K

Ceramic Snowmen Art Lesson for Kinders

With great skill and enthusiasm, my Kinder classes created ceramic snowmen as gifts for their parents this holiday season. For art teachers, this is a fairly easy lesson to do.

I chose to do it with my kindergartners but it would be even better for first or even second grade. Some little ones with no play dough experience, had a tough time rolling out the balls. Most did okay, but that’s one thing you have to watch for.

CREATING THE SNOWMAN

So, having said that, this is an easy lesson for most Kinders with the only difficult part being the creation of the hat.

I had the children roll out 4 balls: 1 large (golfball size or smaller), 1 medium and two small balls. One of the small balls can be pinched to form a top hat (or a sunhat or knitted hat, whatever it ends up to be). Once all the balls have been formed, children place the balls on top of one another and press down slightly. This is important as you want the base of the snowman not to roll around.

I teach the kids the “scratch attach” method of scoring the balls together, but of course, this is something the art teacher needs to check on afterwards.

After poking a pencil up through the entire snowman (helps keep the snowman from falling apart, helps the clay dry faster plus prevents the snowman from blowing up in the kiln), I then poke holes into the sides for the arms which will be put on later with twigs from my backyard and hot-glued in place.

To create the nose, the kids rolled out a tiny piece of clay, poked a hole into the face of the snowman with a wooden dowel and slipped the nose into the hole. I had the kids dip the end in water before putting it in the hole.

Two firings needed: one after the clay has dried and the second one after the kids used underglaze. I use a Duncan dipping glaze after the underglaze is applied.

If you chose to just fire once, then you can use watercolor paints and even tempera paints finished with a good coating of glossy mid-lodge. I’m beginning to like this as an alternative as firing twice can be time consuming.

Happy winter days!


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  • Rob, Holly and Lizzy Baker

    We don't have access in our building to a kiln. How do I find access to a kiln to complete the project?

    • Marcy LaBella

      Try air dry clay from most clay suppliers like Laguna, Bailey, or Amherst Potters Supply – it is not the same as kids air dry which is not at all like regular clay. This is an actual clay body that handles and works like real clay and will air dry hard. it can then be painted with acrylic or tempra.

      Marcy k-8 art instructor

    • Emily

      I do a similar project and using sculpy clay and just bake it in my oven at home. We glue ours onto the lids of mason jars and add water and glitter to create personal snowglobes to take home around the first snow.

  • Patty P

    Hi Holly,
    The instructions were meant for ceramics, but you could adapt them for any air dry clay. Perhaps use acrylic paint for the finishing steps.
    As for finding access to a kiln, well, that's a bit hard for me to answer given that I have no idea where you live or what your school situation is.
    My advice would be to use air dry clay.
    Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Patty, I'm delving into ceramics for the first time. Where is the best place to purchase bulk clay? What specific kind do you prefer? Hope you had a wonderful summer!
    Laura, Foothill 🙂

  • Patty P

    Laura!
    So good to hear from you. Hope things at Foothill are going well. As for the clay, just use the clay that is available from the GUSD warehouse. They order Laguna clay and it's all I've ever used. Just ask Pak to order you some.

  • Anonymous

    What type of underglaze do you use? I'm not familiar with it. Do you physically "dip" the finished snowmen into a clear glaze before firing? Thanks

  • Patty P

    Yup, I physically dip the piece into the glaze, although it's not clear until it gets fired. You could use brush on glaze though. Use whatever you are familiar with.
    Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    Hi! I love all of your project ideas – we've tried so many at our school this year with rave reviews! I tried this snowman project w/ my second grade class and had a kiln disaster. They all exploded! I think I may have let the kids make their snowmen too big – about 5-6 inches high w/ 2inch balls of clay. AND my kilnmaster is not working correctly so they were fired on Med. instead of slow. What was the approx. height of your students' snowmen and the size of each of the clay balls used to make them. Also, at what temp and speed did you bisque fire? We are going to give this one another try and chalk up our disaster to a practice round! Thanks for any advice you can give! – Heather

  • Patty P

    Hi Heather,
    Your questions regarding kiln temp might be getting a tad bit complicated for me!
    When a project blows up, it's usually because of an air pocket or perhaps steam. make sure you insert a dowel, pencil, etc. up the middle of the snowman so that the clay has a chance to expand. Also, the kids can't have any air pockets in the balls or else they will explode.
    I usually don't recommend doing a ceramic project unless you are really familiar with the medium. There are so many things that can go wrong! Try using air dry clay. It's much easier although the results will be a bit different.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your response and your help! We may try the air drying clay. About what height were your students' snowmen? And what size were the clay balls they used. Do you remove the pencils immediately or leave them in while the pieces dry?
    -Heather

  • Dawn

    What a great site! I am homeschooling mom of 5 girls (3 of them are school age) and this looks like a fun winter art project to do with them. Do you think we could do this with Sculpy clay?

    Thanks!

    • Patty

      Of course. You won’t have the same results as ceramics but any type of clay is fine as long as it can be manipulated by children. Ceramic projects are meant only for teachers with ceramic experience. I like ceramics because the finished piece is really a keeper and often kept for many years by the parents. Air dry clay and Sculpty clay don’t have the same durability (some may argue) and it’s more of a craft experience. Use what you’re familiar with.

  • Snippety Gibbet

    I am enjoying looking at your different ceramics projects. I agree that those are the most treasured among the elementary lessons. We’re lucky if any other work survives the backpack ride home at the end of the day. jan

  • Julie

    Hi Patty- loved the snowman lesson and tried it with my Grade 6 class- they loved it and we got rave reviews! Here they are: http://afaithfulattempt.blogspot.com/2010/11/clay-snowmen-ready-to-be-fired.html

    Thanks for sharing the lesson!

  • Chris

    Can you use regular glaze to paint features just like you used underglaze?

  • christine

    Hiya Patty! I love your site and refer to it often for springboards for my projects…have you ever heard of stroke and coat glaze? It is a bit pricey, but it has an overcoat built right in and the colors are bright and true every time. Easy stuff for little ones to handle and you don’t have to spend time overglazing!

  • morah

    I love this site because you give such practical advice- you are obviously there in the trenches. How do you send home ceramics projects so that they don’t break?

    • Patty Palmer

      I give the teacher a box with all the precious cargo wrapped up in newspaper. Lately, I’ve been collecting the plastic apple palettes that I buy at Costco…great for xmas ornaments and ceramic pumpkins!

  • Gaby

    Hi Patty,

    Just did these and they are just the cutest! I made them a little larger because I did them with 2nd -6th grade students. We all had so much fun making them.:) I had them make a large pinch pot, a medium pinch pot and a small pinch pot. Made sure that they didn’t open them up to much. Scored and slipped them all together, smoothed out where they attached and then poked a hole all the way through. Added the hats, scarves, noses, eyes, buttons, etc. We poked holes for arms last. Thank you for the idea. Can’t wait to see these glazed. Happy winter! 🙂

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