Clay Pumpkins

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Kids LOVE working with clay!

Every October, I introduce my kindergarteners to clay by making the cutest pumpkins in the patch. This is the first time their little hands touch clay and it is always a magical experience. Pumpkins introduce kinders to a simple pinch pot technique and is an easy beginning to their career in ceramics!

I begin my class with my students gather around me on the rug. I have with me an example from a previous year. I explain to the group how clay starts out soft and squishy, “Like mud!”, and then once fired in the kiln it is heated to almost 2000 degrees *Insert wide eyes and ooo’s*. It comes out and is solid and ceramic. I can just feel the excitement in the room!

What you need:

  1. Clay
  2. Toothpicks
  3. Water cups
  4. Scrap Paper or cloth place mat

Prep:

I begin by giving each student a handful of clay. The tables are set with a piece of scrap paper per student, a popsicle stick (for adding lines), and a cup in the middle with just a splash of water.

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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 pumpkin.

Step 2

Give me a ‘thumbs up’ and dive their thumb into their clay ball. This part can get a tad tricky as kinders have weak thumbs and act as though they are holding steel instead of clay.

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 pumpkin. Shiny pumpkin means too much water so keep blending the water until there isn’t any shine. Once nice and smooth move on to the stem!

Step 5

Pinch a stem out of the clay. I show by demonstration how to pinch the clay in a way that a stem will emerge.

Step 6

Draw lines. Using the edge of a popsicle stick demonstrate how to draw lines from the stem down to the table all around the pumpkin. Kids will try to slice right through their pumpkin so make sure to insist that they are gentle and just ‘drawing’ the lines onto the clay.

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Step 7

Smooth again! Time to smooth out the crumbly peices without smoothing out the lines…

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Once finished, let dry for a week. And fire in your kiln! Kids can’t wait to bring their pumpkins home.

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