If you want to cheer up your kids, and, perhaps more importantly, keep them occupied for hours, Philadelphia’s Clay Studio has a suggestion: Try whipping up a batch of clay dough. The three-ingredient “clay” is similar to Play-Doh but allows you to sculpt keepsakes that can be saved for years to come.

“It’s looser and stretchier than real clay, so it doesn’t hold its shape quite as well, but for simple projects, you can achieve similar results,” says Megan Lasiter, the Clay Studio’s community engagement manager.

Here are three projects from the Clay Studio for kids, from pre-K to high school, to get messy and creative.

“Like clay, clay dough responds to touch, so it allows kids to express themselves in a way that writing and paper cannot,” says Lasiter. “It’s an incredibly tactile experience, and with these projects, you’re learning basic hand-building techniques, like slab making and coil building, that you’d learn in an actual Clay Studio class.”

To get started, follow the recipe below.

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Clay dough:

  • 2 cups of flour

  • 1 cup of salt

  • 1 cup of water

In a large bowl, mix ingredients together with a fork. Knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes, until it is still and holds together well.

Lasiter says that the dough is best used fresh. After two days, it will start to get slimy. If just one kid is crafting, feel free to halve the recipe.

PRE-K TO ELEMENTARY

Clay Dough Ornaments

In this project, kids will craft ornaments that can be hung on holiday trees or strung around the house.

Materials:

  • Clay dough

  • Cookie cutters

  • Straw, chopstick, toothpick, or anything else that can poke a hole

  • Clear nail polish, Mod Podge, or polyurethane (Elmer’s glue will work if necessary)

  • Optional: paint (ideally acrylic or tempera) or markers, to decorate

Instructions:

  1. Roll clay dough out into a flat slab using a rolling pin, or pressing it flat with the palm of your hand.

  2. Use cookie cutters of different shapes to press into the slab. Peel away the excess dough.

  3. Decorate using different texture tools to make patterns on your clay dough shapes.

  4. Use a straw (or other tool) to poke a hole in the top of each shape.

  5. Let the ornaments air dry for 24 to 48 hours, or pop them on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 250 degrees until hard (approximately 20 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness).

  6. Once dry, you decorate them with paint. To finish, add a clear coat with nail polish, Mod Podge, or polyurethane.

For video instructions of this project, click here. (This video demonstrates the project using real clay, but it follows the same process you’d carry out with clay dough.)

ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL

Clay Dough Animal Head Sculpture

Sculpt the animal head of your choice, from cats to bears to bunnies, and then decorate the face with paint.

Materials:

  • Clay dough

  • Ball of aluminum foil or paper

  • Paint (ideally acrylic or tempera) or markers, to decorate

Instructions:

  1. Roll a piece of the clay dough into a ball about the size of your fist.

  2. Make a pinch pot by pressing your thumb into the middle of the ball. Be careful not to push all the way through. Then, use your fingers and thumbs to gently pinch the walls. Try to make them even all the way around and not thinner than your pinkie.

  3. Place your pinch pot on top of a piece of balled up paper (or tinfoil if you plan to bake the clay dough).

  4. Make features for the animals, using some of your extra clay dough. You can add ears, eyes, a mouth, and or tail. To attach your extra pieces, dab a bit of water on the pinch pot where you want to attach the piece. This will help the pieces of clay dough stick together.

  5. Let air dry for 24 to 48 hours, or pop on a baking sheet in the oven preheated to 250 degrees until hard (approximately 20 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness).

  6. Once dry, decorate with paint. Finish with a clear coat of nail polish, Mod Podge, or polyurethane.

For video instructions of this project, click here.

MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOOL

Clay Dough Coasters

Try this DIY coaster project to create a new surface to place your mug or water glass.

Materials:

  • Clay dough

  • Texture tools, such as forks, skewers, chopsticks, magnets, or any other household item that will create a design

Instructions:

  1. Roll clay dough into a flat slab using a rolling pin or pressing it flat with the palm of your hand.

  2. Decorate your slab with different patterns of your choice using texture tools.

  3. Cut out the coasters using a large cookie cutter or cup.

  4. Create a border by gently rolling a log of clay dough on the table to make a long snake of clay. Spread a bit of water on the border of your coaster, and then attach the coil.

  5. Let the coaster air dry for 24 to 48 hours, or pop them on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 250 degrees until hard (approximately 20 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness).

  6. Once dry, decorate with paint. To finish, add a clear coating with nail polish, Mod Podge, or polyurethane.

For video instructions of this project, click here. (This video demonstrates the project using porcelain clay, but a similar process can be carried out with clay dough)