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You may have one of those crafty, artistic children who likes to make things all the time. Or perhaps you have a long school vacation stretching out in front of you. Either way, if you have been wondering what can kids do with clay, you are in the right place. Here are some great ideas clay ideas for kids to keep little fingers busy.
Kids can make a range of amazing things with clay. Depending on age and ability, children can make anything from pinch pots to portrait sculptures. Some clay ideas for kids are very simple, involving just clay and imagination. Other clay projects involve equipment like a potter’s wheel or a kiln.
There are lots of things that kids can make with clay. Their ability to follow suggestions and learn new skills will depend upon their age. However, what is most important is that they are having fun.
What your child makes may look like a hot mess to you. But clay is great for helping children’s development1.
It’s a good idea to remember that when you are young, making a mess is an important part of learning. And, mess is fun! After all, clay is basically just mud, so be prepared to get muddy.
Adapt your expectations according to how old your child is, and focus on letting them have fun. So, without further ado, here are some clay ideas for children…
What Can Kids Make With Clay? Fun Clay Ideas
Don’t have time to read through all these clay ideas for children? Simply click on the relevant link below to take you to a particular clay project for kids:
- Clay Gingerbread Men
- Pinch Pots for Kids
- Clay Letters and Numbers
- Bedroom Door Name Plate
- Coil Pots for Kids
- Clay Snail
- A Potter’s Wheel for Kids
- Hand and Foot Prints In Clay
- Clay Necklace Beads
- Clay Christmas Tree Decorations
- Greeting Card Made from Clay
- A Clay Wall Tile
- Clay Animal figurines
- Favorite Cartoon Character in Clay
- Fridge Magnets
- Garden Sculpture for Kids
- Plant Pot Painting
- Making a Clay Face / Portrait
With most of these ideas, you can either use air-dry clay or pottery clay that can be fired.
There are different kinds of air-dry clay. Some air-dry clay looks like regular pottery clay and simply hardens when left out in the air. Other non-pottery clay is called polymer clay, and can be baked hard in a domestic oven. Really, it’s up to you and your child which you prefer.
TOP TIPS – Before You Start
- Clay is sticky when it is wet. If you roll or flatten clay onto your kitchen worktop, it will stick to your work counter. This won’t damage your work surface, but it will be hard to pick up your kid’s pottery without squashing it.
It is best to get your kid to work directly onto a board or tray. That way you can easily lift it out of the way once they are finished. When the clay has dried it will come away from the tray easily. The tray will clean up easily with soap and water.
- If you are using poster paint to decorate your clay, you can seal the paint once it has dried. This won’t make your pottery waterproof but it will make the paint a bit tougher. You can seal with a clear varnish or a craft sealant.
- This post is shared for informational purposes only. I am not a health and safety professional. Small objects like beads and lumps of clay can be a choking hazard for young children. If you have concerns about how to manage safety around small objects, please consult a child care professional.
Depending on the clay idea for kids that you choose, here are some things that you might need.
Things You Might Need
- Paints and sealants
- Clay, polymer, air dry, or pottery/ceramic clay
- Jewelry string/elastic
- Needle tool
- Clay cutters suitable for kids
- Cookie cutters
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 1
Cookie Cutter Gingerbread Men
Children love this one because most children love gingerbread men. It’s one of the best ways of introducing young children to clay because you’re using a template they already know.
The easiest way to make a gingerbread man from clay is to roll out your clay with a roller. Don’t roll it too thin, as you will struggle to get it out of the cutter. A good thickness is about 1/3 of an inch.
Using a gingerbread man cookie cutter, press down on the clay, as you would biscuit mix. Depending on the clay you’re using, you may need to press down quite firmly on the clay with the cutter. So, if your child is very young, you may need to help.
Once the cutter is touching the surface of the table, give the cutter a wiggle. This will loosen off the excess clay, which you can then peel away easily.
Carefully press the gingerbread man from the cookie cutter. Don’t worry if his hands go a bit wonky when he comes out. You can reshape these easily once he’s on the table.
If you are using air-dry clay, it’s best to leave these for 2 or 3 days to dry out. Some people paint clay when it’s wet and let the clay dry out with the clay. But I think it’s best to leave it to dry first if you can. Clay tends to shrink when it’s drying, so ideally it should have shrunk before you paint.
Also, it’s likely to be darker when wet. So, you’ll get a better idea of the paint color when the clay is dry.
Once dry, you can paint the gingerbread man in any way you want. Water-based tempera paint is fine, as is acrylic paint.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 2
Pinch pots are a really fun idea for what kids can make with clay. They are great because making a ‘real clay pot’ can boost a child’s confidence no end. With a little help from an adult, a pinch pot can be made at any age.
