for a noun, “to lepit” for a verb?

Anyway, in this article I will use “create”, “make”, “sculpt”, “model”. But you know what I mean.

We create worlds, not things

We do not sculpt individual things to put them on a shelf and admire. Instead, we create whole worlds inhabited by interesting characters, complete with landscapes and actions. We do not think of what kind of ceramic products to make, we just materialize the images that are interesting and important to children at the moment.

Children's modeling is not about art or a child's ability to make something. It is a way to create temporary toys for everyday play. The themes are the same as in real life: a fairy tale that you read to a child; a cartoon you recently watched; any interesting activities - cooking, home improvement, construction, travel, working in the garden,hiking in the forest, even going to the doctor - all these may be acted out in our playing classes.

A given topic or freedom of expression?

Is it necessary for children to play on some specific topic, or should we let them make "what they want"?

On one hand, it is very helpful to choose a specific topic – from a fairy tale or from life – and unite all children with one plot and one set of characters. This gives the children a good goal for modeling and play, teaches them to follow the plan, to coordinate their desires with the desires of others and with the instructions of the teacher. In addition, it is convenient for the teacher: there is a scenario for the lesson, which helps to keep the children’s attention and also structures the activities.

On the other hand, children's own journey is important, so that they are free to choose the direction themselves, make decisions themselves, make efforts themselves, and then see the results. Thus, about half of each lesson is in the form of free play. Children make what they want, while the teacher helps everyone a little and, if possible, unites their creations into one space, coming up with a common theme.

Sometimes, the first option flows smoothly into the second. At the beginning of the lesson, children may agree on a certain topic or fairy tale but, as the plot develops, they get distracted by their own interests and enthusiastically pivot into a different direction. This is fine because, on one hand, the teacher provided the children with a common start, drew their attention to some interesting image and, on the other hand, each child got a chance to show their individuality, set their own goals and began to actively work towards them.

There is, of course, the fourth option, when children begin to make what they want on their own, tell each other about their ideas, then find common interests, put their toys together and start playing together.

The flexibility of the Clay’n’Play method allows you to benefit from any combination of a given theme and free creativity.

Should I teach specific sculpting techniques?

This is a delicate question. There are specific sculpting techniques that are easy to perform and give a good result that serves as the basis for further fantasy, sophistication and variety of work. Adults (parents, teachers) should master these techniques but give them to children only as needed.

It is very important to give children an opportunity to think for themselves and find a way to create what they want. It may take more time, the result may not look so smooth, but it will be their own discovery, the fruit of their own creativity and will.

If you teach children to accurately and "correctly" sculpt, say, a traditional Dymkovo horse, then they will remember the finished shape and, perhaps, the name, but their own attitude to the horse will remain unexpressed. Is the horse galloping or standing? Is it happy or sad? Is it friends with someone or is it walking alone? Kids might still talk about all of this or use it in the game, but it would be even better if they embodied these questions as they were creating the horse with their own hands, experiencing these emotions in their bodies and translating them into their work.

To do this, you need to show or even just mention only the most general principle of making a horse: four legs, a body, a curved neck and leave the child alone with the task. After a while, check on the progress, offer help, and leave again. Thus, the child learns to be independent, and as a result, we can get a unique original horse, characteristic for this particular child.

Learning the form easily draws you into training on templates, while too much independence may lead to idle self-indulgence. The skill of the teacher lies precisely in the constant balancing between one and the other: to help in time, to let go in time, then to help again, then to let go again.

Clay’n’Play and child aggression

Clay’n’Play helps to solve many of the problems associated with children's aggression.
Hyperactive children can safely dump their excess energy into the clay. You need to allow them to do destructive actions that, in fact, do not destroy anything important: take large pieces, break them, beat them with all their might. Usually, having muddied the clay without any malicious intent, children calm down and move on to more constructive actions.

It is better to let the child beat ten kilograms of clay than their mom or their friend. Better to fight with their friend's clay soldiers than with the friend himself. Better to destroy a clay monster than the mother's favorite vase. The more aggression comes out of a child in childhood, the more peaceful adult he or she will become.

Having defeated all their monsters, children usually begin to make more peaceful things, and their behavior in other activities also changes for the better.

Rules and restrictions

Of course, for any destructive actions of children, you need to set a strict framework. Restrictions, on one hand, allow to keep order in the lesson, on the other hand, they do not allow the children to go into rough play when they can no longer control their actions and begin to destroy everything in sight.

