I never allowed my children play with modelling clay in my home when they were young, but changed my mind when grandchildren arrived. I have the perfect table, a discarded fast food restaurant booth, so that the mess stays in one spot. There is one sturdy box to hold all the cans of dough and associated toys. They only play with the modelling clay when I’m watching them, and it’s their favourite activity when visiting our house.
The seven-year-old has been doing an excellent job of keeping the colours separated. Typically, it takes her little brother about five minutes before he mixes all the colours together into one grey mass.
A couple of months ago, he decided to be more careful and keep the colours separated. Things were going well until one fateful day when he created a big rainbow blob that eventually turned into several cans of one solid colour. I asked why he did it, and he explained that it was the easiest thing to do. He was right, maintaining the colours took effort!
Lesson 1: Doing the right thing is rarely the easiest thing. Doing the right thing is harder and takes more commitment.
Another interesting thing about watching them play is that they often don’t create anything recognisable. They can smash and stretch the same blob of clay for 30 minutes or more with no goals in mind.
Lesson 2: Many of us adults think we must always be doing something productive, but doing nothing is necessary, too. Meditation, taking a nap, or just spending a pleasant evening outside to enjoy the sunset have big payoffs.
I never know how long it will be before the kids are ready to play with something else. Without fail, they always ask to play with the modelling clay, but the actual playtime could last 15 minutes or two hours. We have a rule about the modelling clay: it all must be put away and cleaned up before getting out any other games or toys.
Lesson 3: Always complete the task, do the paperwork, add the comments and formatting, and clean up your mess.
Occasionally, they produce a masterpiece. We keep those on a bookshelf to dry out and stay on permanent display. We have spheres, cubes, snakes, butterflies, and more. My favourite was a globe that my grandson created by accident.
Lesson 4: Some great things can happen when you least expect it.
Lesson 5 is the most important thing that I learned, but I learned it too late: Waiting until I had grandchildren to allow the modelling clay in my home was a big mistake. Sorry kids!