What is the best clay for kids?
Well that depends on what you want it for:
Do you want it to be soft, really easy to mold into shapes, and take a long time to dry? See A below!
Do you want it to be able to dry easily without an oven or kiln so that your child can decorate or paint it same day? See B below!
Do you want it to be able to be out for a long time without drying or getting hard? See C below!
Do you want it in a variety of colours so your child can create jewellery or colourful creative pieces? See C below!
A: Natural Air Dry Clay
This comes in several tones – white, grey, and terracotta (links to the 10 kg from Modern Teaching Aids. You can also purchase these in 1 kg packs, however at only around $20 for 10kg, I think that’s a brilliant deal!). If you’re in the US, you can purchase similar from here.
This clay is super soft, somewhat cold to the touch and wetter than the others, so takes longer to air dry (which is great for toddlers who walk off and gain interest again a bit later!). This can be re-worked and re-used – just keep it damp and airtight and you can use it again later.
It is made from real earth clay giving it it’s beautiful earthy tone. When water is added, it goes slippery and can even be ‘painted’ onto skin. This is a beautiful sensory experience but messy! Once dry, it can be painted and decorated.
You can see us using this clay in these posts (click through to read more – opens in another tab):
B: Air Hardening Clay
This clay dries quickly easily without an oven or kiln so that your child can decorate or paint it same day.
This is harder to mold and keeps its shape better than the clay above. It comes only in white, which is great for versatility. We got the large pack (for our homeschool co-op clay party!) but it can be bought individually.
The air hardening clay dries fast and is perfect for impatient little one’s wanting to play with or decorate their pieces. The clay dries to an almost ceramic hard surface with minimal shrinkage. Alongside painting and decorating, this material can be painted, drilled, or sanded after drying.
We purchased clay tools in bulk.
It would be great for making fossils like this:
The kids were given clay each at our home education co-op event and given free creative reign to make or do whatever they want. It was incredible to see how differently each child approached the clay. From toddlers pushing, pinching and stabbing to older school age kids making elaborate figures and homes for their creations. Everyone took home their creations and some extra clay for working with at home.
C: Oven Bake Clay
This oven bake clay comes in an array of colours and can be baked in an oven to be hard and durable. The particular type we have is harder to mold but keeps it’s colour and doesn’t lose size when baked. If you’re in the US, you can purchase similar from here.
I don’t have any recent pictures of our explorations with this material but I some great ideas include:
Making beads that double as a necklace and play set! I love this idea from My Little Bookcase!
Making personalised letter beads for jewellery for friends like here from How We Montessori.
Your child can make models of their favourite animals with googly eyes! (also How We Montessori)
Which type of clay appeals to you? We love A most but both B and C appeal for different times and reasons too