Modeling clay provides a wonderful path to sensory play for younger kids. It also helps them develop their fine motor skills and gain perspective on the world. For older children, it helps to spark their creativity and teaches patients, perseverance, and the joy of self-expression. Perhaps that is why so many of us never really outgrow this seemingly simple toy.
With so many modeling clay options on the market though, which should you buy for your child? Should you keep things simple and just buy clay or should you pick a modeling clay kit from among the many that are offered?
That is the purpose of this article. Here we will explore the best options in modeling clay for kids of all ages. Discuss what you should look for in modeling clay for kids, and answer a few questions that often arise when we are discussing clay for kids.
Not interested in a deep discussion of the in and outs of modeling clay or in hurry and just want quick answers to your questions. In this section, we cut it down to the bare bones of our choices for the best modeling clay by category. Be aware that we will only be discussing two types of modeling clay; air dry clay and polymer clay. Outside of these proud classifications there really isn’t much that is appropriate for children to play with.
Got no time to read? Here are our best picks and why we picked them.
|Product Name||Why We Picked It|
|Play-Doh||Best Beginner Clay for Toddlers|
|Crayola Air-Dry Clay||Best Starter Modeling Clay for Kids 6 and Up|
|Sculpey EZ Shape Modeling Clay||Top Non-Drying Clay for Kids|
|Staedtler Fimo Kids Polymer Clay||Softest Polymer Clay for Kids|
|Klutz Mini Clay World Pet Adoption Truck||Best Themed Kids Clay Play Kit|
|ALEX Toys Artist Studio Squeeze and Sculpt||Best Kids Clay Extrusion Kit|
|Creative Kids Air Dry Clay Modeling Crafts Kit||Best Modeling Clay For Budding Artist|
|Ifergoo 46 Blocks Polymer Clay Set||Modeling Clay With Most Eco-Friendly Materials|
Best Clay for Kids
Best Beginner Clay for Toddlers
Some might argue this point but to our minds, Play-Doh is still the very best starter clay for little ones. It has been around for eons and has been the childhood favorite of literally thousands of people.
Play-Doh is completely non-toxic comes in a huge variety of colors and is cheap enough that it is not a worry when it gets trashed or eaten.
Best Starter Modeling Clay for Kids 6 and Up
Crayola Air-Dry Clay
When kids are ready to start wanting to save their works of art, it is hard to beat Crayola Air-dry Clay. It is fine, has a smooth texture, and can be worked using traditional pottery techniques but requires no baking or firing.
This is an excellent choice as a teaching tool as well as a creative toy.
Top Non-Drying Clay for Kids
Sculpey EZ Shape Modeling Clay
Soft enough for even tiny hands to be able to form wonderful shapes and figures, Sculpey EZ Shape is a wax-based natural clay that never hardens. It is free of all common allergens and animal by-products. This makes a top choice among those living a vegan lifestyle. Be aware though, that unlike the other options we have listed that it can not be baked or allowed to air-dry. This clay stays forever soft.
Recommended for kids four and up.
Softest Polymer Clay for Kids
Staedtler Fimo Kids Polymer Clay
Expressly developed to help children develop their fine motor skills and spatial perception, Fimo Kids Polymer Clay is easy to blend and shape. It sticks easily to itself but leaves less mess than other clays of this type. It comes in a variety of colors and can be hardened by baking making it possible to save your kid’s clay work forever.
Adult supervision is required for baking.
Best Themed Kids Clay Play Kit
Klutz Mini Clay World Pet Adoption Truck
Kids naturally love animals and this clay play kit is all about being kind to our furry friends. It comes with everything they need to learn how to create a dozen different animal designs plus:
- Three simulated fur blankets
- Five pairs of googly eyes
- Clay in seven different colors
- Paper punch-outs for dog house and other accessories
- Pieces to assemble truck
One of the things we love most about this child’s creativity starter set is the 32-page instruction booklet that guides you from properly conditioning the clay to creating cute finished animals.
Best Kids Clay Extrusion Kit
ALEX Toys Artist Studio Squeeze and Sculpt
Just because your little ones aren’t ready to sculpt detailed shapes is no reason for them not to enjoy creating detailed artwork.
This kit comes with a press and 15 different shaping stencils to make creating wonderful shapes easy and fun. Make different shaped ropes or slice them into smaller lengths to piece together stunning creations.
