Modeling clay is an excellent crafting material that teaches children about how to visualize shapes in three dimensions. It's inexpensive, suitable for all ages, readily available, and the finished product can be put on a shelf for display.
Choosing the right materials
Play-Doh has been a standby compound since the 1950s, and can be worked with by children as young as two years old. It's versatile, non-toxic, and easy to work with. Older children may prefer the challenge of oven-baked clays such as Sculpey, which can be baked by an adult for a quality, durable finish. Clay can be worked with the hands, but you can also provide tools like toothpicks, safety knives, or other implements to use for fine details.
Choosing the right subject
Animals are a perfect subject for kids to start off with, as they are easily recognizable. Cylindrical or round shapes are among the easiest to model with clay, so you can start off with creatures such as caterpillars, turtles, snakes, or birds to help develop your child's confidence in the medium, as they will be the easiest for them to model accurately. However, any animal can be stylized into a round, friendly shape while still maintaining its recognizability.
Animal body parts can be broken down into shapes, which is a great way to help your child translate them into a clay form. Bodies can be broken down into simple spheres and ovals. Eyes are always circles or ovals, while limbs in their simplest form are cylinders. You can demonstrate that a dog's nose is a circle or a sphere, while a cat's nose is more triangular. Beaks are cone-shaped, and ears are usually circular or triangular. Horns can be sticks or cones. If your child has a favorite animal, you can look up pictures for them and help them make simple shapes to get started.
Finishing it off
Once the craft is finished, set it aside in a safe place to dry where it won't be disturbed. It will take at least a day or two to air-dry, though if you prefer, you can bake it in the oven, where it will only take a few minutes. If you like, you can even paint the craft after it's been dried out to give it that special finish.