Plant printing in clay with toddlers

There’s somewhat of a debate when it comes to making beautiful “keepsakes” with toddlers versus letting them experiment and play with mark making. For once I’m firmly on the fence with this. Of course if you have been following us for a while you will know I’m happy to let Arlo run wild and participate in mess making activities with no end game in sight, probably more so than most parents. I also love having a finished “make” and seeing Arlo so proud of his creations and being able to gift them to others has been one of our favourite things to do during lockdown. I wrote all about how different arts and crafts, amongst other things kept us sane here. Valentine’s Day gave us another excuse to get our craft on.

You will need:

  • A selection of natural materials
  • Air dry clay
  • A rolling pin
  • A wooden skewer
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter
  • Tinker bits
  • Grease proof paper
  • Ribbon
  • Card stock

All of the best activities we have done begin with a walk outdoors – it’s nigh on impossible for Arlo to sit down and concentrate on an activity without burning off some energy. We always take out a tote bag and end up bringing home an array of leaves and twigs from every adventure and nature inspires a lot of our craft projects, this air dry clay activity was a simple low prep and last minute plan for a rainy afternoon.

I always provide Arlo with a tinker tray when it comes to playing with dough. As we were approaching Valentine’s Day I had a rummage through the craft stash and found some heart shaped wooden pieces, some sequins and a few buttons for good measure.

This is as simple as it sounds – we rolled out our clay with a rolling pin and then cut our heart shapes. Arlo also decided he wanted to make giant cobra snakes entirely off topic but which we embraced as we had plenty of clay to play with. Some of our snakes did get coiled up in to hearts.

We placed the leaves we wanted to use in to the clay and rolled them in to the hearts with a firm pressure. I had to show Arlo a couple of times exactly how to do this and make a print but he picked it up quickly and began to use some of the tinker items to make his own impressions.

I poked holes in to our hearts and we left them to dry on a layer of grease proof paper. This air dry clay gets whiter as it hardens and makes for a beautiful rustic looking piece all on its own, but we have set some of our pieces aside to paint on another day.

Arlo was happy to thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and I helped him tie a bow and attach it to a piece of red card – which he then “wrote” inside to send to his Valentine (his nanny of course). The clay decoration can be removed form the card and kept as a treasured keepsake and I don’t think this takes away anything from the play experience which Arlo thoroughly enjoyed. We delivered the card alongside some of Arlo’s freshly baked love bug cookies to put a smile on nanny’s face.

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