Pinch pots are simple to make, and you don’t need a potter’s wheel. Here is how it is done:
Take a lump of clay big enough to sit comfortably in the palm of your kid’s hand. Roll the clay into a ball. You can roll it against the table or palm to palm. Once it’s in a smooth ball, press your thumb slowly but firmly into the middle of the clay. Press until you can just begin to feel the thumb with the palm of your opposite hand.
Then you can open up the walls of the pot. Do this is by gently pinching the pot with the side of your thumb and forefinger. This pinching motion is a bit challenging for little hands, but it is great for developing coordination and muscle strength.
Once the pot has been shaped, you can tap the rim and base gently on the table. This will create a flat bottom for the pot to sit on. And will even out the rim to create a neat finish.
One option for decorating the pot is to melt some marbles in it. This is possible if you are using pottery clay and the pot is going to be fired in a kiln. To find out more about melting marbles in clay pots, check out my article here.
However, if you are using air-dry clay, when the clay has dried the pinch pot is ready to be painted with whatever designs appeal! Here is a short video on how to make a pinch pot with a young child.
For a full step by step video check out my YouTube channel here.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 3
Clay Letters and Numbers
Clay letters and numbers are great if your kid is just learning literacy and numeracy. They really have to think about the shapes of letters and numbers. And you can make balls of clay to help them understand what the numbers really mean.
There are a number of ways you can do this. Either you can start by rolling out a slab of clay with a rolling pin. Roll it about ½ thick, so that when they are dry you can prop them up if you want.
Depending on the age of your child, you can mark out on the clay where they need to cut. A good idea is to draw a series of dots on the clay for them to follow. This is good for their motor skills. Then your child can use a safe kid’s ‘knife’ to cut out the shapes of the letters.
Once the letters are dried your child can, of course, paint them any color they like. This is such a versatile activity for kids to do with clay. Some of the things that you can do with the letters or numbers after they are finished are:
- Practicing math. You can also cut out some mathematical signs, like the addition and multiplication sign. Children will be more engaged with math if they have made the numbers!
- Learning how to spell. If you have the time or patience to make the whole alphabet, your kid can practice spelling. Or, if you plan ahead, your kid can make letters for a few choice words, and practice with those.
- A nice idea is for your child to make the letter for their own name.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 4
Bedroom Door Name Plate
One variation of the letters and numbers idea is to help your kid make a door plaque. As you probably know, children can be quite territorial. They love to have a nameplate on their bedroom door, particularly if they have made it themselves!
You can make a nameplate by rolling out a slab of clay. If your child can cut the slab into a shape that they like. This can be whatever appeals to them – a car, a flower, a dog. Or, if they are very young, you can simply help them cut out a rectangle.
They can either wait for the clay slab to dry and paint their name onto the clay. Alternatively, you can help them cut out the letters of their name in clay and stick these to the slab. It’s possible to buy cookie-cutter letters, which makes the process easier for younger children.
You can blend the letters onto the slab when the clay is still wet. Or you can wait until the clay is dry and glue the letters onto the plaque. It’s easier to get a good fit between the plaque and letters if you stick them together when wet. However, this is a bit fiddly, so gluing the dry clay may work better for younger children.
Once the letters are dry and in place, the letters and plaque can be painted. Painting the letters in a bright color will make the name pop. Kids love this pottery project.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 5
Coil Pots for Kids
Coil pots are one of the oldest ways of making pottery. There is a long tradition of making coil pots in pottery that your kid can easily join!
The easiest way to make a coil pot is to start by making a flat base. You can do this by rolling a small ball of clay and then flattening it out. It can be flattened with a roller or by squashing it with the palm of your hand.
Once you have your base, then roll out some thin sausage-like coils with the palm of your hand. It’s best to make these about the thickness of your pinky finger. This size is easy to pick up and work with, but fine enough to make a nice pot shape.
Wet the edge of the clay base with a bit of water on your finger. Also, wet the edge of the coil a little. Then gently but firmly press the coil down onto the edge of the base. You can repeat this process for a number of coils.
Often potters will blend the clay on the inside of the pot together to make the coils stick together more. You can see a video on how to do this here. If your child is a bit older and has the dexterity, you can help them to do this.
But if they are a little young, just wiggle the coils a little on top of each other. This should help them stick together enough to paint them once they are dry.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 6
Whilst we are on the subject of clay coils, it seems like a good time to talk about clay snails. This is a really cute clay project for kids. And it can be adapted to suit the child’s age and ability.
First, start off by rolling a coil of clay. A tip when you are making coils is to twist the clay a little before you roll it on the table. Clay has a habit of flattening out as you roll it. If you twist the ends, so it’s like a pastry twist, it stops the clay roll from flattening out.
