Make it Fun
You make their first contact with pottery a fun enjoyable experience. Once they have the interest then you might want to add a little practical knowledge. Of course you want your children to be safe so only use safe materials and provide basic hygiene equipment, and instructions such as -wash your hands, and don't put anything in your mouth.
Where should you start?
Most children are familiar with playdo or plasticine. They have probably moulded these into shapes before. So let them use their imagination to form something that means something to them. Air drying or oven bake modelling clay products (suitable only for age over 3 years) similar to plasticine can be used which allow the pieces to be hardened into permanent shapes.
Once stimulated you might want to demonstrate how to roll a ball and make a sausage of clay and coil it to make a circular shape. Let them experiment making shapes themselves. Once adept at creating coils you might want to show them how to stack the coils to make a bigger shape. Plastic cutters such as used in cookery can be used to cut out shapes from a flattened out clay just like cutting shapes out of pastry.
What about painting colours?
Many of the items once air hardened or oven baked can be painted with acrylic paints. This allows children to learn a painting skill. The use of different size or shape of tip on brushes can help with children of different skill levels or ages. These skills can then be readily adopted and used with ceramic paints as the child progresses to making real pottery.
What about older children?
Older children need more to keep their interest so create a project and set them a challenge of making an item such as a coin tray. The same materials can be used as for younger children.
Alternatively get some real pottery clay and get them used to its feel and how water affects it and allows it to be smoothed or reprocessed when it dries out.. Of course this might become more messy but that's all part of the fun. Learn that large sections of clay crack on drying and why!
Sculpting tools can be used to allow even more skills to be developed and create a personalisation of the work.
It is important to note that all items produced from the above information should be considered as purely decorative. Under no circumstance should they be used as food contact items.
In order to make real functional pottery special ceramic materials, glaze and colour need to be used as well as firing in a pottery kiln at very high temperatures (greater than 1000C). This requires some specialist knowledge and expertise. Pottery classes would be recommended at this stage to progress in a safe and friendly environment.
Acrylic paints and a domestic oven WILL NOT produce functional pottery.
More information about getting children to work with clay can be found at 'Teaching Tips for clay'
Even more information and other technical articles on pottery and ceramics can be found at my website The Potters Friend. Go now to sign up for my free newsletter.