Children enjoy working with clay for several reasons…
When your child begins working with a lump of clay, it may appear that they are merely playing; however, what comes from this play can be very beneficial for children.
Clay, like water and sand, has a natural appeal. Children enjoy working with these basic mediums because there is no separation between them and their work. Having direct contact with the clay allows for a completely different experience. This provides a good break from using markers, crayons, paint brushes, or other tools. A line with a crayon is unchangeable, however a long coil of clay can become a snake, then a bowl, then a snowman. The possibilities are endless
and children enjoy this freedom to transform their creations.
Working with the clay becomes a whole body experience and encourages both large and fine motor development. Children pound, pinch, roll, flatten, poke, tear, squeeze, coil, stretch, squash, twist, and bend their clay into all sorts of shapes and sizes. When children stand to do these tasks, they engage their whole bodies. Working with clay, children learn the subtle ways to manipulate clay to create what they want.
Working with clay is also a multi-sensory activity. Clay can feel slimy and wet or it can be hard and dry. Different clays have different smells and colors. Children hear two unique sounds when they squeeze wet clay though their fingers and when they pound the clay onto the table. As children learn to pick up on all of these subtleties they are strengthening their sensory skills.
There is also evidence showing the therapeutic effects of working with clay.
Like many other art forms, clay provides a means for children to express their thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way. While it may not be okay to punch
a friend when a child is upset, it is okay to pound the clay into whatever he or she would like. “Since children live in a three-dimensional world, it may be easier for them to use clay to represent their world” (Schirrmacher 261). They are able to create clay families and friends who can interact. This kind of creation and play helps children work through their emotions and feelings.