Clay – real clay – is one of the most versatile, exciting, tactile and expressive materials. It has an elemental quality that children find fascinating and absorbing. It can be shaped into a million things and can therefore be used to express so much and to explore endless ideas.
I use clay a lot with groups of all ages, both inside and outside and on a small and large scale. Sometimes we fire it, but most often we don't. We use it - and then its either allowed to crumble back into the soil or we re-constitute it and use it again (endlessly).
I used clay a lot on my fine art degree and adore the multitude of things you can do with it. It absorbs energy and imaginations. It's calming, soothing, appealing and invites you to explore it in so many ways. It’s a material that speaks to you with so many voices.
Children tend to be deep in thought when they use clay and I’ve watched and listened to so many children using clay over the years – language flows and words spill out as children become so eager to describe what they are discovering. High energy children find a place to ‘land’ with clay and they are absorbed by it. Clay can turn into anything in imaginative play and is wonderful as children explore ideas about their world.
It has so many states of being – it’s wet, sticky, dry, crumbly… it squelches, it cracks, it rolls, it flops… it takes imprints, it can be really heavy, it can be tiny specks of dust… you can paint with it, draw in it, build huge towers with it, stick other things into it…
“The most effective resources for the development and use of imagination and expression are open-ended and versatile, so that they can be used by the child to represent whatever he or she wants.”
“Playing and Learning Outdoors” by Jan White.