Once you have made your clay coil, roll it into a snail shell shape. Next, make a little sausage shape for the body and head. If your child is older, you can teach them to make the head a little wider than the tail.
Join the coil shell to the sausage body. Clay can come apart if it is simply pressed together. You can make sure you have a good join is to score the surface of the clay with a fork. Then dab a bit of water on the scored surface before you press the two surfaces together. You will probably need to help your child a bit with this.
Wait for the clay to dry and then paint your snail. It’s nice to capture the facial features of the snail.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 7
A Potter’s Wheel for Kids
I’m hesitant to say that ‘all kids love a potter’s wheel’, but I have never met one that does not! What is not to like. A potter’s wheel involves spinning, clay and excitement. It’s difficult to imagine why a child would not like pottery on a wheel.
It is a strange thing, but they also seem to have a good instinct for what they need to do. The first time my daughter had a go on the wheel, she simply sat down and got on with it. She was 3!
You can buy pottery wheels that are specially made for children.
These are a fun, economical option. And they don’t take up a lot of space in your home.
Many of them, like this one, comes with some clay as well. So you are good to go as soon as it arrives.
However, there are adult versions of wheels that are good for children too. Quite a few potter’s wheels are made to sit on a tabletop. So, with the right chair, they can be a good size for kids. Other adult wheels have very short legs and are a perfect height for children.
My wheel has short legs, so I have to put it on risers, to be the right height for me. Never the less if my toddler sits on an inverted bucket, she has no trouble getting busy on my wheel.
This is the potter’s wheel that I use. It is quite compact, so it’s a good option if you don’t have a lot of space. My 3 year old uses this wheel quite happily. Even so, it works well and is pretty strong for its size.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 8
Hand and Foot Prints In Clay
Making hand and footprints in clay is fun for your kid and a nice memento for you too.
To make hand and footprints, roll out a slab of clay. Make sure that your clay is quite soft, otherwise, you won’t get a good impression. You can soften air dry clay easily by adding a little water and rolling the water in with your hands.
Try to make the surface of the clay as smooth as you can. The easiest way to do this is by gently dragging the edge of a credit card over the surface.
Once you have a nice smooth surface, ask your kid to put their foot or hand onto the clay. They will need to press down quite firmly to get a good impression. You can do this activity with younger children too. However, you will need to hold their foot or hand against the clay and gently press it into the clay.
After you have made the impression, make sure to wash their hands and feet. Most air-dry clay is non-toxic, but it’s best to get rid of any residue on their skin. If only to protect your carpets!
A nice touch is to scratch the date the impression was made into the clay surface too.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 9
To make clay necklace or bracelet beads, divide a ball of clay into small portions of clay. Something about the size of a grape is a good quantity. Roll, squash, or pat the small balls of clay into whatever shape you like.
When the clay is still soft, take a knitting needle or cocktail stick and poke a hole through the bead. If you are using something narrow to poke, you may need to wiggle it around a bit. This will widen the hole and allow you to pass string through when the clay has dried.
Once dried, you can paint and decorate the beads as you like. Remember to seal your paint with varnish or a craft sealant when it is dried. This will prevent it from coming off on clothes or skin if you wear the beads.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 10
Christmas Tree Decorations
Whatever the time of year, it’s always nice to make Christmas tree decorations. Children don’t seem to mind if doing this is months out of season. I’ve found that as long as a kid has their hands on glitter, they don’t care what month it is.
You can make Christmas tree decorations out of any of the traditional festive shapes. Simple shapes that work well are stars, bells, and angels. You can make these freehand, or use a cookie-cutter.
We used an angel cookie cutter here. Once the clay was dry, we painted in poster paint and sprinkled glitter directly on the wet paint. You can add whatever glittery sparkling decorations you have in your craft box.
Remember to poke a little hole in the top part of the clay when it is wet. This will allow you to hang it from the tree when the time comes.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 11
A Clay Greeting Card
The thing about greeting cards is that they normally get thrown away or recycled after a few days. This is such a waste. It’s not great for the environment and the sentiment behind the card is lost too.
One solution to this is to make a clay greeting card, like this….
Simply roll out a slab of clay, around ¼ inch thick. Using a ruler and a craft knife or needle tool, cut out two square shapes of equal size. Using a fork or the knife, gently score one side of a square. Add some water to the scored side, to make it a little mushy.
Then score the thin strip of surface that the edge is going to join with. Add a little water to that section too. This process creates a gluey substance called slip, which is good for joining clay. When the surface of the two sections you are going to join are both gluey, you can press them together. Do this gently but firmly and wipe off any wet clay that squeezes out from between the two surfaces.
Tidy up the edges of the card gently with your finger. Then set the card aside carefully to dry. Once it is dry you can paint and decorate it as you like. And you can write a message on the card that will keep treasured rather than trashed!
