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Air Dry Clay with Kids: Cupcake Bowls

We use all kinds of clay here at Maker Studio Kidz, but one of our absolute favorites is air-dry clay! Unlike fluffy clay, which we use all the time, air-dry clay is just like the clay that a potter might use, making it an awesome introduction to pottery techniques, without needing a kiln. Today, we will be exploring the most important tips and tricks of using air-dry clay with kids, while making a playful cupcake bowl straight out of our POP-tastic creations camp! This project is designed to combine the two most fundamental clay techniques: a pinch bowl and coils. Not only is it a great introduction to working with clay, but the finished product also makes an awesome gift and a charming container for jewelry, toys, and other knick knacks!

Working with Air-Dry Clay

Air-dry clay is a versatile medium that works similarly to regular clay but doesn’t require kiln firing. Here are a few tips and tricks to get the best results with this clay: 

  • Prepare Your Workspace: It is important to have a clean, hard workspace when using air-dry clay. In our studio, we use short-sided plastic trays, but a craft silicone mat or even a clean countertop are also popular options. 

  • Condition The Clay: Straight out of the container, air-dry clay can be too hard to mold for little hands, so make sure to “condition” it by kneading it until it is softened and workable. 

  • Keep Your Clay Moist: Your hands will naturally dry out the clay as you work, so keep a small cup of water nearby to occasionally moisten the clay and keep it workable. 

  • Slip and Score: “Slip” is a mixture of clay and water that acts as glue, and is essential for connecting pieces of clay. Simply cut short cross-hatched lines (score) the surfaces with a knife or clay tool, apply slip, and press the pieces together.

  • Add Slip to Cracks: If you notice any cracking while working with clay, don’t worry! Once the clay has dried a bit, you can fill in the cracks with slip to smooth them out. 

  • Prime, Paint, and Seal: when your piece is dry, you can paint it! If you are using a darker colored clay, make sure to prime it first with white paint to make your colors pop. Paint your piece with tempera or acrylic paint (we recommend washable tempera for younger kids), and seal with Mod Podge for strength and a glossy finish. 

Air-Dry Clay Cupcake Bowl


Air dry cupcake materials clay


Pinch Pot Cupcake Base:

  1. Starting with a piece of clay about the size of your palm, roll it into a ball between your hands or on the mat. Remember to keep the clay moisturized with water. 

  2. Take the ball between your two hands and insert your thumbs to create an indent in the middle. Rotating the clay, widen the hole and thin the sides, pulling clay up from the bottom of the ball with your thumbs until you have a bowl with walls about the width of your pinky finger. 

  3. Turn the bowl face down and tap it firmly against the table, flattening out the top edge. 

  4. Wet a clay sponge and smooth out any imperfections in the bowl. You can also do this with your fingers.

  5. Make the bowl look like a cupcake liner by carving vertical lines around the sides using a clay tool, knife, or popsicle stick.

How to make a clay pinch pot

Coiled Frosting:

  1. With the flat of your hands, roll out several long clay coils about the width of your pinky finger.

  2. Measure the first coil around the edge of the cupcake top and cut it to length. Score the ends of the coil, add slip, and blend together the ends. 

  3. Measure a second coil, slightly shorter than the first coil. Attach the ends like above. Score and slip the bottom of the new coil and the top of the previous, then attach it so that the second coil lays slightly inside the first one. 

  4. Repeat step b, measuring and attaching the rest of the coils so that the frosting slants up like a cone. Continue until a hole about a half-inch in diameter remains at the top.

  5. Measure one last coil to twice the circumference of the top hole and coil it twice so that it looks like the top of an ice cream cone. Score, slip, and attach it!

  6. Turning the frosting upside down, blend the interiors of the coils together with your thumbs. 

Frosting Base:

  1. Create another small ball about the size of your palm, then press it down using a flat object or your fingers until it is a couple of centimeters thick.

  2. Lay your cupcake base facedown on top of the sheet and cut a circle around the opening with a knife. You should have a flat circular top that perfectly fits the top of your bowl. 

  3. Score, slip, and attach the icing to the flat top. Blend down the first layer so that it blends seamlessly with the top. You have finished your cupcake! 


  1. Allow the cupcake to dry for at least 24 hours, making sure to flip the pieces to make sure that all sides dry. 

  2. Optional: when dry, smooth out your piece with a fine grit sandpaper.


  1. If using a terra cotta clay like I did in this example, paint your cupcake with white primer. A white base coat will help your colors pop at a later stage. It does not have to look perfect, but it make take several coats for your piece to be white enough to paint on. 

  2. Paint your piece, using acrylic or tempera paint. Add several coats, waiting for the piece to dry between layers. And don’t forget sprinkles!

Paint air dry clay cupake


  1. Once all the paint is dry, seal your cupcake with two coats of Mod Podge. This will help waterproof it, protect it from cracking, and add a nice glossy sheen.

Air dry clay cupcake

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