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The Value Of Clay As A Learning Tool

May 19, 2008
Children delight in the opportunity to play with squishy stuff, such as foam, dough or play putty. There is a wide variety of examples of these sorts of toys on the market, although it is very important to be aware of the recommended age restrictions on these. Play putty and other examples, such as plastecine, is manufactured very carefully to ensure that it is harmless if accidentally swallowed. However, you clearly do not want your child munching away on the stuff, since it is hardly likely to do them much good. The most they are likely to learn from the experience is that it doesn't taste good, and hospitals aren't interesting places to spend an afternoon.

There are actually plenty of recipes on the internet for making your own putty or dough at home, usually involving flour, water and food colouring, so that if you are of the brave type, you could create your own dough for home and even allow your child to help make it. However, the simplest and cleanest way is to buy a pack, since they are usually fairly cheap.

To begin with, a child will benefit simply from the feel of it. It will be quite unlike anything else they'll have experimented with, and the feel of the cold clay in their hands, squishing and stretching as they play with it, will provide great stimulation for the senses, and in turn add that little extra understanding of how things work. As they become a little more proficient, they will be able to start constructing simple shapes and objects from the clay, by combining shapes and colours. This will be largely experimental but helpful in developing the dexterity needed. Children are not dextrous as all to begin with, and when you think about it, controlling tend highly complex individual tools simultaneously to construct a single object is not an easy task. We have had many years, even decades, to practice using our fingers, but to a young child they are still getting used to having so many little dangly bits hanging off their hands, and dough will provide a safe and fun opportunity for them to develop these skills.

One of the wonderful things about this play dough is that it grows with the child, and as he or she gets older and more expert at creating more and more complex items and objects, you can begin to introduce simple tools, such as moulders, scrapers, cutters and tools that help to create textures. Small sieve like strainers allow clay to be pushed through, creating long clay strands that are perfect for hair, whilst wetting the clay and using the pointed stick you can create stippled textures handy for model hedgehogs.

In this way, more complex and satisfying objects can be made, whilst at the same time helping to improve the manual dexterity of the child, and also opportunities to experiment more with representing concepts and ideas they have already learned, such as scale, shape and texture. In fact, clay is such a valuable learning tool it is no surprise that it is introduced in nursery schools, and still used right through to secondary education.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant about kids toys, dolls, and video games. You will find the best marketplace for kids toys, dolls, and used video games at these sites for kids toys, play dough, modelling kits, dolls, and used video games.
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