Clay is one of my favorite mediums, especially working with young children. It’s one of those magical natural resources that is full of rich discovery. The more you work with it, the more exciting it becomes. I am officially hooked on clay. Making bird nests is a simple and easy clay activity you can do with young children, from toddlers on up. Keep reading to see how you can create a super sweet and simple invitation to play for the little ones in your life. *This post contains affiliate links.
Materials – clay, dry rice, dry beans, hay or wood chips, sticks and leaves, little birdies (These are all suggestions. There are lots of ways to do this fun project. Get as creative as you’d like.) First is the set up. I am all about the set up. It’s my favorite part, well, one of them. I just love the anticipation, the clean slate, the organized beauty right before the action. I put each clay nest on a little box for play group. I wanted to exaggerate it’s importance and give it a clear building space. You can use a piece of wood or a bowl as a base too.
My art play group is set up for children around 1 year to 3 years old. It’s a free flowing hands on experience, rather than a guided lesson, so I decided to make the clay nests for the kids ahead of time and focus more on the imaginative play and sensory materials. With older children I would teach them the pinch pot method, which I’ll be sharing later on in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s a simple tutorial.
It wasn’t long before we heard chirping sounds from the birds, while beads and rice and hay were joyfully being pressed into the clay. I’ve used these little birdies so many times over the years. They are one of the best art and play secrets every parent should know. Kids love little birdies. Children can learn compassion and empathy, express their feelings, and build confidence through play with these little guys. I just love them. If you want to extend this activity try painting the nest or making your own little birdie from clay. Adding little eggs would be really fun too and a great lesson in how to roll a ball from clay.
For more ways to introduce clay to young children, try this post on building clay structures or this post on using natural materials with clay. One thing I am learning is that sometimes the best thing you can do is just put out some clay (and maybe a small cup of water) on a table and see what happens. The more we expose children to clay and other art materials, the more curious they will become.
Meri Cherry, yes, that’s her real name, is an arts and crafts blogger at mericherry.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. Meri works as an art teacher. She is passionate about the process of art, thrift stores, and the Reggio approach to learning.