Air dry clay is very easy to work with and can be bought at almost any stationery, art or crafts stores. Budget friendly and quick to dry it has become one of my favorite materials to entertain my kids.  The kids and I tried this very easy idea for making air dry clay decorations that can be used as Christmas tree ornaments or converted to fridge magnets. What I also like about working with air dry clay is that you always have something to show or use when you are done. And that fits right in with my productive yet creative nature. An added benefit is that the kids get some quality time with mommy and practice their fine motor skills while having fun and being creative.
Air Dry Clay decorations for Kids -

Supplies needed for air dry clay decorations:

  • Air dry clay ( They come in packs of 600g).One pack is enough for about 4 decent coasters or roughly 10 to 12 flat decorations.
  • Bowl of water and a cloth
  • Plastic bag
  • Rolling pin or similar
  • Cookie sheet or tray to work on
  • Blunt knives and utensils to cut and shape
  • Various items including cookie cutters, leaves, jewelry, shaped items to make imprints with
  • Some paint and paintbrushes(optional)
  • Magnet strip (Optional)
  • Contact glue (Optional
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Something like a pen to make a hole with

Some lessons we learned so you don’t have to:

1. Air dry clay dries fairly quickly. Make sure that you only have a piece that you are busy with open at any time. Keep the rest covered or save it in a plastic bag so it does not become hard. To this same effect keep all your supplies close so you do not have to run around and waste time.
2. When rolling the clay at first it is very hard. It would be best if an adult rolls it out for the kids to use.
3. Normal cookie cutters are ideal to press out shapes in the clay.
4.Keep a bowl of water close by.  It comes handy to dip a cloth into for wiping or to dip your hands in to make it easier to shape the clay.
5. Have an idea in mind, but allow the kids to modify the idea while they are creating. This may result in strange looking final pieces, but the creative process  is more important here than the actual finished item.

Steps for making air dry clay decorations:

1. Prepare and plan

Gathering the supplies for the clay project
Supplies I gathered for the activity include: a basket with an interesting surface design, cookie cutters and a cookie sheet, the clay, a plastic necklace with heart shaped beads, some plants.
Scroll through some ideas and get your tools, materials and shapes ready so that you can easily use all of it. Show the kids some ideas as well so they have an idea in mind which they can start off with.
Prepare the surface and set up an area where they can mess freely as well as soap and water that you can easily access for quick clean up.

2. Roll and shape

The clay is fairly hard at first and tough for little hands to work with. Roll it out for them and work it a bit so that they have a softer clay to work with. Also, try to not immediately jump into getting the work done. Allow them some time to roll, squeeze and play with the clay before guiding them into the activity.

Using your rolling pin (or other tool) try to get the clay into a flat semi round shape with roughly the same thickness throughout. Try not to make it too flat otherwise your decorations will curl and break easily if they are too thin.
Roll the clay out so that the surface is relatively flat without too much hairline cracks
**Tip: Try to smooth any rough edges with your finger dipped in water while the clay is soft. This will create a clean and smooth finish.

3. Decorate and dry

Making use of the jewelry, plants and other items with interesting shapes press them onto the clay so their imprint is visible. Simple designs work best, but the kids will want to over decorate each one. If you have clay letter stamps, you can also add some words. Use the cookie cutters to cut out some basic shapes. Use the pen to make a hole in some of them that you would like to use them for tree decorations.
Decorating clay with stuff you find around the house
Decorating air dry clay with plants and stuff you find around the home
Leave them in the sun to dry on a flat surface for about 6 to 8 hours. We left ours overnight before we painted them just because we ran out of time, but I think that allows them to dry properly. Also, we left some unpainted for days after which we also ended up painting them. Either way works fine.
The unpainted air dry clay decorations
Leaving them to dry in the sun

4.  Paint and protect

Again, as you probably know, I like to keep everything plain. The plain white decorations look perfect for me and I can just dress them up a bit with colored ribbon. But on my girls’ request we painted these to brighten them up a bit. I found a cool technique which the girls could actually manage without too much hassle. This is a very simple technique and works beautifully on clay. It is basically the same as the Mishima technique where you you make an imprint, paint in all the ridges and then wipe off the excess paint so that all the lines on the design are highlighted.
Mishima technique used on air dry clay
The final result with the Mishima technique and some subtle gold splashes
We sprayed them with a clear lacquer once they were dry and glued a thin strip of magnet to the back with the contact glue to hand out to grandparents and some others we added ribbon to hang once it is time for Christmas.

Total cost of the project:

Air dry clay: $5
Magnet strip:$2
Contact glue:$1
All the rest: Used what I have at home
This really turned out to be one of those crafts that the kids absolutely enjoyed.  It also ended up being some very special hand made gifts to some of their friends and grandparents. I will definitely do this again and make some more  for our Christmas tree as they handed out most of the first batch already. Oops. These air dry clay ornaments could also make a really pretty gift wrapped up as a set.

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