Usually these are just a few rules:
  • you may only break your own toys, but not what others made;
  • you may not spoil other children’s play;
  • you may not throw clay;
  • when playing war, you need to negotiate with other children what can and cannot be broken.

Fine and gross motor skills

Often, parents bring children to clay modeling classes to develop their fine motor skills, because precise finger movements help develop intelligence. The hands become more skillful, and smarter thoughts follow. Sculpting is a very natural, gentle and effective way of boosting the intellectual development of preschoolers.

Importantly, Clay’n’Play develops not only fine but also large motor skills. I give children large, heavy pieces of clay, encourage them to make large things and that requires them to stand up and move around the table. As a result, the whole child's body becomes active, they make a lot of large, complex movements, use a lot of physical strength. This helps to develop their will, the sense of rhythm and balance, self-confidence. Since, in small children, physical sensations and movements are directly related to the emotional sphere, Clay’n’Play also helps develop their emotional intellect.

What about plasticine or play-doh?

Yes, some of this reasoning can be applied to plasticine as well. You can create fairy tales and construction sites in plasticine or play-doh, not just clay. But clay is better. Why?

1. Clay is softer. Correctly prepared clay is softer than plasticine. The plasticine needs to be slightly warmed up to become pliable, while the clay is very soft from the very beginning.

2. There is a lot of clay. Very large things can be made from clay. You can put 100 kg of clay on the table and carve a whole cave city in it.

3. Clay is tactile. The plasticity and weight of clay encourages large, one-piece creations that help children feel the unity of shape, surface, and also get a better sense of their own bodies.

4. Clay is cleaner. It does not stick to nails, carpets and heaters. Clay is easily washed off with water, wiped with a damp cloth. Dry clay is easily swept away with a broom.

5. Clay is natural. It is a natural material that is completely safe even for those who want to taste everything.

Playing a fairy tale: general scheme

How to start playing with clay? First, let’s talk about following a certain plot, borrowed from a fairy tale or literature. This happens not so often, no more than at half of the classes. Basically, children want to make their own fantasies, so the playing usually turns to free topics. We’ll discuss this later, but now I'd like to start with the most "beautiful and understandable" playing – based on a well-known plot.

At the beginning of the class, I quickly run through the following sequence:
1. Formulate the topic in words.
2. Think of the images and what objects, qualities, actions, moods, sensations they are connected with.
3. Think which of these images have material expression, that is, which of them can be made from clay.
4. Describe my images to the children and ask them to choose what they want to make.
5. Start with the first most vivid central image. I consider whether it is understandable for children and if not, I find something simpler. I sculpt it quickly, roughly, conveying only the most general features.
6. Start to play! I put the first characters on the table, start playing with them and ask children to join.
7. After that, I immediately move on to the next image, then to the next and quickly create a meaningful situation, space, scene.
8. Find an image with repeating elements so that they can be done by many children. Continue to create and play.
9. When all the children are busy making characters for the next scene, I slow down my own activity, help them and talk about the story in general.
10. Throughout steps from 1 to 9, I listen carefully to the children. I pay attention to which of my actions they are most interested in, and also listen to their own ideas.
11. I play and develop individual episodes. I come up with my own versions of a fairy tale and encourage children to do so.
12. When the time for the class is coming to an end, I gradually reach the ending scene of the tale and then stop pushing the action forward. Children have about 10 minutes to play on their own and finish their activities before they go wash their hands.

Playing a fairy tale: example

Let's imagine an ideal process: children listen to fairy tales at home, they love them, know them well and play them with pleasure. In this case, playing fairy tales works perfectly. For example, let's apply this general scheme to the story of Cinderella. We used to play after the book, not the Disney cartoon, thus, my “ideal process” suggests that you’ve read your children the book, not just showed the film.

