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Pottery For Kids: A Parent's Guide

Pottery is a fun and educational activity ideal for kids older than 4 years old. Through pottery making, you can teach children how to follow directions as well as to be creative and express themselves. Also, because it’s an activity in which both the body and the mind have to work together at all times, it is a great way for kids to improve their sensory and motor skills.

 

Pottery has many levels of complexity, and therefore it can be an activity that kids of older than 4 can engage in

There are tools and materials that are specifically made for the youngest ones so they can create simple items in an easy way. For example, when it comes to pottery wheels for kids, there are plenty of options to choose from. There are little plastic ones available in toy stores as well as more advanced ones that are just as simple to use but are bigger, heavier and more durable. 

Same happens with clay. While teenagers might have the skills to shape conventional clay, there’s also modeling clay that's easier to work with for the little ones who are trying pottery for the very first time. 

In this article we’ll cover the basics of making pottery with kids: how to get started, what supplies and equipments to get as well as some basic safety recommendations*

Enjoy!

 

Best Pottery Clay For Kids

Polymer, air-dry clay

Air-dry clay is probably the best option for kids younger than 10 years old as it’s easy to shape and doesn’t need a kiln for it to dry.

As you might infer by the name, air-dry clay only needs to be left out at room temperature for a few hours before it dries and hardens. Just as easy as that!

Don’t confuse air-dry clay with regular modeling clay, also known as play dough or Play-Doh. Play dough is not suitable for pottery making because it’s oil based and therefore never dries. Air-dry clay is different, it usually comes in big, wet blocks that can only be shaped when extra water is added to it.

Air-dry clay is suitable for both wheel throwing as well as handbuilding so kids can use either technique with the same material. It’s very easy to find in most art supply stores and it tends to be quite inexpensive. If you buy a pottery wheel for kids in a toy store, it will most likely come with a couple of pounds of this kind of clay.

Keep in mind though, that air dry clay is not food safe and items made out of it need to be used for decorative purposes only. For pottery to be food safe, it needs to be fired, so if that's what you're looking for, we advise you to get standard clay.

 

Standard clay

Regular, standard clay is clay made out of fine-grained earth; it’s the clay potters use to make real, functional and food-safe items like plates, pots and cups.

There are 3 main types of clay (stoneware, earthenware and porcelain) and they all have different properties, are used for different projects and require different levels of pottery making skills.

While air-dry clay is usually very easy to shape, not all standard clay is like that. For example, different types of clay require more or less water that needs to be added at specific quantities at specific times so the pottery pieces don’t collapse or dry-out before they’re finished.

Standard clay is not necessarily more difficult to work with, you just need to learn about the different kinds of clays, choose the proper one and learn how to shape it according to its characteristics. We have written a comprehensive guide about clay that you can read here if you want to learn more about it.

 

When it comes to pottery with kids older than 10 years old, we recommend you to work with stoneware clay. 

It's the easiest kind of standard clay to work with. It comes in a variety of colors from white to dark brown and similar to air-dry clay, you can use it on a pottery wheel as well as shape it using handbuilding techniques. 

Stoneware clay is ideal for making objects of any size, from small plates to big vases. Once fired, the final pieces are very strong and durable.

Keep in mind that stoneware clay needs to be fired to be food safe and non-porous. Firing, however, is not necessary if the items will be used for decorative purposes only. If you are looking for more information about kilns and firing pottery, please read our guide on how to choose the right kiln for your pottery project. Beware though that kilns are NOT safe for kids to use and they should always be used by a qualified adult*.

 

Pottery wheels for kids and other pottery making techniques

Kids don’t need a pottery wheel to make pottery. There are several handbuilding techniques such as coiling, slab construction and pinching that they can use to make pottery without a wheel.

A pottery wheel however, gives round items such as vases, cups, bowls and plates a more precise finish and makes the pottery making process faster. Learning how to use a pottery wheel is a super fun activity that most kids love, and it's a great way to introduce them to how tools and certain machinery works. It also helps them improve their fine motor skills and movement coordination.

You can basically go 2 ways with pottery wheels for kids: 

On one hand you have the small, plastic ones specially made for kids up to 12 years old that are sold in toy stores. They are very easy to use and usually come with clay and other basic tools. However, they are just toys; they are tiny, weak, very lightweight and in most cases pretty unstable. They are only recommended for kids up to 12 years old. 

On the other hand, you have real pottery wheels that come in a variety of sizes and are very durable, precise and are not much more difficult to use. They require an adult to help kids younger than 12 use it properly. Most teenagers, though, can make perfect use of them by themselves after practice and under supervision*

Please make sure to always read and follow the instructions and follow all the safety guidelines of any equipment you purchase. 

If you want to learn more about pottery wheels, this article will help you decide which pottery wheel to buy depending on your needs. You can also check out our pottery wheels page and learn more about the wheels available in our store.

 

Other tools, materials and tips to make pottery with kids

Although kids can make pottery with nothing but clay, there are many tools as well as decorating materials that can help them unleash their inner artist.

 

These supplies include cutter wires, ribbon tools, brushes, sponges, towels, chamois cloths, glaze, paints and other modeling tools depending on the age of the child and their level of knowledge and experience. They are easily available in most art supply stores as well as online. 

  • Here is a guide on how to make pottery at home in case you want more general tips about making pottery.
  • Here is a list of pottery making ideas ideal for both adults and kids who are just getting started in the pottery making world. 

Have fun!

 

*Soul Ceramics does NOT assume any responsibility and risk for the use of the safety resources available in or through this article. No advice or information given shall create any warranty. Reliance on such information is solely at your own risk, including without limitation any safety guidelines, resources or precautions related to the installation, operation, maintenance or repair of equipment or any other information related to safety that may be available on this article.

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