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It always astounds me the social and personal developments that take place during a child’s first year in education at Nursery school.

I’ve had the privilege to work at Brearley and Teviot Nursery for the past twelve months and have witnessed huge changes in the class of 2011. As a new intake in September 2010, the children enjoyed experiencing clay in a physical and tactile manner – squidging, flattening and experimenting with simple hand tools.

The majority of children I worked with on Wednesday had advanced to the point where they wanted to produce objects as opposed to playing with the material.
The first animals, (mouse/elephant) although charming with all the correct features in the right places, were constructed out of solid lumps – destined to explode if they were ever to be fired. In an attempt to challenge the children’s learning, I demonstrated the pinch-pot technique as a way of creating a hollow form – a technique normally reserved for older children.
The results were astounding – perfect pinch-pots executed with great skill and dexterity.
We took this technique outside, producing bowls, vases and other vessels to contain the dandelions, daisy and other vegetation the children had collected.

In previous clay sessions at Brearley and Teviot Nursery, Jon had observed that a lot of the children enjoyed sticking multiple clay tools into lumps of clay. These wonderful creations became hedgehogs, cakes, forests and in one instance, the sun. In an attempt to further explore the activity and extend the children’s learning, Jon offered a range of larger sticks and small branches for the children to enjoy with the clay.

The nursery pride themselves with providing outside play whatever the weather, so although rain was imminent, Jon set up a stall in the great outdoors. The children created some wonderful sculptures, “a big big power”, ” exercise” (dumbbells) and a “microphone”.
Then the rain came down and turned the working surface into a muddy swamp. After a while rain did indeed stop play and everybody retreated inside.


Jon has considerable experience of working with early years.. Often, by way of an introduction, he’ll present the children with a large lump of clay placed in the middle of the table.

The session evolves depending upon the children’s interests. It never ceases to amaze just how imaginative and diverse the children’s approaches are to the medium.
The session at Brearley and Teviot Nursery earlier this week was no exception. The large lump immediately became a snowman with arms, ears and buttons, before being disassembled into smaller ‘lollipops’, ‘ice creams’ and ‘dinner’!
Jon was pleased to be back at the nursery this week, exploring the learning potential of working with clay.
The staff provide a vibrant and creative environment for the children to learn about the world with lots of opportunities catering for all learning styles. Important questions are raised, investigated and acted upon.
As it was the first time Jon had met the September intake – he presented the yellow room with a large lump of freshly defrosted, very sticky, clay – dumped in the middle of the table. Whilst the children squidged, rolled and flattened clay they talked about what they were making. Here’s just a few examples of what the clay transformed into:-
a rainbow, lollipops, snowmen, cakes, candles, helicopters, cheese, chocolate, Spiderman, mountains, moustaches, grass, fire, fireworks and (my favourite), hair butter!
Jon will be visiting regularly throughout the rest of the academic year.

Jon and the children explored socks, sand, clay straw and water in various outdoor spaces at the nursery.

All the materials were brought together to produce this lovely snake…before being ‘deconstructed’ in apocalyptic style!

Jon took around five hundred photographs documenting the five day residency, the best of which will feature in a display binder for the nursery – the intention to remind the staff and children of just some of the fab things you can do with clay.

Jon will be returning to Brearley Teviot Nursery in the Autumn term to work with the new intake of children and their families.