1. Topic: "Cinderella".
2. What is in the tale? Cinderella, stepmother and sisters. Pumpkin turning into carriage, mice into horses, etc. Prince, ball, castle, trying the slipper on.
3. What to make? Main characters may be made similar with slight characteristic details. The miracle of turning mice to horses is a very good theme to make in clay.
4. We name some characters for the children, ask them to name the rest, choose who will make what.
5. Children choose objects, begin to create them, I make sure that the characters are ready for the first scene as soon as possible.
6. Start! “Once upon a time, Cinderella lived with her stepmother and step sisters...”. I give the toys to the children and they can start playing with them.
7. Develop the plot. The sisters prepare for the ball, Cinderella helps them...
8. Multiple items. Remind the kids of mice and horses and start making them. Kids make mice, some kids and a teacher make horses. Mice can run around the house, eat some breadcrumbs and do other things before Cinderella brings them to her godmother.
9. While somebody is making the pumpkin and the godmother, we pause the story and make some more mice and horses. Then, by miracle, swap them at the right moment.
10. Listen to children. See if they are still interested, or whether their attention wandered elsewhere. Help them with whatever they are interested in. Ask for possible variations of the story.
11. Develop episodes and alternative versions. Children do not necessarily want to create and play the story in sequence from start to finish. If they know it, then it exists in their imagination as an overall "instantaneous" image, as something that happens continuously.
12. Therefore, it is perfectly okay if you decide to stay longer with any episode and play it in more detail. For example, girls may want to stay longer at the ball, making more ladies and gentlemen, dancing and feeding them. You can ask boys to build up the castle at this time. Playing other versions of the tale will enrich children’s idea of a fairy tale, help them better feel the characters, the logic of their actions. After all, folk tales have always existed in many variations, just like our lives – endless variations on several basic themes.

Fairy tales for modeling

What tales are good for Clay’n’Play? The stories with many different characters and items and a plot consisting of several different actions. It is better to play the plots where characters, events and concepts are materialized in the form of specific objects and heroes, and not just in the form of words and descriptions.

For smaller children, it is good if there are many easy to make objects: simple animals and birds, vegetables and fruit, furniture, houses, trees. For older children, long adventures are good, where the heroes travel to different places and meet with other characters of different shapes. There is practically nothing to sculpt in stories with just people and long conversations.

I will list some tales that are convenient for playing with. Of course, there are many more suitable stories; these are just examples of what to look for when choosing a tale for a lesson.

From 3 years

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
A very educational tale. It teaches children to count to three and distinguish between large, medium and small objects. An adult can make a girl and the three bears, and children will easily create the hut, furniture and dishes.

Winnie the Pooh
A simple and very lively tale where children can create both the characters and the surroundings. There are many meaningful “materialized” tasks – to climb a tree, get stuck in a hole, put a balloon in a pot – which can be very well implemented in clay.

Three Little Pigs
A fairy tale about the construction of houses of different designs. You can let the children choose which houses to build, although usually everyone wants to build a house from stones.

From 4.5 years

The Snow Queen
A long journey full of various characters and settings, starting with the rose bush all the way to the ice castle. Kids can make animals and people, houses and landscapes.

Wonderful transformation of pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses. Some kids could build the castle, while the others delve into the ball.

Little Mermaid
This fairy tale invites kids to sculpt the sea kingdom with all its real and magical characters, as well as the ships.

This story is about a journey and communication with various small animals and insects.

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp
For me, this tale is mostly about creating and moving castles and about a genie coming out of an oil lamp.

Playing without a plot

Often, we do not follow any particular plot in our sculpting. This usually happens if there are more boys in the class then girls. Boys tend to prefer direct action, war, castles, cars, buildings and roads. They are also more likely to do something on their own, instead of following a given scenario. Third, there are not enough fairy tales for each lesson.

In fact, more than half of the classes are conducted either with no plot at all, or using general topics that may be either close and familiar to children, or, to the contrary, exciting and exotic.

I will give an example of the theme, taken literally out of thin air that the children loved. One day in March it was very cold outside, and we were already longing for spring. So, I decided to make something in spite of the winter. North Pole! Winter! You want us to freeze, but we are not afraid, we will freeze you back!

