Children love creating and exploring, and they love working with their hands. Pottery crafts are a way for kids to literally wrap their hands around a 3-dimensional project, and pottery classes for kids help them to both have more fun and learn something in the process. If your eyes glaze over at the idea of kid’s pottery classes, look below for some amazing reasons that your child should play with clay.
How Pottery Classes Are Good for Kids
The latest data on how art affects kids is pretty startling all by itself, with kids exposed to art not only doing better in school, but growing into better people. But pottery specifically? How does pottery offer something special to kids? As it turns out, pottery does provide kids with something special—both pottery painting (along with other forms of painting) and even more so – work with clay. Both have been found to assist child development, helping children to develop fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, imagination, initiative, and curiosity (among other benefits). All of which makes pottery classes a good idea for many kids. And since there are really two very different kinds of childrens pottery classes being offered these days, let’s spin the wheel and look at both.
One: Going Old School- Pottery Making Classes for Kids
With the current popularity of pottery painting in studios and homes across the country, pottery making classes for kids (where kids make ceramics from scratch, kneading the clay and then firing it in a kiln) are a far rarer breed.
These classes typically take place in ceramics studios, although venues like art museums sometimes also offer them too. Since they take more effort to master than kids pottery painting classes and are usually more involved, they take more of a commitment, are more costly, and take more time to learn.
For that reason, kids who just want to dip a toe in the water are probably better off taking an introductory class or workshop, such as the one-day classes that art museums sometimes offer.
For more serious budding potters, a day camp will offer more. Pottery camps for kids are usually held for five days after school or during spring or summer break. At a pottery day camp, your child will probably do a combination of pottery making and other fun activities, such as outdoor play or exploring other art mediums.
Multi-week youth pottery classes that provide more advanced instruction are also an option. These can be pretty pricey, but kids will be able to meet with an instructor a lot over multiple weeks and gain a lot of skill. These classes are often offered in sessions of four to twelve weeks, with a monthly or multi-week commitment.
Lastly, if classes and camps aren’t available, somehow don’t work for your child, or your child simply falls in love with the craft and wants more, many artists offer private pottery lessons.
What Kids Learn
Kids pottery making classes offer instruction in three techniques, and most studios offer a combination of all three:
Wheel Throwing Classes
When you picture a children’s pottery making class, you probably see kids and an instructor tossing clay onto a potter’s wheel. This technique is referred to as wheel throwing and is what many professional potters use to make their works. Because wheel throwing can be a bit complicated, these classes are typically only offered for older kids—tweens and teens.
“Hand Building” Classes
Hand building is easier than wheel throwing for young children. In hand building class, your child will learn coiling, slab, and pinching techniques. This technique can be used for making bowls and cups, along with a world of other 3d creations.
Sculpting, mosaics, decorating and glazing
Pottery making is not just making bowls or vases. Some classes specialize in sculpting, while others teach your child how to decorate and glaze.
Learning to create mosaics is a more unique form of pottery making that can be used to create abstract pieces, coasters and tiles or even decorative stepping stones for the garden. When children learn mosaics, they also learn skills such as grouting and using resin to create sturdy pieces. Some clay studios also offer classes on making stained glass!
How Kids Benefit
The benefits of pottery making classes for kids? In addition to the techniques and skills they learn, kids get to work with one of the most important artistic mediums known to man (clay) as an accomplished artist or craftsperson would, learning to create a piece of art from scratch through patience, persistence, and growing artistic ability, all guided by an experienced mentor. Pretty exciting stuff when you think about it.
Choosing A Children’s Pottery Making Class
Have a kid just starting out? Then look for a pottery studio that offers a beginner-only group. Unlike many other kids art classes, pottery making can take a while to learn and can be frustrating for a kid struggling with the basics while the rest of the class has moved on to advanced techniques. If your child has never done pottery before, finding a studio that offers classes specifically for beginners will help ensure a frustration-free experience.
Along the same lines, look for a pottery/ceramics class with a low student–teacher ratio, especially if your child is just beginning. If there are too many other students in the class, your child might not get the help he or she needs. As kids get more proficient, higher student–teacher ratios are okay, but in the beginning, you want them to get more individualized instruction.
And after you do choose your class, here’s a quick tip:
Put your young potter in play clothes! Clay itself doesn’t stain, but pottery making is messy! There’s going to be plenty of splishing and splashing and you can expect kids to come home wet and dirty. Perhaps keep some spare clothes in the car for your child to change into so that she has something nice and dry waiting for her.
Two: Going New School- Kid’s Pottery Painting Classes
If the idea of a full-blown pottery making class isn’t exactly kiln it for you, a pottery painting class may turn out to be your stroke of genius. Pottery painting classes for kids are fun, easier to master, and require less of a time commitment than their squishier counterparts. They also provide a more family-friendly experience if you’re just looking for an afternoon of family time or an activity to beat the winter blues.
Class or Party?
Kids pottery painting classes (and the adult ones too) come in two basic flavors. There are in-studio pottery classes, where your kids pick out a piece of ceramic and paint it in a group (including drop-ins, scheduled classes and pottery painting camps). Or kids painting parties, especially popular for birthdays, where you reserve the studio and kids enjoy an afternoon of pottery painting, cake and goodies.
