Friday 12 October 2012

Tips for working with air drying clay

Time for that post on air drying clay... the kids love it and so do I.

Air drying clay is a little pricey for the quantity so this is a once-in-a-while craft. The kids get very excited when I bring out a new packet of clay... the jumping up and down, squealing type of excitement. Air drying clay has a lovely cool feel and a soft texture. It often leaves a little bit of sparkle on your fingers thanks to the clay's mica component.

We make all sorts of things with clay. Boo specialises in sculptural blobs. Cakey makes objects –  tables, bird baths, toffee apples. I like to make accessories for our dollhouse. The dolls now have a large collection of clay bowls, plates and cups.

Here are a few tips for working with air drying clay with kids:

Tip 1

You get what you pay for. I have tried the cheaper brands.... not worth it. The cheap stuff is too hard for little fingers to manipulate. If you are interested I buy Jovi from Riot Art and Craft.

Tip 2

Cakey often makes objects with joints like a table with legs. Sometimes her joints hold and sometimes they do not. Once her clay objects are dry I apply a little bit of super glue to any weak joints.

Tip 3

Air drying clay will take longer to completely dry than you think.... and it depends on the weather too. It can take a couple of days.

Tip 4

I buy white or terracotta coloured air drying clay. The kids love to paint it after it has dried. If you want to skip the paint part you can buy coloured air drying clay.

Tip 5

If the kids constantly re-work the same piece of clay it will start to crack and fall apart. It is particularly prone to this if you are working outside in a breeze. The surface area of the clay will dry too quickly. Just recently I gave each girl a small cup of water with their clay. They dipped their fingers in the water to add moisture to the clay. This works well to keep the clay nice and pliable. Be warned though... adding water can turn an air drying clay session into a sensory play session. Boo adds loads of water and turns her clay into a gooey mess!

Tip 6

To make a cute little dollhouse cup, roll a small lump of clay into a ball. Use the end of a pencil to make the cup indentation. (Little dollhouse clay cups are definitely choking risks, please be careful if you have little ones who put things in their mouths).

A few more ideas:
  • My girls and I love miniatures, if you do too, you might like my favourite Pinterest board Little Worlds and Miniatures (lots of fairy gardens here too)
  • Red Ted Art has a lovely post on creating accessories for a dollhouse tea party. She has made the most adorable donuts from fimo but you could use clay instead and then paint the donut icing.
  • And if you like to oooh and aaah over miniatures have a look at Kim Saulter's blog It's a miniature life

If this is your first visit to At home with Ali – welcome. If you like it, you can follow along via email, RSS or facebook. You can also find me on Pinterest and InstagramCheers Ali

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Linked to The Sunday Showcase, The Kids Co-op, It's Playtime, Kids Get Crafty and For the Kids Fridays


  1. Great tips! We love working with clay, and I'm going to set out some water next time. (Which will no doubt turn into a big, messy, sensory experience, lol.)

    1. Thanks Allison, I hope your kids enjoy adding water :)

  2. Awe what a lovely post. Thank you for all the top tips! I SO NEED to get our clay out - ASAP :-)

    And thank you for the kind mention :-)

    AND thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty (so many thanks yous!!)

    Maggy x

    1. No problem at all, I loved you little donuts

  3. Thanks for the tips and sharing the brand you use. I like making things with clay but it's hard to know what's best for little ones.

    Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Showcase!

  4. great tips thank you! Quick question can you restore the Jovi air dry clay lump if you left it not in a completely air tight bag (the unused portion)? It is not cheap and we only used a tiny amount last time and today I got it out the rest is hard! I'd love to know if it can somehow be restored to be used?

    1. Ah what a shame, I hate it when that happens and the Jovi air drying clay is expensive!! My only suggestion would be to add some water to it to try and soften it up. Try dipping your fingers in water and work the moisture into the clay. Hopefully it is not too dry and can be resurrected. Good luck.

  5. Nice post Ali, I am looking to do some air dry clay stuff with my kids but did not know where to start after an air dry clay handprint ornaments fail a few years ago (baby wouldn't un-claw her little fist, did not work). BTW, love your blog, in particular the cute kitchen. I am just starting my own kids crafting blog - - totally a work in progress but if you have any tips I'd be grateful.

  6. It's great to see more and more people enjoying and turning to air dry clay. It's really a safe and fun medium for both kids and adults. You're pretty spot on with the tips. :) A small bowl of water by the side does helps! Looks like your kids had a lot of fun! :)


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