Shannon Merenstein from Hatch Art Studio in Pittsburgh is back to share with us her very favorite kitchen tools to use with plasticine, and why plasticine has become her favorite go-to material for process art at home with her two young boys.
I invited Shannon to write a quick post for me when I saw this photo below on her Instagram account and practically jumped out of my chair! What is going on here with these shapes? And what did her boys use to make them?
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Luckily Shannon said YES! Here she is in her own words, generously sharing her secrets.
Getting creative with your kids doesn’t have to be a brand new experience every time you get the itch to make something. In fact, it’s actually super beneficial to offer familiar invitations so children can master tools and materials and come up with innovative and new ways of using them.
This has been the year of plasticine for our family. With long days spent at home starting in early spring, I was exasperated taking out the playdough five times a day, always worried about it drying out and making sure little bits didn’t get stuck in the furniture. That’s when I remembered plasticine!
We had started using plasticine in our Hatch Create + Play On the Go kits because it can be used over and over again and it NEVER dries out. Like, never! I’m even semi-OK with it in the car because it doesn’t crumble or flake, either. It’s a modeling clay, and its excellent for developing hand strength and fine motor skills because it isn’t quite as soft and squishy as playdough.
There are so many ways to use plasticine. Older kids can make figures and even use them for stop-motion animation! Younger kids can use it just as a sensory material that can be cut, smushed, poked, rolled, and changed into any shape. We pair our clay with everyday kitchen drawer items for hours of imaginary play.
Best Supplies and Tools for Process Art Plasticine Play
~ Small rolling pins
~ Plastic knives or butter knives
~ Pizza roller
~ Potato masher
~ Lemon squeezer
~ Garlic press
The clay flattening machine is a staple. The kids can smush and flatten clay all day. And each time they run it through with a new color, it creates a marbled effect. Or you can intentionally create patterns and flatten them. If you are using a polymer clay that can be baked, then you can harden any of their creations and use them in imaginary play, or give them as gifts. Sometimes we use cookie cutters to make small shapes that can be used as pendants or in a garland. Just add a hole with a straw before baking.
Plasticine has become a mainstay on the kids art table in our home. We keep it in a bowl, and we don’t worry if the colors are mixed together.
One day we were looking for a different texture when a lightbulb went off. We checked the kitchen drawer, and we indeed had a garlic press! It is now our new favorite plasticine tool. This stainless steel one is from IKEA and I’ve had it forever, but rarely used it for processing garlic. So over to the clay table it went!
The garlic press is so satisfying to use and makes the coolest anemone-hair-spaghetti-worms ever! Packing the clay into the little cup and squuueeeeeeezing as hard as you can requires some strength, but even my 2-year old could use his arms and press the clay through with a little practice.
We also love making a plasticine bakery. The magic of the roller has not waned at our house, and pairing clay with muffin tins and candles (or straws) is always a joy.
Look no further than your own home for interesting, free, creative, process art experiences using plasticine clay and everyday kitchen tools.
A little about Shannon:
Shannon Merenstein is a lifelong Pittsburgher, mother, educator, and entrepreneur interested in art making and playful learning with young children. For over 14 years she has worked alongside children ages 8 months to 12 years, encouraging exploration, discovery, curiosity, and wonder through child-centered, open-ended art and play experiences. In 2015, she opened Hatch, a space dedicated to providing opportunities for creative thinking, problem solving, risk taking, and expression. In 2017, days before the birth of her second son, Shannon’s first book Collage Workshop for Kids (co-authored by the studio educators at the Eric Carle Museum) was published by Quarto Kids. In 2020, Hatch moved from Point Breeze to Wilkinsburg, undergoing a major shift in offerings with unwavering dedication to mission. Shannon is a workshop and professional development leader, utilizing human centered design strategies to effect change in education and collaborates with many organizations and schools in Pittsburgh. Shannon is also co-founder of The Creativity Project, releasing monthly guides to support lifelong creativity at home and at school.
Follow Shannon on her beautiful Instagram.
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