Benefits of Pottery Painting Classes
So why pottery painting? Because pottery painting classes for kids are fun for just about everybody—for older kids and young ones too. They’re non-competitive, and there’s no right or wrong way to do them, meaning that kids are free to be creative and play without worrying that they’ve messed something up. And even though the day may be about pure, wacky fun, kids are still getting the same fine motor skills benefits they would from drawing or painting on paper, along with the satisfaction of creating some pretty cool stuff… like a piggy bank, a vase, or a nifty new way to decorate a shelf.
And Psst…There’s Something in It for You Too
As a parent of young children, I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my favorite perks of kids pottery painting studios is that they’ll do all of the set-up and cleanup. It’s great to have a messy and creative afternoon out with my kids and not have to worry about gathering all of the supplies and then wiping paint off the table or the floor!
Another potential perk though not a sure thing, is that some pottery painting places don’t have a studio fee. So you only pay for the piece you complete. That is definitely a bonus if you have multiple children or become a pottery painting family!
The Lowdown on How It Works
For the uninitiated, here’s the typical step-by-step for most pottery classes for kids:
- First, the kids (or you and the kids) choose a pottery piece.
- Next, they’ll receive instruction from the teacher. They’ll learn how to gather their paint and supplies, and then how to use different techniques to create their masterpiece. If you or your child have questions while painting, be sure to ask the teacher!
- Next, it’s time to get to work painting!
- Once finished, the painted piece is put into the kiln to dry for about one week.
So Kids Paint What… Pots?
The variety of pieces your child can paint are virtually unlimited. Of course, there are the usual plates, bowls and tea cups. But some of the more unique options include chopstick holders, colanders, piggy banks, tiles, dinosaur figurines, picture frames, princess figurines, ceramic cupcakes, vases, Christmas ornaments and even ceramic jack-o-lanterns!
*And important to note! Most studios use only food-safe glaze so your child’s pieces will be safe to eat off of as well. If you have any doubt, ask!
My Child Is Just Learning…Can He Still Paint?
Kids definitely don’t need to be expert at anything to enjoy pottery painting classes. Most studios in fact offer a little extra help, including stencils, stickers, carbon paper and tracing paper to help kids make their work look a little more polished, if that’s what they’re after.
What to Look for in a Pottery Painting Class?
While your kid’s not going to miss the boat on college because you chose the wrong pottery painting class, you also want to choose the right one. Since many kids pottery studios cater to adults too, it’s important to find ones that put children high on the agenda. You’ll want to look for:
- Selection: Check to see that the studio has a large and varied selection of pottery pieces. My little ones tend to be very picky (*ahem, particular) about the pieces that they choose, so having a large selection means that you won’t walk away empty handed with a disappointed child.
- Space: Few things will ruin a childs pottery painting class faster than not being able to walk around without bumping into others (or worse, having someone bump into your child, causing him to drop his precious work of art!). Find a studio that has enough room to work without having to scoot around other painters.
- Aprons/smocks: Some studios do not provide aprons or smocks, or they might not have enough of the right size for your little one. While the paint is usually washable, you’ll still want smocks (and just to be sure, have your child dress in clothes that can get dirty.
- Organization: I’m the type of parent who loves things neat and organized, but for kids, having organized supplies at the right height is good too.
- Materials: Typically, pottery painting places are open to the public, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be painting with other customers while you’re there. A good studio will have ample supplies for everyone so that you can concentrate on having a fun afternoon out with your little one, without having to borrow supplies from other painters.
Pleasant Surprises and Fun Extras
Some of the better kids pottery painting places offer little extras that go above and beyond to provide a great experience. What to look for?
Kids may not be able to start and finish their piece all on the same day. So some pottery painting studios allow guests to finish later free of charge. This is a great option for toddlers and preschoolers who may not always have the longest attention span.
And a few wisely understand that the quickest way to some children’s (and teen’s!) hearts is through the stomach. Studios that offer free refreshments or even family pizza nights ensure a fun family activity without having to worry about packing snacks or consoling hungry toddlers.
Finally, if you’re a deal-loving parent like myself, discount days are a fun way to try something new without putting a dent in the budget!
Tips for the Perfect Family Pottery Painting Outing
Now that you found just the perfect place to take your young Picassos pottery painting, here are a few last tips to make sure your creative afternoon happens without a hitch.
- First, sometimes the busier pottery painting places can be well… really busy. This is especially true on weekends and school vacations. If you want to make sure your squirmy preschooler or impatient tween isn’t waiting a long time for a turn, it’s a good idea to make a reservation.
- As mentioned before… not all studios provide smocks! You want your kids to have fun without having to worry about getting paint on their shirt, so remember to bring that smock. And hey, if you don’t have a smock, an adult-sized old t-shirt works as well!
- Finally, have a budget in mind before you walk in and since pottery pieces range in price widely, plan to gently direct your child to pieces in that price range. This way, your little one finds a piece he or she loves at a price that makes you happy as well!
With all of the benefits and fun of pottery classes for kids, there’s no better time for your child to begin exploring the world of clay, kilns and glaze.