Art Teachers Resources: 10 Tips for Polymer Clay Kids Craft Projects

Sculpey Club Penguin Sculpture

No need to “dumb down” polymer clay instructions for children. You’ll be amazed how quick they learn:

Q: Hello Cindy – Next week I begin teaching middle schoolers different craft techniques & I’m starting with Fimo Clay
. The classes are 50 minutes long and I will have 4 classes – 1x a week. My concern is storing the clay projects from 1 week to the next. My hope is that class 1 – they will have formed a cane, Class 2 – they will slice and we will bake. What is the best way to store the canes for 8 days? I am thinking wrapping them in plastic wrap, placing these in a air tight container and then in the fridge. Thanks for any and all suggestions. ~Sandy

A: I think polymer clay is a wonderful craft for kids. In fact today’s photo is of my 12 year old daughter’s sculpture that she made to look like her character on the popular online game, Club Penguin. By the way, my daughter’s name is Willow.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when teaching kids about polymer clay.

1) Don’t ‘dumb-down’ the polymer clay instructions for children. There is no reason why kids can’t learn the proper way to work with polymer clay just as well as any adult can. I’m very proud of how fast my 9 yr old son and 12 year old daughter are learning how to work with their collections of Fimo and Sculpey.

2) Make sure kids know that polymer clay is not to go in their mouths. Hands and desks should be washed well after the arts and crafts class is over.

3) Use a good quality polymer clay like Fimo or Premo Sculpey. Using a poor quality ‘kids grade’ like Sculpey III will only lead to frustration! It breaks easily and is too mushy to get nice details, especially for canes. Read this article I published a while back on: Why Sculpey III Makes Me Mad!

4) Since kids tend to re-work things over and over, don’t use an air-dry polymer clay or it will dry out too fast. This is also important if the project will not be completed the first day. Polymer clay that bakes in the oven, does not dry out and can be re-worked for weeks and weeks until baked.

5) Freezer paper or parchment taped to cardboard can make a great work surface. Keep surfaces and hands clean by wiping with baby wipes or rubbing alcohol. You can write the child’s name on the paper and when they are done for the day, you can move their projects to a shelf for safe storage. The clay won’t dry out, but draping Glad Cling Wrap plastic, wax paper or parchment paper over the polymer projects will keep the dust and ‘little fingers’ out.

6) Canes can be wrapped individually with Glad Cling Wrap. Then you can write the child’s name on the outside of the plastic with a Sharpie felt pen. These wrapped polymer clay canes can then just go into a box until the next week. Read this post about using the right brand of plastic wrap with clay: How to Store Polymer Clay Canes

7) Don’t store polymer clay near a hot window or heating vent since it will start to cure at quite a low temperature. However refrigeration is not necessary.

8) Keep colors simple. Some kids, especially young ones, will muck all their colors together and get mud. If you keep the colors to 2 primaries and white or pearl, the combinations will always look good. With older kids you can teach them a little about color mixing and give them more freedom.

9) Bamboo skewers are great for piercing and baking beads on. Rub them with cornstarch first so the clay does not stick. They make nice big holes for simple stringing. You can cut them any length and you can be even write the kids name on the stick using a masking tape label for easy identification.

10) Finish the polymer clay projects properly. Bake the pieces for 1 hr at the recommended temperature. The package will say 30 minutes, but experience has taught me that 1 hour makes the clay much stronger. It’s also good to teach how to avoid fingerprints. And if time permits, sanding techniques are important to learn as is doing a final coat with Future floor finish.

More details about all the tips listed above (and much more), are available in my 39 part Fimo basics video course. It’s perfect as an art class teachers reference for polymer clay kids craft projects. Questions? Comments? Care to tell Willow what you think of her Club Penguin Project? You can share your thoughts below.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. Cindy, please let your daughter Willow know that I think her Club Penguin Project is very professional looking! I think she must have her mother’s talents! :)

    Sincerely, Cindy E.

