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Pottery: A Fun Activity for Children

Updated on December 10, 2017
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Sally has been a prolific writer of wet felting tutorials for several years with the occasional foray into literature and much more...

The double seated Millacron Pottery Wheel

A young lad sat at one end of the double seated teachers Millacron pottery wheel. He was being taught to throw his first pot. The teacher, in this case, is a local Potter who has a stall at a local Fundraising event.

The Millacron pottery wheel is reputed to be one of the best teaching pottery wheels available on the market. It is one where the teacher can sit facing the pupil. It helps to eliminate the back-breaking bending which so often accompanies pottery teaching.



Coping with the first lesson

It was amazing to watch how well this young lad coped with his first experience at a Pottery Wheel. It seemed to me that he grew in confidence, almost as quickly as his little mug grew in stature.

Afterwards, he showed off the mug to some onlookers and posed for a photo. it seemed to me that he wore about him an air of confidence and self-assurance which had not been there when he first sat down at the pottery wheel.

It took only a moment to realise how valuable and important the experience had been for him.

Kids pottery class

Getting to grips with a wobble

Getting to grips with a wobble on the pottery wheel
Getting to grips with a wobble on the pottery wheel | Source

Children love working with clay

There is no doubt that children love working with clay. It has a unique therapeutic quality which encourages them to develop their motor and sensory skills. It teaches them self-expression and how to solve problems which can develop when they are learning.

This was clearly demonstrated when the mug which the child was making developed a wobble on the wheel. It spun around on the wheel and his teacher gently guided his hands on the clay just in the nick of time to avert near disaster.

The completed mug

Showing off the finished project.
Showing off the finished project. | Source

What skills can children learn from working with clay?

  • It helps them improve their sensory skills
  • They learn that clay has a certain smell.
  • They learn that clay feels cold and wet and that it has texture. It feels squishy, sticky and is sometimes gritty.
  • Heavy – they experience the weight of the clay
  • They learn motor skills and the effects which they can have on the clay. They get to poke or pinch it, twist it or roll it.
  • Sound – they get to listen to and recognize the different sounds which can be associated with working with clay and a Potter’s Wheel.
  • They learn to share both failure and triumph with friends, families and teachers.
  • They learn self-expression, confidence, and self-esteem
  • They learn that clay is a medium which is very responsive to the touch.
  • They learn that clay can be molded or shaped. Knowing this gives them tremendous scope for creative expression.
  • Children learn that in order for the end product to be successful, they need to be in full control of the clay.
  • They learn that it is their ability which helps to shape, mold or repair an item, even if it only requires a little smoothing out with a wet finger
  • Learning becomes fun and the more they learn, the more powerful this knowledge is to them.
  • It gives them confidence and with confidence come endless creative opportunities for them.


A new felt confidence

Showing off the completed mug.
Showing off the completed mug. | Source

Rolling out a flat piece of clay

Children don’t need any specialized equipment when they first begin working with clay. They can start by rolling or pressing out a flat piece of clay. Next they can work out how to make a design on the flat piece and once they have rolled the flat piece they can turn it into a roll. They might even want to try adding a base to it! A vase or a cup may be the next step in the process or they may even wish to make a pinch pot or a pot with coils of rolled clay.

Two pairs of hands at play

Two Hands at Play
Two Hands at Play | Source

YouTube - free pottery classes

There are so many basic tutorials for making these types of projects on YouTube. It seems a shame not to explore this free resource.

Working with clay allows children to make three-dimensional objects which can be viewed from all sides.

They should be given the opportunity to walk around the items in order to view them from all angles. This helps them to understand perspective, shape and form, not only in the classroom but also when they are out and about in the big wide world.


They will learn that working with clay requires them to understand a few basic guidelines, rules and procedures some of which I have included below:-

Attaching the handle to the mug

Attaching the Handle on the mug
Attaching the Handle on the mug | Source

A few basic guidelines for teachers who work with young Potters:-

  • First things first, they should begin by washing their hands.
  • No eating or drinking while working with clay
  • No eating the clay!
  • Always keep the work surface clean and free of dust
  • Don’t let the clay dry out too much and only add water when it gets too dry.
  • Try to keep the clay at a similar thickness all around. There should be no thick or thin areas on the same piece. If this happens, the items may break during the firing process.
  • They should be taught to write their names into the clay or smooth out any rough edges when the clay becomes ‘leather’ hard.
  • Allow the children to make items of their own choice.
  • In order to prevent disappointment, remember to tell very young children at the start of the lesson, that their completed items will need to left to dry before they can be fired and taken home to show their parents.
  • Items should always be made to the right thickness. If they are made too thick, they may not dry properly.
  • Too thin, skinny items such as tails or handles will easily break without any support.
  • Scoring - Make a game of this, or let them chant the words ‘score, score’ as they make marks on the pieces of clay before joining them. This will remind them of how important this rule is and at the same time, allow them to use ‘real grown up pottery tools’ for this job
  • Smaller children can use a comb to score their pieces.
  • Slipping – this is a liquid suspension of watered down clay. This should be used as glue when two scored pieces are placed together. Each piece should be of a similar stage to one another

My Christmas Wish List

I felt really inspired by the pottery stand and have since begun to explore the possibility of purchasing my own pottery wheel.



The Shimpo Aspire Tabletop Portable Pottery Wheel

THE PROS

  • It is one of the most reasonable models on the market today and comes with a 5 Year Warranty
  • Has a solid metal base
  • Has four rubber feet at the bottom which prevent the base from moving
  • Has a removable solid one piece plastic splash pan which makes it easy to wash
  • Is super light, weighing in at only 25 lbs
  • Is super portable which makes it possible to use it anywhere in the house or even outside of it.
  • Can be placed on a table such as a wallpaper pasting table and is especially useful if one need to transport it to a class and from an event.
  • It will easily fit into the trunk (car boot)
  • The Shimpo Aspire is available with a hand lever control or a foot pedal and includes a splash pan and two bats.
  • It has two platforms on which tools or water can be placed
  • This pottery wheel features a 1/3 HP
  • It has a very quiet motor
  • It has a sensitive speed control with reasonable speed which is better than some much larger models.
  • Speed control is so good that it makes it possible to throw 20 lbs of clay at a time.
  • Super slow motion, especially good when working with young children.
  • Super smooth driving
  • Looks like a toy but does not act like a toy
  • Control comes from a lever control on the side
  • Alternatively, a foot pedal can be purchased separately. It is a simple matter to wire the foot pedal but doing this will in effect, disable the lever control. It is either one or the other method of control.
  • It can be plugged into a regular socket
  • It is possible to purchase an Inverter. This allows one to plug the wheel into a cigarette lighter, or it can be clipped onto a car battery with Crocodile Clips. This gives this pottery wheel an advantage over other larger pottery wheels as it can be taken in the trunk of a car to a class or demonstration.

Dinner plates

THE CONS

  • Its only limitation as far as I can see is the Bat dimension size which is only 9 ¾" - This makes making it impossible to create large dinner plates.


So many great features and so many great reviews

This wheel has so many great features and so many good reviews that I can't hold this one con against it - I know that can’t wait to try it out for myself.


Christmas can't come too early for me this year!

© 2014 Sally Gulbrandsen

working

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