- books with clay illustrations, like The Circus Alphabet by Linda Bronson (Henry Holt & Company, 2001; $15.95) or One Gray Mouse by Katherine Burton (Kids Can Press, 2002; $5.95)
- salt dough (see recipe at right) or air-drying clay
- clay tools like rolling pins, modeling tools, and craft sticks
- tempera paint and brushes
- clear contact paper
- paper plates or cardboard
- language and literacy
Make a rebus chart for the salt dough recipe: 4 cups flour, 3 cups salt 2 tablespoons cooking oil, 2 cups water, tempera paint or food coloring. Prepare the recipe in advance with children. Invite them to combine the ingredients in a large bowl. Add paint or food coloring to create colored dough. Make several batches of dough, varying the color of each batch.
Introduce the activity by reading one of the suggested books. Discuss the story and clay illustrations. Pass some of the dough around, so that everyone who wants to can feel it. Explain to children that they will each have a turn creating their own clay illustrations and stories.
Invite a few children at a time to the art area. Provide them with different colors of dough, along with tools for cutting and rolling. Show children how they can make three-dimensional characters or, if they prefer, how they can work flatin relief-style or by drawing in the clay. For those who choose to work flat, provide a sheet of clear contact or waxed paper, taped to the table, so that the clay will stay in place as they work.
Place finished three-dimensional pieces on separate paper plates to keep children's work organized. Allow a few days for the salt dough to dry. If children used white dough, provide tempera paint for children to paint their work when dry.
Plan time for children to write or dictate a story about their clay illustration. Bring the group together to share their illustrations and stories.
Remember: Some children may have a story idea before they work with the clay, while others may need to focus on the clay and develop their story afterward.
Family Sculptures. Send home the salt dough recipe so that families can make their own clay stories. Encourage them to photograph their work to share on the family bulletin board.
Curriculum Connection: ART
Sand Words. Give each child a sheet of oak tag paper or a piece of cardboard. Use glue in squeeze bottles and assist children in writing their names with glue. Invite them to cover the glue letters with colored sand. Shake off the excess sand onto a paper plate.