  2. Nice to have you back Kimberlee! Was wondering what happened to you. Yeah that sucks about Willow’s penguin ‘flying the coop’ but you’re right… if it weren’t so darn cute, nobody would have wanted it so bad!

  3. I have made a face mask out of surgical gauze. (Gauze material with plaster) I would like to line it with a polymer clay in order to make a sculpture of the face. Have you any experience with this? Thanks, Rita
    .

  4. I’m sorry Rita, I have no experience with this sort of polymer clay project. Maybe someone else here does. It’s certainly a unique question. Anyone able to help Rita out? I’ll put this out on Twitter as well, to see if I can get you someone to come over here and offer you some advice.

  5. Thanks, Cindy, for some very good information about working with kids and polymer clay. I have 7 neices & nephews, and they are pretty fascinated with my work (now that I have got it all out of the storage boxes again.) We’ve only had a couple of “play” sessions so far, but you are right about so many things in this article. It’s amazing how creative they are — my 7-year old neice “invented” a fantastic surface technique just by playing around. I plan to use it for my own creations, as well. I should soon have a good permanent work area set up. Then I will use your advice above and let the kids teach me some new techniques! ;-) Thanks again!

  6. That makes me feel so happy Phaedrakat to hear you are introducing polymer clay to your nieces’ and nephews and that they are teaching you a few tricks! I’ll let Willow know about the compliment. She will be pleased!

  7. Hi Cindy. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your teaching. I’m a teacher, too, first grade, and I use beads as incentives for good behavior. I show the kids what bead they are “playing for,” and they LOVE all the different techniques. I even taught two fifth grade girls how to make some beads that they then turned into jewelry and sold at our school’s Market Day. Thanks for all you do! Jill.

  8. Hey Cindy!

    Another great tutorial today [Wire Leaf Charms].

    BTW: I noticed in your description of the 1st tutorial in the Polymer Clay Bead Making For Beginners that Premo is spelled Primo, if you are interested. (Retired Elementary school teacher – can’t help myself! )

    Your Art Teachers Resources: 10 Tips for Polymer Clay Crafts Projects is OUTSTANDING! Crisp, succinct and to the point.

    Were you a teacher in another life?!!! You do these tutorials so well! In THIS life, you teach well.

    What torch for beading up the ends of one’s wires would you recommend? I would like to purchase one that would give me the “best bang for the buck”, yet not be so cheap that I wouldn’t be able to use it for other wire projects or to get the fuel at a reasonable price.

    What are the other tutes that I could purchase, which have wirework in them? I’ve attempted to SEARCH for them, but the only ones that come up are the ones with the copper tape edging.

    Thanks, again.
    Nettonya

    • @Nettonya R: It is so fun to have you here now Nettonya! It’s nice to have someone responding at this blog that I have met personally.

      Thanks for your comments. No, I wasn’t a teacher in a former life, not a trained one anyway. I did teach craft classes with Continuing Education for 10 years, but I am self taught. My mom is a elementary school teacher however, so I have had the opportunity to show her kids (and my own) a few of my tricks. With that and the Con’t Ed classes, I have been in enough classrooms to know what the issues can be.

      My favorite torch is just a propane one from Canadian Tire, which is generally used for soldering pipes. You know the kind where you screw a torch nozzle onto a small camping propane bottle. A basic kit will cost about $17 and the refill tanks are only about $4. It gets nice and hot, so you can ball up copper wire easily which can be trickier than balling up silver wire. It is not as dainty as the little butane torches, but they will give you the best bang for your buck!

      As far as finding more wire tutorials, try typing the words ‘wire tutorial’ or ‘metal tutorial’ into the search box at the top of the page to find them. Another thing to do is to visually ‘flip’ through the back issues, in the Polymer Clay Library, to see what the rest of the mixed media tutorials are. I’ve linked to the back issue page by my name.

      Hope that helps!

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