Just as the kitchen is the prime gathering spot for parents and kids, the refrigerator, too, plays an essential role in family life. It can be a showcase for finger paintings, report cards, and favorite photos. And when your child crafts clay magnets for displaying these mementos, she can work on her artistic skills and show off her school accomplishments at the same time -- while becoming savvy in the science of magnets.
"Clay is a winner for kids," says Nancy Beal, an art teacher at the Village Community School in New York City and author of The Art of Teaching Art to Children. While she encourages young children to simply manipulate and pound clay into various shapes, older kids can use tools such as toothpicks to create more refined forms. By using their fingers to roll tiny balls for eyes or other details, kids will also exercise their fine-motor skills.
After the shape cools, your child can bring the object to life with paint and other decorations. "I like to give kids the three primary colors and encourage them to mix the paints together to create secondary colors," says Beal. "And children love to add a variety of details such as spots, stripes, and other marks to their creations, which give the magnets a new layer of vitality and expressiveness."
- Sculpey clay or other polymer clay material
- Waxed paper
- Rolling pin or large empty soda bottle
- Felt-tipped pen
- Craft knife or kitchen knife
- Picture wire or beading wire (optional)
- Scissors or wire cutter (optional)
- Metal spatula
- Baking tray
- Artist's brushes
- Acrylic craft or poster paint
- All-purpose sealer (optional)
- Magnetic tape (available at craft stores)
- Glue or hot-glue gun
- Knead clay into a ball. Place on waxed paper on flat work surface. Roll clay flat to about 1/4" thickness with rolling pin or empty soda bottle. (Keep the shape small and fairly thin or the magnet won't be strong enough to hold it to the refrigerator.)
- Ask your child to draw the outline of an animal or any other shape desired with a felt-tipped pen on the clay. Using a craft or kitchen knife, parents should carefully cut out the shape and peel away the excess clay. Gently reshape edges of the shape if they stretch when you peel away the extra. Ask your child to add details such as eyes, a nose, or stripes by rolling small balls of clay or cutting shapes and strips.
- If desired, older children may cut whiskers, manes, or tails from picture wire or beading wire with scissors or wire cutter (younger kids can paint them on). Press the wire into the clay at the appropriate place. Using a spatula or your fingers, gently lift the shape and place it on a baking tray. Bake the shape in a preheated oven following the manufacturer's instructions on the package of clay.
- Let shape cool. Paint it using poster or acrylic craft paint and artist's brushes. For fine details like eyes and nose, use finer brushes (small children may need help with details). If using poster paint, apply an all-purpose sealer after the paint is dry.
- Cut a magnetic strip to fit on the back of the shape. Check to see which side of the tape adheres more strongly to the refrigerator. Then, using glue or a hot glue gun, attach the weaker side of the magnet to the shape. Let it dry.