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Fun Clay Pinch Pot Turtle For Kids

hand holding a pinch pot with arrow pointing at two pinch pot turtles made out of clay.

Ceramic turtle art project with step-by-step instructions

There are so many fun things you can build using pinch pot techniques. We feel that making clay projects is definitely part of the creative journey of elementary school. This easy clay pinch pot turtle art project is a great idea for your art room and little artists.

What age child can complete this clay project?

First graders and older should be able to build these clay turtles using real clay that has to go into the kiln. If you do not have access to a kiln, you can use air dry clay or another sculpture material. And if you do that, then really any aged child should be able to create a turtle pinch pot.

The only reason we say 1st grade and older for real clay is because you have to properly attach the clay together. This requires more fine motor skills than just sticking or smooshing model magic or playdough together.

If you are unsure if kids can do this build, you could always try a simple ceramic relief tile (like our clay cat) to see how they do first.

 While this turtle art project may be a great first pinch pot project, you may want to do a simple pinch pot the previous year before requiring kids to score and “slip”.

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What is a pinch pot?

If you are new to clay building some of the basic hand-building clay techniques are pinch pots, coils and slabs. Pinch pots are created by pinching or using your fingers to squeeze the walls into the desired shapes. 

hand creating a pinch pot out of clay by pinching the walls.

The best part about ceramic projects for kids is that a simple pinch pot can be the end product or can be used as a base for more advanced clay projects (like our clay pinch pot monsters). There are so many creative pinch pot ideas for your kids to try.

Why do you need to make a hollow turtle shell?

This clay project uses a pinch pot in a unique way because you flip it over. A lot of other pinch pot projects are meant to be a cup or bowl at the end. 

If using real kiln clay, you need to have walls and items that are thin enough so that they do not explode in the kiln. By starting with a pinch pot base you are ensuring that this will not happen.

Supplies

Skewers

White clay (or air drying clay if you do not have a kiln)

Glaze or acrylic paints

Placemat or surface to work on

Small container of water

How to build a clay turtle for kids

Step 1: Start with a ball of clay that can fit inside a child’s hand.

clay ball in hand before starting clay project for kids.

Step 2: Spilt a little bit off the hunk of clay. The bigger chunk of clay can be rolled into a ball.

amount of clay split into two hunks on clay placemat.

Step 3: Have kids push one hole with their thumbs as far as they can go without going through. 

thumb in clay in pinch pot with extra clay off to the the side.

Step 4: Use hands to pinch around the edge and make sure not to make walls too thin. The walls should probably be around 1/8” thick to support the shell when flipped over.

hand holding small clay pinch pot.

Step 5: Flip clay pinch pot over.

clay pinch pot flipped over on clay mat with extra clay next to it.

Step 6: Create a head by sculpting with clay and using a skewer to cut the mouth of the turtle.

hand using wooden skewer to cut a mouth in clay turtle head.

Step 7: Attach to pinch pot turtle shell by scoring the end of the head and where you are attaching to the shell. Use one finger dipped in water to add “slip” and attach. Use a finger to help blend the seam where the head is attached.

score lines on clay turtle head being attached to clay pinch pot shell.

Step 8: Create turtle eyes with small balls of clay and a skewer. Attach by scoring and using water. 

clay turtle eyes attached to clay head and clay shell of turtle.

Step 9: Make sea turtle legs by sculpting clay. Make sure not to make them too thick (1/2” of less). 

clay turtle legs on placemat with part of clay turtle made.

Step 10: Attach legs to the shell by scoring and adding water.

hand holding clay turtle leg with score lines on it and scored where the leg is going on clay turtle shell.

Step 11: Repeat sculpting, scoring and adding water until all parts are added to your sea turtle.

hand holding clay turtle art project for kids.

Step 11: Use a skewer or other clay tools to add turtle shell texture. Draw a circle around the edge and add lines. Add hexagons to the top of the shell in a brick pattern (see image).

hand holding wooden skewer and drawing hexagons on clay turtle shell.

Step 12: Fire the dried clay projects in the kiln for your bisque fire. Have children add color with glazes or even oil pastels on clay.

Extra tips for building a clay turtle with children

  • Kids can use water to smooth out any rough areas. We always instruct them that a little goes a long way and to not make “mud pie”.
  • An adult should write the kid’s name on the bottom of the pinch pot with a sharp sewer or needle tool.

Other pinch pot animals for kids to build

Learn how to build a clay fish with double pinch pots or create a cute owl cup. As you can tell, we love when kids are amazing clay artists.

Free printable instructions

Yield: Easy Clay Turtle

How To Build A Pinch Pot Turtle

clay pinch pot turtles on tray.

This clay turtle art project is a simple clay build for children. Create a fun sea turtle or regular turtle using a pinch pot technique.

Materials

  • White Art Clay
  • Glazes or Acrylic Paint

Tools

  • Wooden Skewer (or clay tools)
  • Kiln
  • Small container of water
  • Paint brush
  • Clay placemat or work surface

Instructions

    1. Start with a ball of clay that can fit inside a child’s hand.
    2. Spilt a little bit off the hunk of clay. The bigger chunk of clay can be rolled into a ball.
    3. Have kids push one hole with their thumbs as far as they can go without going through. 
    4. Use hands to pinch around the edge and make sure not to make walls too thin. The walls should probably be around 1/8” thick to support the shell when flipped over.
    5. Flip clay pinch pot over.
    6. Create a head by sculpting with clay and using a skewer to cut the mouth of the turtle.
    7. Attach to pinch pot turtle shell by scoring the end of the head and where you are attaching to the shell. Use one finger dipped in water to add “slip” and attach. Use a finger to help blend the seam where the head is attached.
    8. Create turtle eyes with small balls of clay and a skewer. Attach by scoring and using water. 
    9. Make sea turtle legs by sculpting clay. Make sure not to make them too thick (1/2” of less). 
    10. Attach legs to shell by scoring and adding water.
    11. Kids can use water to smooth out any rough areas. We always instruct them that a little goes a long way and to not make “mud pie”.
    12. Use a skewer or other clay tools to add turtle shell texture. Draw a circle around the edge and add lines. Add hexagons to the top of the shell in a brick pattern (see image).
    13. An adult should write the kid’s name on the bottom of the pinch pot with a sharp sewer or needle tool.
    14. Run a bisque fire in your kiln once projects have completely dried.
    15. Glaze or paint finished turtles.

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green glazed clay turtle pinch pot project for kids.

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Not only are these an easy ceramic turtle pinch pot project, but the end results make every little artist proud.

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