1. The North Pole
2. Snow, ice, ice floes, ocean, cold, wind, polar bears, seals, fish, polar explorers, flag.
3. It is difficult to make the cold and wind (although it is possible). However, ice and ice floes are quite simple, especially since it is so convenient to start from a flat base. Making a bear is a serious task, but fish and seals are very simple: roll a sausage, flatten the fins on the sides and back and you're done. It is easy and very entertaining to make a whale - children love large-scale images. Polar explorers are just people, the flag is simply a stick with something on top.
4. The first thing that came to my mind was ice floes. Roll out with a rolling pin or flatten the pancakes with your palms. Children love this activity.
5. Ice floes are an interesting topic in itself, you can fill up the whole table with ice floes and only then move on. Snow from above – we just say that it snows, and there will be snow. The ice can be thick or thin, children may try to give it various thickness. Or you can give the child a ready-made ice floe to play with.
6. I put a stick with a flag in the middle – this is the Pole. Polar explorers had come and set it up. It makes no sense to explain the essence of the Pole to preschoolers in more detail. It is sufficient to say that polar explorers are people who travel to the Pole to measure the temperature. How do they get there?
7. There are dogs, deer, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles. In addition, an airplane and a helicopter may appear. People may arrive on ships and there you go, you can make an icebreaker to split the ice floes, and the children will enthusiastically cut the clay pancakes into pieces. In addition, polar bears, seals and fish begin to visit them, and a mysterious Whalefish mysteriously swims under the ice (under the table).
8. At the same time, children can be busy duplicating the things they have already made (roll out more ice floes, produce more fish and seals), finish simple elements for other figures (antlers for deer, caterpillar treads for a snowmobile, runners for sleds), or do something on their own.
9. We are not in a hurry to invent new characters or actions. We may stay on cutting ice for half a lesson if children like it.
10. You throw in ideas and see which of them interest the children. Girls may be more into bears with cubs, boys – into planes and ships.
11. Bears and cubs lead away into the topic of home and family. We make a den, put the cubs to bed, feed them fresh fish, visit our seal neighbors. Airplanes begin to fly and transport goods and people, they can even fly to the mainland, where you can make an airfield, a city and a train that takes polar explorers to vacation in the South, to Africa, for example, where there may be palm trees and monkeys.
12. Ten minutes before the end of the lesson I stop throwing in the ideas, sit on the chair and watch the kids play by themselves.

Themes for playing


House is an archetype, and its construction is a way of self-identification. House is a very simple thing to make, even very young children can do it. Anyone can flatten a few pancakes with their palms and place them next to each other.

On the other hand, older children can build some very complex houses. The older the children are, the more developed they are, the more complex and sophisticated structures they will build.

The simplest house is made of pancakes. Children flatten the pancakes with their palms and, with the help of their parents, fold the foundation, walls and roof from them. The pancakes may be of any size and shape, so the houses can be most unusual. The main thing is to stick the edges of the pancakes well to each other.

If you cut straight rectangles out of flat pancakes, then you can build a neat house with all the details.

The log cabin looks beautiful, and children usually enjoy making it. We roll the logs finger thick, put them in squares on top of each other, following the actual log house building process. We often build one common house. When children get bored with rolling the logs, the teacher may help them with this routine work. The log cabin is usually associated with fairy tales, the countryside and the American pioneers.

A house made of bricks makes children understand how a real house is built. If the bricks are sculpted individually from balls, this develops the fine motor skills. Or you can simply cut the bricks from thick slabs.

The city or a village is a good way to combine the work of several children if they all make houses. The city can be marked by streets going from one house to another (the street is made like a long narrow strip of clay, flattened with a palm or rolling pin), trees, traffic lights and other elements.

Landscape, roads, cars, ships

You can also start building a city from roads rather than houses. This theme develops spatial thinking, promotes common work and play, allows the boys to play their favorite game – to drive toy cars along these roads. We create an extensive network of roads with intersections and bridges, so that all children have their own streets connected to common highway.

Food, kitchen, guests, vegetable garden

Many kids, especially little girls, enjoy “cooking” all kinds of food or having tea parties. You can start with a story that involves something edible, for example, a hare picking apples and offering them to other animals. In return, the animals (a hedgehog, squirrels, etc.) bring him mushrooms, nuts and berries, and the feast may continue with other products. You can invite all kinds of animals, each of whom will bring something to the potluck.

To play vegetable garden, just smear a big slab of clay on the table, dig some holes in it and put “seeds” in them. Then “see” how the sprouts pop out, and grow them to carrots, cabbage, or pumpkins. Kids usually actively pick up the story and add more vegetables, berries and mushrooms.

Animals, zoo, magic forest, Africa, underwater kingdom

Children love toy animals not because they are interested in zoology, but because to them, animals express certain traits of human character. Man is a complex universal being, we have many desires and character traits which often come into conflict with one another, and are often simply incomprehensible to children. Children need simple characters in which individual personality traits, desires, and skills could be embodied. The wolf is evil, the fox is cunning, the hare is a coward. This makes it easier for children to master the intricacies of their own feelings and complicated human relationships.

