Children, and Clay

IMG_1636A group of playing, oreo eating kids ran around after school getting ready for their clay workshop … still mumbles and fidgets while the plan of action is revealed … Clay in hand, and then, silence.  You can hear the birds!  This was my experience the other day in Jasper GA as I brought art to more kids under a huge oak tree in front of an art studio.  Twenty kids, all ages and they found one common interest, where there is no judgement and all things are possible. The beginning of a creation. This is my experience often, and it reminds me to share how remarkable clay can transform even the toughest crowd.

Ceramics allow children to explore clay as a material. Children of all ages enjoy squishing, pinching, rolling, poking, stretching, pounding clay. Some children find this particularly soothing and it can be useful for releasing tension or frustration. In addition, ceramics gets children in touch with nature, feeling the earth, understanding where clay comes from and contributing to environmental awareness. Ceramics also allows children the opportunity to explore early chemistry and physics – how clay changes when it is fired, how glass beads melt in the kiln, how glazes change color and mix to form new colors.

Children’s imaginations are stimulated through the use of clay as they stretch their minds to develop new ideas for things to make and new ways in which to use the clay and tools. This naturally leads into problem solving as children are challenged to overcome the limitations of their materials. how can I fix this lid so it fits my box? Through these processes they constantly think through mathematical and spatial problems: how high can I make this tower?  how heavy should the base be? Why doesn’t this balance? How can this piece fit inside another? How long does this coil need to be? How thick should I make my slab?

One important aspect of Clay, which is often overlooked, is the way it enables children to produce pieces that last through the years. Playdough is rolled up and packed away when playtime is over but with clay children can create pieces that are kept forever. This permanency of creation fosters a child’s self-esteem and when functional pieces are produced (ex. cups, bowls) children see themselves as capable of engaging in a truly purposeful activity. See the pride on their faces as parents drink coffee from the mug they have made and decorated.


Play therapists communicate with children through the medium of toys; blocks, dolls, puppets, paints, vehicles and, of course, modeling clay. Children are naturally attracted to clay. Most have grown up with modeling clay at home and school. Children like clay. If children don’t have clay they will play with pie dough, mud, pudding, ice cream or mashed potatoes. Counselors use clay because it helps children explore and express fundamental emotions.

  • Improving Problem Solving Skills

  • Improving Decision Making Abilities

  • Developing Impulse Control

  • Discovering and Enhancing Self Esteem

  • Developing and Utilizing Patience

  • Resolving Dilemmas of Family Life and Growing Up

And for you parents, don’t feel left out, Clay is for you too. As I sat with my homeschool student creating on his patio in the woods, his dad joined in.  As I sat working, I’d look over, and dad was off in his own world.  He was totally into it, almost couldn’t get him to stop!  I love that!  Grab a couple of friends and plan a night of creating and see how lost you can get.  Laugh, play with some Mudpies.

More Than Mudpies … Instructor and Kid’s ART Advocate!  Lynn Marie Dwyer

I have been a professional artist for more than twenty years. I have been working with children and clay for 14 years now, and I LOVE it. They are inspiring. And with the budget cuts into the arts, I continue to strive to bring it in other ways … To find out more about me, my work, my studio and our traveling team of teachers, bringing art to your doorstep, More Than Mudpies … please visit my personal website





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