Bring on the Clay!


One of the things that struck me about my visit to the schools in Reggio Emilia, was that no matter the age of the child, there was clay available every day.  Clay is a natural material. There are no harsh chemicals. There are no artificial dyes.  But this art medium can be intimidating if you have never explored it before.

You can purchase clay from your local craft store.  I buy the air-dry clay.  I have bought the white, gray, and terra cotta colors.  I do have to say that the terra cotta clay is messier on clothes :(
This type of clay does not need a kiln.  I have not had great luck at preserving large pieces of work that children have created.  They often become brittle when they dry.

Key Things to Know to Get Started

1. Clay needs to remain moist to stay pliable.

You should store your clay in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel to ensure that it does not dry out.  Do not store in a very dry, warm area.

2. It may be easier to make creations on a piece of wax paper or even white paper. This will allow the child to move the clay from one play to another to dry.  If you make it right on the table, it will get stuck.

3. You can cut slices of clay using a string.  These slices are called slabs.  Slabs are great first way for children to encounter clay.  They can stick things into the clay.  Carve pictures using tools. 

4. You can "glue" one piece of clay to another piece of clay by wetting the clay.  This is called slip.

Suggestions For Introducing Clay to Children

Many children have only had experience with home-made or commercial play dough.  Clay takes more hand strength to manipulate.  It can also feel a little bit messier depending on how new your clay is.  

I definitely suggest setting out slabs of clay with materials to press into the clay.
You can use: popsicle sticks, sea shells, pasta, rocks, birthday candles, etc.

For the next encounter, set out slabs, balls, and coils (when you roll the clay to make a snake).  See what the children make!

As children become more and more familiar with clay, they will begin to use it as another way of expressing thoughts and testing ideas.  Some children may prefer to draw, while others prefer to construct using clay. 

You can even begin to offer clay as an extension to drawing.  See the self portraits play invitation!

Color Mixing with Liquid Watercolors

 Have you tried liquid watercolors yet?  They are a playgroup staple!

One of the simplest, yet most intriguing way for children to explore this medium is to use droppers.  

Children explore the scientific concepts of color mixing, while dropping small amounts of the paint onto paper towel, fabric, or water color paper.

What you need: 

-Liquid watercolors

- Droppers (you can use small ones to promote fine motor control, or large ones for younger children who are just gaining hand strength)

-water color paper, fabric, paper towels, or coffee filters

-Cups to pour the paint into (I dilute the paint with water.  I put just a few squirts of paint and fill the cup the rest of the way with water)

-A tray to work on (this will keep the paint from running all over your table)

-Old clothes or a smock

Why this play invitation is good for children:

It promotes scientific inquiry.  Children can engage in cause and effect investigations.  What will happen if I mix the yellow and the red paints together? What will happen if I fill the entire dropper?

Children will use eye-hand coordination and their pincer grip when operating the droppers. 
The invitation is open-ended.  This means that there is no right or wrong way for the children to interact with the materials.  The value is in the process and not the product.  However, you can turn those beautifully painted pieces into creations of their own once you finish.

Music Play: The 4 Best Toys

 In honor of the Week of the Young Child, we are celebrating 5 main themes this week!  Today we are celebrating Music Monday! 

I love to watch how children respond to music!  Music includes creative expression, fine and gross motor skills, and rhythm.  This post includes affiliate links so you can find your own music toys!

Here are my favorite music toys that I think every play room should include:

1.Melissa and Doug Caterpillar Xylophone

I love the wooden xylophone look.  Children can explore the cause and effect of hitting each key. More advanced players can follow the color patters to create songs, or can write their own music!

2. Musical Instrument Set


Start your own parade with this set of percussion instruments!  If the thought of these inside your house gives you a headache, head outside!

3. Dancing Scarves

Children will love moving these scarves slow and fast to match the music.

4. Bluetooth Speaker

I like using a Bluetooth speaker when playing our favorite music from YouTube or Apple Music.  This way children are not fixated on the screen and can instead watch each other or the teacher.  In my experience, children are more likely to participate in fingerplays and songs if they are not watching a video.

Nervous to Refer your Child for Special Education?

 Are you a little nervous to make the call to seek out intervention services?

That is completely understandable. Most parents are. The people on the other end of the phone will know that and will be ready to help.
There are 2 possible outcomes to the entire process:
1. Your child will be assessed and the team will decide that your child qualifies for intervention services. You and the team will write a plan and your child will get the help he/she needs.
2. Your child will be assessed and the team will decide that intervention services are not needed at this time. They will give you suggestions on how to continue to support your child.

Either way it is a win-win! Nothing is lost!