A Zoo can be an independent topic or a good way to move from constructive modeling of a city to the sculpting of animals. It is enough to mark the gate to the zoo with an arch and separate the "aviaries" with clay ropes; all children will then be able to choose and make an animal or bird to their liking.

Children make what they want

The most creative class is when the children make what they want. In its pure form, this rarely happens because usually some of the children agree on the topic proposed by the teacher and follow it. However, in a partial version, this happens almost every time because some children always want to make something of their own invention.

I support this desire because, in the end, this is precisely what I see as the main goal of my lessons: children set themselves goals and reach them on their own. My role is to help them in this process.

Children often come with their own ideas, and usually they are quite varied. Someone wants to make a cat, someone a castle, and someone a monster that will kill everyone. I agree to everything, including the monster, and just ask to make the monster bigger and more terrible. I'll explain this below.

Often children do not plan to play, but just want to do something. But I know that in most cases, after the figure is complete, they start to think about what these creatures want and how they will live. So, early on, I start talking about the future possibilities and plans, and try to come up with some general topics that would be interesting to the different characters. I bring roads to houses, I suggest making burrows for hedgehogs, and cargoes and drivers for cars.

At the same time, I offer children help in sculpting, but I do not impose anything on them. As long as the children have their own plan of action, and are working to fulfill it, I do not bother them. I just carefully observe how the work is going. Even in case of problems and failures, I do not immediately rush to help. I give the children an opportunity to look for a solution for themselves.

Children often ask to help them with something or to make something for them. Sometimes I do it right away to set an example or to give a new direction. Sometimes I deliberately withhold my assistance, explaining that I first need to help other children. I give a hint and leave the child to try and solve their problem on their own.

Of course, if something obviously does not work out, I will always help to fix it or even make it from scratch. After all, this is still free play, not a sculpting lesson.

I ask to make bigger monsters because while the child is busy with a large character, he is already experiencing and channeling half of the feelings that he wanted to direct towards the destruction of others. So, the finished monsters are often not so belligerent. But if the child still wants to fight, then we play an honest war, with shooting and aggression. Thanks to this, we learn to negotiate what can and cannot be destroyed, we learn to set our boundaries and defend them, we learn to be decisive and courageous, we learn a lot things that children experience in good games.

However, in most lessons a completely peaceful play of travel, guests, trade and other fantasies comes out from all the individually built houses, elephants and airplanes.

Material exploration

Children like not only to make figures but also to play with the clay itself, especially if there is a lot of it or. In other words, they want to explore the material. This is not only very useful for the children (developing their tactile sensations, motor skills, thinking) but also very convenient for the teacher because the child stays busy for a long time. Therefore, when planning a class, it always makes sense to aim for work that involves any of the following:

  • break clay with your hands, tear off large pieces, carry and fold them. The child can be, for example, an excavator or a truck, a mole or an elephant;
  • cut clay with a knife or a clay modeling tool: for example, cut bread, sausages, bricks;
  • put the pieces together to build a mountain, a wall, a cave, a house;
  • dig holes in a large piece with fingers and hands: dig a cave for dwarfs or rabbits, dig a well, a tunnel, deepen an oven;
  • roll up balls and sausages and then turn them into apples, stones, wheels;
  • flatten the clay into slabs with palms or fists; build a road or a house, bake pancakes, draw flowers on them with a stick or something else;
  • smear clay on the surface, making a road, a river, sea, land.

Where can I get good clay?

We buy ready-to-use, soft, inexpensive clay in specialized stores for ceramists, where it is called moist clay, earthenware, stoneware, white or brown clay, or body. We choose an inexpensive clay of any color for hand sculpting. The clay should remain moist for a long time during sculpting and keep its shape well.

In Moscow we use the following clays:
  • light MKF-2 clay from Ukraine
  • light fireclay with fine (up to 0.5 mm) crumbs, for example, ShM-7P from Ukraine
  • brown PG-100 clay from Gzhel, Moscow region
  • light brown Sibelco Ubungston, from Germany

In the USA, Amaco Low Fire red or white clay is a good choice and can be purchased from or any low fire clay or earthenware from .

By searching the Internet, you can find the most convenient supplier of similar products.

How to keep the room clean and the clay soft?

