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More than just clay

: There has been a great deal of research about the importance of art in child development. Working with clay provides invaluable experience, it helps in sensory development, motor skills, self esteem, and self expression, problem solving skills, discipline, and pride. Clay also has a uniquely therapeutic quality and calm children; it retains their attention for hours.

Children visually inspect the clay’s surface and color, they smell it and they laugh at the sounds it makes when it’s wet. For many, it’s perhaps the first time they’ve been encouraged to get wet and dirty in a classroom environment and there is an instinctive and uplifting response to the freedom they feel. Even when the finished product is ready to take home, the children hold and cradle their work, smoothing their fingers over the now colorfully glazed surface as they turn it around and around for inspection.

They begin to understand shape, form, and perspective, and therefore get a first lesson in geometry. The child learns to really look and see the world around them and discovers their place in that world. They gain knowledge of planning methods and problem solving as they map out their three dimensional project. Where should the door go on my square castle? How tall can I make the tree before it gets unsteady? Should my dog’s tail go out straight or curl up over his head? If my rabbit’s head is too big for its body will it fall over? We encourage the children to think on their own and help with the planning experience.

Clay also allows a child to learn to repair mistakes and therefore not be afraid to make them. Making mistakes is essential for self improvement but can be difficult and even an obstacle for some children. The forgiving quality of clay, and therefore the ability to readily fix mistakes, gives the child a sense of control over their project’s success which improves self esteem and self expression as they realize that mistakes aren’t going to stop their progress.

Author: Patty Storms

(excerpt from online article)

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