How to make clay

How to make clay

The article gives recipes for making modeling clay at home. Two homemade clay recipes for children at heart, ages 3 to 93.

By Katherine Rone

Making clay at home is a fun activity that everyone in the family can enjoy. Supervised toddlers, older siblings, and even parents and grandparents can join in. Following are two recipes and some project ideas to get you started.

Home Made Play Clay

This clay can be used over and over until it begins to get too flaky to use. It is not meant for permanent pieces. Though fun for little children to play with, only an adult should mix the ingredients or handle the hot dough or stove elements. The main ingredients are non-toxic, in the event that your children are at the age of “taste-testing†all reality. However, do not add coffee, essential oils, or other strong spices to the mix if that is a concern.

Ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup salt, 3 tsp. of vegetable oil, 2 tsp of tartar. Optional ingredients will add color and/or aroma to your clay: food coloring; Kool-Aid; ground coffee, cinnamon or ginger; vanilla or other flavor extracts. You can also add a smidgeon of essential oil for aroma, but please be careful with this, as some children and adults may have skin sensitivities to essential oils. Research any essential oils before using to make certain they are safe.

How to make it.

In a small saucepan, heat water to boiling, and then turn heat to low. Mix other ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add them to the water. Stir until the mixture turns into a solid blob that can be formed into a ball. Carefully pour onto a plate or waxed paper and allow cooling. Then knead the ball until it becomes smooth clay. After it cools, you can divide it into three or four parts, and allow your little helpers to assist in the kneading process.

Use this clay to make whatever comes into the imagination, and then return it to store in air-tight containers. Playing with clay is a fun way for children to experiment with their creativity, and adults will enjoy making stuff too, since there is no pressure to be perfect. The kneading of clay is also a natural stress-reliever, as it stimulates meridian points on the hands that can reduce tension all over the body.

Bread Clay

Bread clay does not require any cooking, and it can be used for permanent pieces. It is particularly effective as a medium for making jewelry, small figurines, flowers, and thin designs that can be glued on to decorate cards, packages and name tags. The clay is non-toxic, though of course it is also not meant to be eaten, either. It does have a yeast-like smell to it though, which can be appealing to small children and animals, so do not leave it lying about when you are gone. After it dries, the bread-like smell dissipates.

Ingredients and supplies: White bread and non-toxic, white glue. Optional add-ins for color is food colorings or tempera paints, either dry or wet. You will need a glass bowl for mixing the clay, and it helps to have materials to cut out patterns and shapes, such as cookie cutters, aspic cutters, straws to make little circles, garlic press, etc.

How to make it.

Three pieces of white bread will create a nice amount of clay for each person to get started with. Tear the crust off of each piece of bread, and then break the bread into little pieces and put in the bowl. The next part of the process is quite messy. If you are doing this alone, you should keep one hand clean so you can pour glue into the bowl, and use the other hand to wad and mix the bread. It is best to have a partner for this step though. One person can mix the dough, and the other can add glue as needed.

Most recipes call for 1 tablespoon of glue for every piece of bread, but you may find that you do not need this much. I usually pour glue from the bottle gradually, just a little bit at a time. Mush and mix it into the bread with your mixing hand(s). If you pour too much glue in at once, you may get hopelessly stuck in the mixture. It looks like a big mess before it suddenly becomes cohesive again, and you will recognize its readiness when it becomes smooth, pliable and easily worked.

Divide the bread into separate balls to be made into colors. Poke a finger into each ball. Then put a drop of food coloring or paint into the depression, and mix it into the dough with your hands. If your hands get color on them, just keep mixing and the dough will soak it up after a minute.

As mentioned, this clay is fabulous for making tiny things. Roll out a 3/8 inch sheet and let the children cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Then use the straws and other tools to decorate the “cookies†with shapes of different colors, eyes, noses, hair, etc. You can poke a hole in the cookies to make ornaments out of them if you wish. The clay is also easy to use in making small beads and shapes that can be glued onto earring backs for jewelry. You can also sprinkle glitter or stick other, decorative touches into it. Just smear a little glue on the piece, and then add your decorations.

Let the pieces air dry. Larger pieces can take a week or so to get really hard, but most small ornaments dry in a day or two. The dried clay can be used as it, but can be sprayed with acrylic sealer for greater protection and a nice shine. Thread ribbons through the holes of your shapes, and hang them up as ornaments, name tags or simple necklaces.

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