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.
There are TWO ways to teach this project: either with kiln fired clay or Model Magic – depending on what you have access to.
The Model Magic version is great and almost mess free, with just a few steps and supply requirements.
CREATING A MODEL MAGIC SNOWMAN
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
– White Crayola Model Magic
– Small twigs or stems (from outside)
– Toothpicks (colored ones are great for the nose!)
– Black sulphite paper
– Black tempera paint
– Black Sharpie marker
– 2 inch pieces of yarn
– Large hole puncher or scissors
– Hot glue gun for the scarf
– Foam shapes brush (for hats)
This version can be completed in one session (40-minutes max) and they’re a great way for kids to show their personality!
Watch our quick tutorial HERE.
Teacher Tip: Try using other Model Magic colors to add beanies, goggles or scarfs! We made a snowboarding snowman with a green hat and a fuzzy pom pom on top!
(AND, if you make the snowman small enough, you can use the toothpick to hold the body and the hat together – no hot glue needed!)
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.
WATCH THE VIDEO TUTORIAL
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 (gofball 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.
Download the CLAY SNOWMAN PROJECT PLAN:
Happy winter days!
We don't have access in our building to a kiln. How do I find access to a kiln to complete the project?
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
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.
I love this adaption! I will be adding this to my list for next year
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.
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 🙂
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
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!
Everyone should check these out. Super cute and a great example of adapting a kinder lesson to sixth grade. Great job!
Can you use regular glaze to paint features just like you used underglaze?
Hi Chris…what kind of regular glaze? I’m not sure what you mean.
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!
You know, I’ve heard other art teachers mention it before. Does it really look as good as the traditional glaze? I’m intrigued.
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?
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!
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! 🙂
Love this idea! I will be using air-dry clay. One question: For the suggestion of poking a pencil up through the snowman… Afterward you then remove the pencil, right? I considered using a skewer stick (probably cut in half), and just leaving it in there for stability. However, I’m guessing that having the wider space that a pencil would create and the potential air flow after the pencil is removed would probably help for quicker drying.
Def remove the pencil. The skewer would burn off in the kiln so it wouldn’t hurt to keep it there but it’s not necessary. Make sure kids use the scratch attach method so the 3 sections are secure. The pencil is removed so that the clay will dry more completely…steam leads to explosions! Have fun 🙂
I am so excited to do this with my Kinders! I just have one question: When I poke the pencil up through the 3 balls, do I also poke it through the hat? Thanks for all of your wisdom and inspiration!
How long do these typically take to dry before firing?
Kiln Fired clay can dry in about 7 days depending on the humidity level of the room.