Usually, people think that working with clay means dirty stains on the table and floor, hands stained to the elbows and large aprons. How can you avoid all this when playing with clay at home or in a studio?
1. We simply remove the water from the process – completely. We bring the clay to the desired dough-like consistency before the class and give the children just the clay and not a drop of water. In such a “doughy” state, good clay lasts for an hour or two, depending on the type of clay, the size of the creations and the humidity in the room.
2. We cover the entire table with a canvas or an oilcloth with cloth backing facing up. Ceramists often use dense canvas, because clay does not stick to it at all. It dries quickly and dry clay can be easily swept off. Clay also does not stick to the cloth side of oilcloth, which additionally protects the table from clay dust. In a pinch, you can cover the table with cardboard or kraft or butcher’s paper.
3. We store the clay in hermetically sealed 5-10 liter buckets with lids. They can be bought in home improvement stores like Home Depot, OBI or Leroy Merlin.
4. We put clay in buckets as 1-2 inch slabs rather than big lumps.
5. Between the slabs, we put wet synthetic rags soaked in water. The rags must be purely synthetic. Fleece works well for that purpose. Any natural fabric will quickly rot from dampness.
6. Wet the fleece rags with water, depending on how much the clay has dried during the class. By the next day, the clay will be sufficiently moist. You will not need to knead it for a long time, just make a few rolling movements to make it even.
7. You can check the level of moisture in clay as follows: roll a finger-thick sausage out of clay. Fold it in half. There should be no cracks at the fold. If there are cracks, then the clay is too dry. Try another method: take a full palm of clay and clench your hand into a fist. With some effort, you should be able to squeeze the clay out between the fingers. If the clay is too dry, do not wring out the wet rags at all when placing them in buckets.
8. The clay should not be too wet. It should not stick to your hands. When working with clay, hands should be “dirty”, but not covered with a layer of clay. If the clay is too wet, either let the slabs sit on the table, uncovered for about an hour, or place them in the buckets with dry rags.
9. After class, we sweep the crumbs that have fallen to the floor and, if necessary, wipe the floor with a damp cloth.
These simple rules will allow you to keep real natural clay in your home, studio or kindergarten with no dirt or mess.

History and origins

The Play’n’Clay method came from practical clay lessons with preschoolers.

Generally, children need to be 7-8 years or older to participate in ceramic classes. From this age, kids are usually interested in and are capable of making something particular, having it fired it and keeping it.

Once I got a group of preschoolers between 3 and 7 years old. Pretty quickly I realized that such small children were neither interested, nor capable of creating anything in any way finished. They started to mess around, play with clay figures and tried to escape from class.

Instead of fighting this, I decided to "lead" it. I reversed the purpose of the classes and began to invite children to play from the very beginning, creating the clay figures as needed. I focused primarily on free creativity, the materialization of children’s images and fantasies, and the study of the material.

My work is based on art therapy principles. Specifically, I use the trend in art therapy which can be called therapy with art, or art as therapy. It assumes that a process of making art provides a therapeutic effect if the teacher pays attention to psychological aspects of the work rather then the aesthetic. Free creativity itself launches the processes of self-learning and self-development. This is true for both children and adults, and in children this principle is best expressed in free play, especially if children make toys for this free play with their own hands.

I learned this approach from a Russian-Israeli art therapist and writer Elena Makarova. In her books "In the Beginning There Was Childhood" and "Free the Elephant", she described her work with children and the principles of art as therapy.

In the USA, the approach of art as therapy was introduced by Edith Kramer in her Art as Therapy With Children first published in 1971 and other books.

Good luck!

Clay’n’Play is a very simple method, almost anyone can use it. It is nearly impossible to "fail" in it. I think the reason is that it actually represents a modern urban reproduction of free playing and activities that children of all nations have been doing for centuries.

Playing with clay is the natural thing to do for children encountering such a bulky malleable material. Even if you just put a lump of clay on the table and let kids do whatever they want, this will already be useful and interesting. And if you read my book "Playing with clay", books by Elena Makarova and Edith Kramer, other materials on play therapy and art therapy, then your lessons with children will become even more rich and effective.

I made up the name Clay’n’Play based on a word play that reminds me of Plug-and-Play for the simplicity of start and use, and of Rock’n’Roll for the energy it gives. It means precisely that: “playing with clay” as in “playing with toys”.

Play and create with pleasure!

(c) Alexey Lelchuk
December 2021
phone/whatsapp +7 925 804 2435
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