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Families Make It! Turtles

Explore sculpture together with different materials for different ages and stages.

In the latest Kylee Makes It video, we visit an artist named Jeremy South from Ripple Mobile Arts in Indianapolis, IN. Jeremy works with clay and teaches us all about it in Kylee Makes a Turtle. We learn about pottery wheels, stages of clay firing, and some basic methods of clay sculpture. If you're in the area, Jeremy offers classes as well as clay delivery and pottery wheel rentals. Check it out at

If you don't have access to kilns and pottery wheels (whoa, awesome if you do!), you can do the turtle project from the episode with an air dry clay, which will have a similar feel and consistency to the clay used in the episode. You can buy a box of air dry clay for about $10-12 at a craft store. Here is what I use from Hobby Lobby. Once it is dry, you can paint your sculptures together with acrylic paint. I like to put a gloss finish over my air dry projects so they look more kiln fired. That's totally optional. Air dry pieces will be a little fragile, so make sure to prepare your kids to be gentle with them.

If you have a toddler like me, I'm going to recommend getting out the play dough for this one. And while you get that play dough out, go ahead and put away your expectations of what will happen with that play dough!

I'll be honest, Dax cared not for making a turtle with me. The above photo was taken one second after he took the turtle I made apart, and one second before he smashed it all together to make "a planet."

Also, you know that kid mixed all the colors together.

This is a great reminder for us (...okay, me) of the WHY behind making art with our kids. Are we trying to make them into professional artists? No, no we are not. We are giving them new opportunities with new materials to experience the world. We are giving them tools to express their ideas and solve problems creatively. We are strengthening fine motor skills, finger and wrist muscles, and hand-eye coordination.

With this in mind, here's my tips.

  1. If play dough stresses you out, only break it out when you're feeling zen. If it's going to become a power struggle of keeping the colors separate and the little crumbs of the floor, maybe today is a day for something else.

  2. For a toddler, I would recommend getting things out, giving them some play dough, taking some yourself to play with, and then leaving them alone. Let them discover and play. Ask questions about what they are doing. Narrate back to them what you see them doing: "Oh! I see you are making a green ball!" Take time to explore the play dough yourself without driving their play or project forward.

  3. I have one rule with play dough: it stays on the table. This makes my life a little easier and my blood pressure a little more regulated.

If you want to do the turtle project from the episode, it's totally do-able! Here's a picture of the pieces in play dough:

For more awesome play dough activities, check out this post by one of my favorite mama bloggers, Mandisa, at Happy Toddler Playtime. You can also follow her on Instagram for regular toddler activity inspiration.

If you want to explore more about sculpture together, check out my educator resource on the educator page.

As always, I'd love to see what you and your family discovered and created as you were inspired by this episode or post! Post and tag @kyleemakesit or use #kyleemakesit on Facebook or Instagram. I can't wait to see it!

Watch Kylee Makes a Turtle here!

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