That first pinch pot your child brings home from a pottery class is more than just a lump of clay. It is a symbol of many accomplishments ranging from sensory development and motor skills to self esteem and expression, problem solving, discipline and pride. Clay has a uniquely therapeutic quality that settles and calms children. In the next few few weeks I’ll be exploring each of these points in a series of blogs to begin I want to discuss sensory development and motor skills.
The moment when a child touches clay for the first time is a joy to watch! Clay is an extremely tactile material that demands to be touched and it is with uninhibited enthusiasm a child experiences that texture and feel of the clay for the first time. It is prodded, poked and squeezed and all the while exclaiming its virtues of cold, sticky and wet and for many, surprisingly heavy! Clay asks to be poked, pinched, twisted and rolled and as they handle it, children develop both fine and major motor skills and realise they have an effect on the clay as it responds to their manipulation.
For many, its perhaps the first time they’ve been encouraged to get wet and dirty in a classroom and so there is an instinctive and uplifting response to the freedom they feel. Even when the product is finished and ready to take home, the children cradle their work, smoothing their fingers over the colourful, glazed surface.
The sensory experiences they encounter in the pottery are numerous as they get to explore various ways of working with clay and their motor skills are developed by giving them a chance to engage their hand and arm muscles – hands are powerful tools which they will learn to develop. Another benefit tied to motor skills is that working with clay can improve penmanship. The hand-eye co-ordination skills young children pick up in pottery class can transfer to their schoolwork with more legible writing.
Of course as they progress and complete projects, they gain a sense of accomplishment which can improve self esteem, which I’ll discuss in more depth next time!