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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 12 , 2003 - Issue 91


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Mary Ann from Bright Ring Publishing, Inc., has generously allowed us to share some of her art and craft ideas with you. You can find more activities on her site at

Children explore and model shapes with a basic flour and salt playclay; then they press a selection of collage materials into their shapes to become decorations baked or air-dried into long-lasting sculptures.

Bunch of Balloons
  • Make playclay. (Children like to help mix.) Mix 4 cups (500g) flour, 1 cup (250g) salt, and 1-3/4 cups (300ml) warm water in a bowl. Knead the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes before modeling.
  • This recipe can be doubled or halved successfully.
  • Place a rubber placemat in front of each child at the worktable. Put a child-size portion of playclay onto each placemat. (Children can also work on a bare table.) NOTE: This clay starts drying when exposed to air. To keep the unused portion fresh, store in an airtight container.
  • Place loose collage items into the cups of a muffin tin, into paper cups placed on a baking tray, or into any other containers on hand. Spread out other collage items on a baking pan or tray.
Process (Child with adult help)
  • Explore and enjoy the playclay.
  • Poke, model, roll, and flatten the playclay into shapes.
  • Decorate the shapes. Press sticks, twigs, or other materials into their shapes (see list.) Notice that some materials are suggested for baking, while others are suggested for air-drying.
  • Choose to air dry or bake the shapes, depending on the materials that pressed into them.
  • Place the sculptures on a flat cookie sheet to air dry for several days, or use the following baking directions:

    Bake the shapes at 325ºF (170ºC) for about an hour (adult only). Use a flat smooth cookie sheet for baking. The baking time will depend on the thickness of the dough. A good rule of thumb is to allow half an hour of baking time per 1/4" (1 mm) thickness of dough. Extra thin sculptures will bake quickly, so watch them carefully to prevent burning. Allow the shapes to cool.

  • After the playclay shapes are dried or baked, pour tempera paint into a shallow dish.
  • Paint shapes with tempera paint. Air dry on paper plates.
  • Children love mixing and pouring in the water more than any other step of the recipe.
  • This dough is not meant to be eaten. However, it will not harm children if it is ingested.
  • Children can work on a covered or bare table, individual placemats, trays, or wax paper.


  • Glaze -- For a shiny surface, glaze the completed shapes before baking by brushing them with a beaten egg white, evaporated milk, or mayonnaise.
  • Handprint -- Make a large flat circle and ask the child to press her hand in the center. Then bake it or let it air dry.
  • Cookie Cutter Shapes -- Roll the dough flat and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Poke a hole at the top with the end of a straw before baking. When it is done baking, tie a short or long string through the hole to make an ornament or necklace.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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