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 12
Make A Wall Tile
You may or may not want to incorporate your child’s clay tile into your home décor. But either way, a clay tile is a very simple way to keep a kid occupied with clay.
Simply roll out a slab of clay, and cut out a square shape with a craft cutter or needle tool. Allow the clay to dry and then let your child paint whatever design they choose on the tile. Honestly, this is one of my daughter’s favorite things to do. Sometimes the simplest things are the most entertaining for them.
And they do make a lovely keepsake. I have even framed a couple of her tiles and have hung them in the hallway.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 13
Clay Animal Figurines
Your child can make animal figurines out of potter’s clay, air dry clay, or polymer clay. Each material has a different look and finish.
Polymer clay is already brightly colored, so it won’t need painting afterward. All you need to do is bake it in the oven after your kid has finished their modeling.
The good thing about polymer is that it is very tough. It can survive being dropped and bashed around by enthusiastic little hands.
Here are a few little figures that I made out of polymer clay when I was 12 for my dad. I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was! Amazingly, they have survived over the years. And actually, it’s really nice for me to have them now to remember my dad by.
Alternatively, if your kid prefers to get squish fingers with clay, you can also make animal figurines out of clay. Air-dry clay or potters clay that can be fired is fine for these little pieces.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 14
Make Your Favorite Cartoon Character
A nice variation on the subject of modeling animals is for your child to make their favorite cartoon character. This is probably one for children that are a bit older. If your kid is very crafty, then they may manage when they are in primary school. However, I’d say that this is probably one for children that are 10 years or over.
Capturing a likeness is a bit of a skill. Having said that, young children are passionate about their TV heroes. So even if their model looks nothing like their favorite character, it really doesn’t matter.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 15
Fridge magnets are cute and when crafted by your child they can make nice gifts for relatives. They can either be simple figurines or objects, or you can make letters and numbers to go on the fridge.
There is normally quite a bit of traffic in and out of a fridge. So, I’d recommend either using polymer clay which goes rock hard in the oven. Or if you have access to a kiln, you could use pottery clay that goes hard when it’s fired.
If you only have access to air dry clay, that’s fine. Just use a decent magnet and stick it high up on the fridge out of reach of little fingers. You can buy small self-adhesive magnets that are perfect for the job.
Remember to keep the clay object relatively small or the adhesive won’t be sufficient. And the magnet won’t be strong enough to support it. Small light clay objects work best for this project.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 16
Garden Sculpture for Kids
This fun clay project for kids is great fun. They can either go down the traditional garden gnome route or make any kind of object they like. Wildlife is a really lovely subject, some ideas are birds, hedgehogs or rabbits. They will nestle nicely in the garden all year round.
Although your kid can make a garden sculpture out of air-dry clay, it is unlikely to survive a winter. Air-dry clay can be sealed and made water-resistant but not waterproof. Really your best bet is to use pottery clay that can go in the kiln. Once it is fired, it will survive most weather. After all, terracotta plant pots are simply fired clay.
If you are struggling to find a firing service near you, check out this article for some ideas. There is usually a potter or ceramics supplier nearby who can help you out. All you need to do is take your pottery along to their studio and they will fire it for you.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 17
Plant Pot Painting
Some kids, young toddlers, in particular, get a bit grossed out by sticky hands. You may have a little one who does not want to put their hands in messy clay.
If that’s the case, then a fun option is to paint a ready-made plant pot. You can buy plant pots that are specially made for crafting purposes. Or you can simply get a few from a local garden supplier.
Acrylic paints are water-resistant when they dry. So, they are a good option if you are planning to use the plant pot once it is finished.
If you are putting the pot outdoors, then it might be an idea to seal the paint to preserve it. You can preserve acrylic paint with clear varnish or craft paint sealant.
What Can Kids Make with Clay – Idea 18
Making a Clay Face / Portrait
My background is as a portrait sculptor, so I will admit to having a bias in favor of this project.
Nevertheless making a clay face has got to be one of the most fun clay projects for children. Here are some reasons this is such a great exercise for kids:
- Entertainment: they normally find the faces hilarious.
- Focus: noticing facial features and replicating them requires attention to detail.
- Facial expressions: it’s a good way of helping your child recognize facial expressions.
Your kid can either do a self-portrait or a portrait of someone else. When they are younger, simply getting the eyes, nose, and mouth in the right order is a great achievement.
As they get a little older, it’s amazing to see how much of someone’s character they can capture. Just don’t expect to be flattered!
These are just a few great clay ideas for kids. If you are wondering what can kids make with clay, the answer is that the sky’s the limit. How adept children are at modeling clay will depend on their age. Regardless of skill, clay can be incredible fun. My main tip would be to let go of expectations of what your kid should be making. The main focus should be on having fun.