Being in childcare for many hours a day for some of the most formative years of your child’s life is a crucial time for your child. It’s where they’ll learn and develop the vast majority of their early skills, including social skills during playtime with the other children. One of the earliest things that your child will likely learn to play with effectively is clay. This is very much a hands-on type of play, where your child will learn many different things – playtime during childcare tends to be more skills-training than playtime.
But what is it about clay that helps your child learn? And what do they learn? And how does it help them become a more well-rounded individual?
Clay Enhances Your Child’s Senses
Clay is a sensory object. It requires manipulation to form shapes, and therefore engages almost all of your child’s senses – though hopefully not ‘taste’! The touchy-feely nature of clay helps keep your child entertained and builds their hand-eye coordination and is good muscle-building exercises for the tiny muscles in their hands and fingers, as they warp and manipulate the clay into different shapes.
It Engages Their Creative Side
One of the most important aspects of working with clay is that it engages your child’s creativity. The malleability and capability of clay to be morphed into whatever your child’s brain conjures up is a very good thing for increasing your child’s creative capacity, as there are seemingly no limits with clay. It can be moulded into one large object or broken apart into many smaller ones. It comes in different textures and colours, and these can be mashed together to create colourful, aesthetically pleasing objects. Clay is essentially the ultimate toy to engage your child’s imagination.
Clay-Play Can Be Therapeutic
Kneading bread among the bakers of the world is often said to be a very therapeutic exercise. There’s something about manipulating an object with your hands and moulding it into a different shape than it was before you started. The same is true with clay. The feeling of kneading and manipulating the clay to form different shapes can be very relaxing – and as clay-play is generally an untimed activity, there’s no additional stress of having to get anything done in a specific timeframe.
A Self-Esteem Boost
You must remember a time when you built your deck? Or your picnic table from a few dozen 2x4s and some fairly basic tools and willpower? That incredible feeling of, ‘Wow, I built that, yeah!’ The same is true for children with clay-play. Manipulating the clay allows them to build something from nothing – and what’s more – they were given no direction and no ‘help’ in order to do so. You should emphasise this when you see your child’s creation. Making something from nothing is a boost for your child’s self-esteem, but an affirmation that they did it all on their own is an even greater boost.
Childcare can be a tricky thing – it has to strike a balance between fun, engaging activity and discipline. No matter what your plans are for your childcare, if you’re a parent living in Five Dock, or elsewhere in Australia, you’ll find plenty of childcare options are in the local area – complete with clay, of course!