Adriana, Home School, Projects

Digging Clay from the Earth: Messy fun for Everyone!

It’s like striking gold! One day in the yard Leo and Lily were digging and discovered clay – lot’s of it! We did a little research and found out our little New England town was once known for making bricks a long time ago. So, it’s no surprise that clay is naturally plentiful. It has been a wonderful discovery and the kids continue to take full advantage of it! They usually fill a gallon bucket and get to work making some unique and beautiful creations. For Mother’s Day, Leo made me about 10 pinch pots! Yes, 10, because we all know, you can never have enough pinch pots!

The kids sometimes mix the clay with sand or straw to give it more strength. There are so many fun things you can make with clay. Leo made his own bricks and we cooked them on high heat over the grill. They now surround his corn bed out in the garden.

Lily has also used the clay on her potter’s wheel and made some bowls. We usually let the clay air dry. It isn’t water safe and some pieces are more delicate than others, but surprisingly once hardened, the clay is quite durable.

Once dry, you can try painting your nature clay, but it is pretty dark and grainy, so the paint doesn’t always show up that great. We have found that if you mix a powdered tempura paint into the clay – it can hold the color nice.

Recently the kids were inspired by a video we watched about making your own primitive outdoor clay oven and went outside to give it a try! First they collected their clay. Then mixed it with some sand and hay and then stomped all over it mixing it with their feet! It reminded me of the I Love Lucy episode when she stomps on the grapes in Italy! Some good old-fashioned messy fun!

Next the kids gathered an old table and some bricks to form a base for their oven. They decided this would be a mini version of the real thing to test out the process. Then they piled on the sand to form an oven shape and covered it with wet strips of newspaper. After that dried, they piled on the clay. The final product – a little small to bake a loaf of bread, but Leo said we could at least toast a slice of bread in it!

I you’re interested in making your own outdoor clay oven, this youtube video from the Townsend family is great https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0foHjPVbP4 . The Townsends family site is also fantastic if you are interested in exploring anything from the 18th and early 19th century with your kids or for your own personal interest. Here’s a link to their site https://www.townsends.us. My kids love watching these informational videos and it has inspired us to make many new creations from the early settlers. Especially appropriate in our slower pace, down time at home!

If you’d like to try digging up some of your own clay from the earth, searching near the banks of local creeks is one place that often has lots of clay. You could also research local clay in your area online. We also love working with store bought air dry clay.

If your kids are really young, you may find play-dough a better medium to sink their hands into. Although, my one year old very much enjoyed covering herself in clay and helping pat it down onto the clay oven- we just had to keep her from removing the clay and taking the oven apart!

This is a favorite and full proof play-dough recipe we have made over the years and like it the best because it’s easy to make and lasts long.

Homemade Playdough:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Salt
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream of Tarter

Mix all ingredients together in a medium size pan. Cook over low heat on stove top, mixing with a wooden spoon the entire time, until a ball forms. If you’d like to add food coloring, do this once play-dough has cooled a bit and mix into dough with your hands. Store the play-dough in and airtight container for a month. If it starts to get sticky, put it back in a pan on low heat to dry it out a little more.

  Have Fun!

*Since having kids, my motto has not only become “Embrace the Pace,” But Also – “Embrace the Mess!” It keeps them busy, it’s therapeutic and it makes for great memories!

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