Recommended for children three and up but we highly suggest smaller children should be closely supervised anytime they are playing with clay.
Best Modeling Clay For Budding Artist
Creative Kids Air Dry Clay Modeling Crafts Kit
This kit comes with 50 different colored clays, a set of sculpting tools, googly, eyes, keyrings, and loads of other accessories.
While the non-toxic, air-dry clay can be used for simple playtime modeling, this kit was intended for kids who take their exploration of the arts a little more seriously. It is ideal for teaching both basic and advanced sculpting technics without the need for an oven or kiln.
Modeling Clay With Most Eco-Friendly Materials
Ifergoo 46 Blocks Polymer Clay Set
Ifergoo modeling clay is unique among the crowd of offerings available due to it being vegetable-based. Their clay modeling kit comes with eight different sculpting tools and a wide variety of jewelry-making supplies to entertain both kids and children alike.
Best of all, their modeling clay is clean and won’t stick to tiny hands or most smooth surfaces. It is also non-toxic and safe, environmentally friendly, brightly colored, and strictly complies with the ASTM D-4236 toxicity standards.
What to Consider When Buying Clay for Kids
Here are the six key areas that we feel it is important to look at when buying clay crafts sets or materials for kids.
When shopping for kids safety is always a primary concern. Be sure to only buy child-safe, non-toxic clays. You should also be aware that some clays contain known allergens or non-eco-friendly materials.
Be sure to read labels carefully, keep age recommendations in mind, and question anything you don’t understand.
Workability is a measure of how stiff or firm a clay is. Clay that is too hard to shape can strain little fingers. Then again, if it is too soft won’t hold form and can be frustrating for a budding artist.
Only you can gauge your child’s ability and needs, but keep workability in mind when choosing modeling clay for kids.
Type of Clay
There are three types of clay that you will normally find recommended for kids. each has advantages and disadvantages. Three types of clay appropriate for children are:
- Air-dry clay- As the name implies this clay hardens over time when exposed to air.
- Polymer clay- Polymer clays are sometimes called oven-bake clays. They must be baked to be cured.
- Wax-based clays- These clays also called Plastilina are wax or oil-based and will never fully harden. Only wax-based varieties should be used by children.
Molds or Freestyle
Many kid’s clay crafts sets come with molds, or presses and dies that shape the clay with minimum effort from the child. Others require that the child form the clay freehand. Only you can decide which is best for your child after considering their skill level.
This is closely related to choosing a type of clay. As discussed earlier, There are two types of clay available for kids that can be hardened and preserved; air-dry and polymer clay. Whether you want to supervise your child curing polymer clay in the oven is your choice.
Hardened poly clay is more resilient than air-dry clay but it of course has to be baked.
Many clay modeling kits come with a wide variety of tools and accessories to help stir a child’s imagination and develop their modeling skills. Others are bare-bones and contain only clays. Which is best for your child will depend on the child, the amount of supervision available, and personal preferences.
What Is the difference between Play-Doh and modeling clay?
Play-Doh is not really clay. It is a mixture of flour, water, salt, and a few other minor ingredients. traditional clay is made of mineral clay. That is clay found in the earth. Interestingly, Polymer clays are not true clays either. They are made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) powders much like modern water pipes.
Is clay safe for preschoolers to play with?
Yes, clay is safe for preschoolers to play with, but we say this with certain caveats. Not all modeling clay is safe. It is safe as long as the clay is non-toxic, and does not contain allergens. You should always read the labeling of modeling clay carefully before allowing children to play with it. If you are not sure, ask questions or find another modeling clay to buy.
What is the best clay for beginners?
There is no single best clay for every beginner and much of the choice comes down to your clay working goals. If you are wanting to start making pottery then stoneware clay with a fine grog is a good place to start.
If you are just wanting to experiment with a design then one of the many quality air-dry clays might be ideal. They don’t require any baking or firing.
For jewelry, home decor items, or similar projects then poly clays are ideal since they are more durable after curing than air dry clay.
Which clay is best for crafts?
Which modeling clay is best for crafts depends on the crafts. The choices are almost endless. The best advice we can offer is to stick with name brands that are known for quality. In poly clays Sculpey is king. The most popular names in air-dry clays are Fimo, Amaco, and DAS.