Clay Owls


Every first grader simply can’t WAIT to make a legendary, clay owl. This is possibly my favorite lesson of all. Not because it’s clay… Honestly the feeling of clay on my hands gives me the heebie jeebies… After a clay lesson I can’t wait to lather on the lotion! This one’s my fave because they come out so darn cute!

I adore these little guys and my students put so much creativity and individuality into them. This lesson fits nicely into one hour-long period. If you don’t have a kiln to fire clay than you definitely need to use air-dry clay. I am lucky enough to teach in a school that provided me with a kiln as clay is one of my favorite mediums to teach!

We begin by making a pinch pot.

What you need:

  • Clay or Air dry clay (if you don’t have a kiln you need to use air dry clay)
  • water cups
  • tooth picks
  • scrap paper

Let’s get started


Step 1

Make a smooth ball. I tell the kids to hold their clay in their ‘nest’-a rounded hand, and use the other rounded hand to smack it into shape. The smoother the ball the better the owl.



Step 2

“Give me a ‘thumbs up'” and dive your thumb into the clay ball, push it in as far as you can go without coming out the other side. This part can get a tad tricky as 1st graders are known to have rather weak little thumbs and act as though they are holding a ball of steel rather than clay. I ask my kids to hold the ball in the air on their thumb so I can see that everyone got it. If a ball looks particularly wobbly tell them to push their thumb in deeper.


Step 3

Make the hole bigger “like a shark that has bubble gum stuck on their tooth” they use their fingers to squeeze the clay and make a pinch pot. At this point I walk around the room and “check” every pinch pot. Some kids do way better than others…. If a pinch pot is very thick I will take it and quickly thin it out. Too thick clay equals explosion in the kiln equals crying kid…



Step 4

Smoothing. Put the pinch pot down on the scrap paper with the hole side on the table. At this point I let the kids dip one finger in water to smooth their owl. A shiny owl means too much water so keep blending the water until there isn’t any shine. Once nice and smooth move on to the face!



Step 5

I lay out a paper reminding kids of all the different body parts they need to make. Then I demonstrate how to roll a bead of clay between your palms and squish into a thick pancake for an eye. Score and slip (scratch up and add water to) the back of the eye and in the spot where you will add the eye. Roll a little beak between your fingers and use a tooth pick to imprint lines on the eyes and feathers on the belly. For wings roll two short coils and flatten them a bit. Be sure to score and slip every piece you attach.

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Once finished I tell my students that they can embellish their owl with a hat or a crown, I always get a few Mohawks which make me giggle! These owls certainly all end up having a personality of their own! I hope your kids enjoy this lesson as much as mine do!

Student Examples: