Happy new year! Today, school is back in session for us here in Toronto. And while it’s already almost mid-month, to me it feels like the “official” new year just started. The two week Christmas holidays were awesome, but it also feels great to be back in a routine.
For Christmas, Zachary (4.5 years old) received a pottery wheel for kids from his aunt. I’m thrilled with it — I’m always on the lookout for tools that promote concentration. And it’s not always easy because it depends so much on a child’s abilities, skills and interests. There’s just so many moving variables. Selecting a suitable activity is one of the more difficult things about Montessori for me.
However, I view the pottery wheel as a tool and not a toy. Much like a child-sized hammer or a pair of scissors, a pottery wheel is a tool that can be used by a child as and when creativity strikes, and his skills are developed over time. I love tools that have longevity like this because I never feel “cluttered” by them or feel the need to get rid of them.
The one thing to be aware of — pottery can get really messy. I expected the mess, but did not expect the degree of messiness. It can get muddy real fast! Literally!
Here are some tips to minimize mess and frustration:
– Use a big plastic tray. Line it with newspaper (to absorb the water) before placing the pottery wheel on the tray. We lined newspaper directly on the table, but that’s not a good idea. The newspaper gets wet and loses its absorbency really fast, so having a tray underneath as a catch-all is helpful. I also suggest not lining with a plastic sheet, because the water will just end up pooling all around pottery wheel. Lining with an old towel would work as well. Basically something that will absorb water instead of repel it.
– Prepare one rag per person (including parent). Hands will get muddy and your kids may want to wipe the muddiness off every so often, even if they’re still working on their pottery. Your hands will definitely get muddy as well so you’ll also want a rag of your own.
– Have a big bowl of water nearby. Hands need to continue to stay wet during the process. You could use a spray bottle, however that would end up muddy as well and I decided I would rather wash a big bowl than a spray bottle.
– Cover the on/off switch with some cling wrap, or be prepared to be the person in charge of the on/off button, or just be prepared to wipe the on/off switch a little more thoroughly when cleaning. I used a paper towel and toothpick to clean the wet clay that had deposited around the switch because I didn’t want the switch to get stuck once the clay dried. This is where a pottery wheel with a pedal would’ve been helpful.
– Our instructions say to knead a flat clay to start, then slowly pull the edge upwards to form your creation. This was a very difficult technique for everyone, myself included. Instead we found it easier to create the general shape needed and then slowly form a hole in the center. So for Zach’s cup, I helped him to mold a solid cylinder and then could slowly drill a hole in the center using his fingers and the provided tools.
– Dry the pottery on a plastic tray or non-stick parchment paper, not on newspaper. The newspaper will inadvertently get stuck to the bottom of the pottery and impossible to peel off once it’s dry.
Ours is the Creatology Pottery Wheel, and while it does feel plasticky and toy-ish, it did get the job done. I wish it had a pedal like those made by Mindware or Faber-Castell, unfortunately they are more expensive. The Mindware model looks like it can be connected directly to the power outlet (super helpful), whereas the Faber-Castell model is battery operated.