Clay Munchkins Comes to CMP!

Preschool clay art projects What inspired you to teach clay?

I consider myself a serious artist across a wide range of media–one of which is clay. Teaching clay has been both personally satisfying and inspiring. Inspired? More “inspired” by the engagement of kids in a creative art form, and helping kids build confidence by making a creative figure out of a lump of mud. From a kid’s point of view, that lump of mud is a mystery at first; then it becomes something to shape on their own with adult guidance. It becomes a work of art that makes them proud–including the important people in that child’s life.

How did you come up with the idea to create a mobile clay studio?

My mom developed the idea about 40 years ago and passed the business on to me over the last 8 years. It used to be called Clay for Kids and was taught in a number of schools in the greater San Diego area.

What is one memory while teaching that you will never forget?

I remember one of my elementary students had behavioral problems in class and was constantly getting in trouble. I was warned about how disruptive the child would be in class. When he arrived, I anticipated behavior issues and addressed those early on in class. The preemptive action worked pretty well, but the most surprising thing was his response to my praise and his clay objects. After each class he showed pride in is work. With the final glaze firing, he (and his mom) were especially proud—all this from a “distressed” child who was on his way to being expelled from school.

Why is playing with clay important to a child’s development?

Let’s distinguish between “playing” with clay and “creating” with clay. Kids need to “play” with clay because it engages the tactile sense—“smell” too, but not as much. Kids use tactile a lot—cleaning their bodies, using their hands to get their way—but playing with clay brings a lot more focus on manipulating and having success in making something. “Creating” with clay is a little different but a lot more significant. Bottom line: Creating a thing of beauty out of a shapeless lump is akin to divine action. Kids may not be able to explain it, but that creative act is a part of being a vital, thinking, creative human being.

Do you feel that exploring clay is therapeutic to children?

Yes. It’s well known that the use of clay in physical and mental therapy is, or should, be a part of a regimen in most intensive therapies. It often acts as a soothing balm to both physical (mild impact on muscles) and mental therapy (creating something out of nothing, playing out a symbolic role).

If a child has special needs, how do you find clay to help improve behavior
and learning skills?

If their “needs” prevent them from accomplishing tasks, then they might begin finding success in this when completing clay projects.

Does clay improve fine motor skills or sensory development?

Yes. The smaller and more refined the object’s details are, the more likely fine motor skills are addressed.

In your opinion, what are the top 5 reasons for children to play/create
with clay?

1. Shaping something out of nothing gives kids a sense of accomplishment and imagination, as it benefits the emotional, creative, intellectual, and physical development of young children.

2. Creating and shaping on their own allows kids to experience a higher level of body awareness and self-control.

3. Social kids benefit as they interact with others in the class. They oftentimes push their creative learning from others and further their creative possibilities.

4. Completed projects bring praise from teachers, caregivers, and parents, which builds self-esteem.

5. Appeal to a wide range of learning styles—from the successful rule followers to the kids who are whimsical and free-flowing.

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