There are so very many free clay recipes floating around on the web. It seems like most kids craft websites are simply posting the clay dough recipes without trying the clay first. To us that’s kinda like recommending a recipe without ever having tasted it first.
We hope to try more clay recipes in the future but, for now, this is the only one that we have tried for ourselves.
This recipe is for a flour and salt clay that air drys. No baking required!
How To Make The Clay
- Mix 4 cups of flour and 1 cup of iodized salt in a large bowl. (While the original recipe does not suggest doing so, we mixed the salt and flour prior to adding the water to make what we hoped to be a more uniform clay.)
- Add 1 and 3/4 cups of warm water to the flour/salt mixture. (We started mixing with a wooden spoon as it took a while for the mixture to start resembling clay and then started working with our hands to get the ingredients to combine. This amount of water is enough though it may not appear to be correct at first.
- Knead the clay dough. The original recipe suggested kneading for 10 minutes. Ours took a bit longer.
- Have fun making stuff.
Clay Making Tips
We had plenty of clay to play with making only a 1/4 batch. The pictures that accompany this kids craft project were all made with a 1/4 batch of the clay.
After making several clay creations, the dough seemed to be drying around the edges – covering the yet to be used dough helped to prevent this.
If you find you clay becoming a little dry, when you take the next piece to create with, dip a finger or toothpick in water, let most of the water drip back into the water and then take your moist finger and work with the clay. It doesn’t take much water to get it back into shape and the clay will become very sticky if you add too much water at once. (If you do add too much water, let the clay sit in the open to slightly air dry or add some of the unmoistened bit. Or, dip, not scoop, your fingers into some flour and work the fresh flour into the clay.
When kept in a sealed bag, this clay seems to remain quite usable. While I would not recommend keeping it so long, we made this clay over 8 weeks ago and the clay is still moist and workable.
Crafting With Clay
The clay can be colorized with food coloring but it seems to take an extraordinary amount of coloring to get a recognizable color. We tried pink and green. The cabbage rose came out lighter than the wet clay but was definitely pink. Dried sculptures can be colorized with markers. We didn’t try any sort of paints so I can’t say one way or another if they are a good colorizer. The clay soaked up the marker ink like a sponge, so it might pay to try paint on a piece or two before using more expensive marking pens.
To prevent cracking, make firm clay balls and snakes. The head of our octopus was not made firmly and it has cracks across the surface while the other items where we made our shapes more firmly did not.
We found it useful to create a small amount of slip to hold the pieces together while we were creating our sculptures. Slip is simply clay that has an excessive amount of water added to it that has the consistency of thick gravy or kid’s glue.
A toothpick will help make eyes and other details neater. Let the piece sit a few minutes to get better details without creating rough edges.
No Bake Clay
Perhaps the best part of this clay is that it can be left to air dry. It does take a number of days to dry fully and large clay pieces will take longer.
We laid our no bake clay creations on newspaper to dry and it took around a week for some of the larger pieces to dry. Throughout the week, we gently repositioning the pieces on dryer sections of newspaper or in a way that exposed a different side. That sped up the drying process and led to more even drying. Our snowman and cabbage rose took the longest to dry. Both started drying better when we changed what area was resting on the paper.
This no bake clay dries extremely hard. When banged together it sounds like rocks hitting each other. However, it does not dry as hard as rocks and can break if dropped or roughly handled. The extremely pourous nature of the dried clay would seem to take craft glue fairly well.
The clay dries hard enough for sanding.
Negatives of this Clay
- It takes quite a long time to air dry. Do not expect to have fully dried pieces the next day. The original recipe also suggested baking the finished clay pieces at 300 degrees until hard. Unfortunately, the author didn’t share any suggestions on determining when that point was reached.
- Flat edges tend to crack and split but we found making firmer balls and snakes helped this somewhat.
Positives of this Clay
- 100% child safe ingredients.
- No cooking required to make the clay.
- No cooking required to set the clay.
- Dries extremely hard.
- Can be sanded to remove sharp edges and stray bits.
- Finished clay pieces can easily be colorized with markers.
What to Make with Air-dry Clay
The biggest problem our family had after we made this clay was figuring out what to make with it. We had so many ideas while we were mixing the recipe. Ironically, once it was ready to play with, we couldn’t figure out how to turn our ideas into something recognizable.
Too bad we didn’t have these cool books.
The first one is by Bernadette Cuxart. It introduces children to modeling and sculpting. The author uses Fimo clay, but the concepts and tutorials presented might work great with our no bake clay recipe. The book is called Modeling Clay Animals: Easy-to-Follow Projects in Simple Steps.
There’s another great book by Bernadette Cuxart that would be great for anyone who hasn’t worked with clay before. It starts with making 3 basic shapes – teardrops, balls and worms. The book is called Modeling Clay with 3 Basic Shapes: Model More than 40 Animals with Teardrops, Balls, and Worms. Again, the author is using pre-colored clay. However, it looks like the projects could be done with no-bake air dry clay and colored with markers or paint after it dries .
Make it in Air-Dry Clay: 20 Creative Projects for Modeling, Sculpting & Crafting is a project book were many of the projects are done using non-colored clay like our recipe does. The book is packed full of great ideas and tips on working with air-dry clay.
Kawaii Polymer Clay Creations: 20 Super-Cute Miniature Projects is exactly what it says; a book full of super-cute projects. Yes, it uses polymer clay, but, many of the little animals that Emily Chen shares would be perfect for any clay including our air dry clay.
p.s. The previews of these books offer lots of great inspiration and ideas. You’ll get a good idea if they contain projects you and your family would enjoy or if you might try just winging it like we did.
This no-bake clay recipe makes a fun clay to use with younger children.
Unfortunately, this recipe won’t work for making smaller things, with finer details. We tried, it crumbled and cracked whenever we tried making more-detailed or smaller pieces.
However, I’ve been reading the glowing reviews of this Ultra-light Plasticine and Modeling Clay Play-set. You can get 24 different and vibrant colors of clay along with a few extras to help you make your creations.
One reviewer does not believe the clay is actually plasticine. However, other families found it to be a great product that their children really enjoyed working with. Were I currently in the market (oh, all of the lovely little flowers and things we could make) for some more clay, I would certainly consider picking up a package of this stuff.
UPDATE: It’s been six years since we first posted this article. (Doesn’t seem possible.) The air-dry modeling clay we’ve shared is still among the highest rated on Amazon. Parents and grandparents continue to be happy with their purchases. We’re excited to continue recommending such a great product to our readers.