Modeling clay is a wonderful medium for young crafters -- what else can you squish, squeeze, mash, roll flat and re-form into anything you can imagine? Let your little artists' creativity run wild while you guide them through some simple steps to make fun clay animals. Use quick-drying clay for animals you want to keep or more malleable kids' clay for critters the kids can make, smash and make again.
Cover the table or work surface with a plastic tablecloth. Lay out the clay, plastic utensils, rolling pin and some small pieces of wax paper within reach of the kids.
Form a piece of clay into a small oblong shape, then roll it on the flat surface with your hand to make a long, tubular shape. Lay the creature out on a piece of wax paper. Shape it into a coil, an S-shape or flat with its head and neck lifted up off the paper. Make stripes or patterns on your squirmy critter using a plastic fork or knife.
Make ball-shaped pieces of clay using a mix of colors to create a cute caterpillar. Have each child make 10 small colored clay balls, each about the size of a small grape. Gently push two clay balls together on a piece of waxed paper to start the caterpillar. Continue adding on clay balls in a row until the caterpillar is complete. Cut two tiny slivers of clay to gently press onto the "head" of the caterpillar to look like antennae.
Make a kid-friendly teddy bear with brown, white or black clay. Have the kids make one large round ball for the body, a smaller one for the head, and three little ones for ears and a nose. Press the body ball onto a piece of wax paper, then gently press the smaller ball on top of it for the head. Help the kids add the ears and nose to the head ball. Roll another piece of clay into a rope shape, then cut it into four small lengths for the arms and legs. Press these onto the bear's body with the legs pointing outward as if the bear is sitting down and the arms extended down the sides.
Help the older kids put stripes, spots, facial features or other design elements on their clay creations using a toothpick. Make sure the kids don't test out the toothpicks on each other; toddlers shouldn't use them at all, just to be on the safe side.
For a simple, quick alternative for very young children, let them roll pieces of clay flat, then cut with animal-shaped cookie cutters.
Supervise all clay activities at all times.