Clay can be a little intimidating, especially with a toddler! Many people haven’t experienced clay as an art medium, and air dry clay is a great place to start. You will need to get your hands dirty, but it’s the perfect art project to bond over. By breaking down the steps, creating this pinch pot is actually super easy!
Little known fact about me: I was actually supposed to go to Colorado State University Fort Collins for sculpture. Life instead lead me down a different road and I happily ended up at UCLA studying Art History and Art Education. Sculpture has still made appearances in my life, I interned at a ceramic museum and have taught clay projects during museum tours at my jobs. Throughout my journey I have learned different techniques and tricks to working with littles and clay, and was able to successfully apply them to this pinch pot.
- Air dry clay
- A thick marker
- Small bowl of water
- Sealant- I used modge podge
- Optional- paint and stamps
Using Air Dry Clay
Air dry clay is such an amazing material! You don’t need a kiln or oven to harden it, and adding water makes it pliable again. You don’t need clay tools to create with it: string, play-doh toys, rolling pins, and gift cards can be used to shape and smooth. To cut the clay block, all you need is a piece of strong string to pull through and make a clean cut. It is important to note that air dry clay will turn soft with water, so if you want to use it for a planter you need to seal it!
Whenever I introduce a new art supply I always let Aaliyah experiment and have free time with it. For us this helps get out her excitement and helps for listening to the steps when we start on a project. Before making these pinch pots I let her roll the clay out, make balls, and of course squish it between her fingers. You can show your little artist how putting the clay between your hands and moving them in a circle makes a ball, versus moving them up and down to make a snake.
Remember this is a hands-on collaborative project so make sure you are comfortable with the clay too! Squishing clay balls is a stress reliever so have fun with it!
Forming the Pinch Pot
When you both feel ready to start on the pinch pot, cut a piece of clay the size of your little ones hand. Work together to roll the clay into a ball, we kept singing “round and round and round” to keep our hands moving in a circle. If your clay is tough or starts to crack you can dip your fingers in the water to wet it.
Once you have your clay ball ready take your thick marker, we used a dry erase marker, and have your toddler push it into the center of the ball. If your little one is older they can use their thumb instead, Aaliyah’s was just too small and hard to press through the clay! You don’t need to push too deep, try to get them to stop about halfway through the ball.
Now introduce what I call the clay monster. Hold your hand like you have a sock puppet, and show your little one how to open and close their “mouth.” The clay monster is hungry and needs to bite the sides of the pinch pot. Have them place their thumb inside the hole you made with your marker, and “bite” the clay with their hand. This is an easy way to pinch down the clay to create the walls of your pinch pot. Have them work their hand around your pinch pot until the walls are roughly 1/4 inch thick.
Once the pinch pot is formed she used this butterfly stamp to decorate the sides. I didn’t have her smooth out the walls because I wanted her to work as independently as possible, but older kids can use gift cards and water to smooth down the sides.
Painting the Pinch Pot
Leave the pinch pot to dry for a few days. You want it to be completely dried before you seal it, so once the clay turns white leave it for at least another day. I let ours sit for four days.
To paint I used regular acrylic paint you can find at the craft store. I let her choose the colors and set the pinch pot on one of her play cups so that she could easily paint the sides of the pot.
After she had painted the entire pinch pot, I gave her glitter paint because it has become her new obsession. The pot did have different colors but once she got the glitter everything turned a sparkly purple which still looks beautiful! Doesn’t it look so cute on her bookshelf?
Have you ever worked with clay before? Do you have any tricks to share?