I know I say it again and again but clay is simply a magical medium. I love to put a chunck of clay down on the table and let kids have at it with a variety of tools from garlic presses to wooden knives or play dough scissors. I also provide a few traditional wooden/metal tools and wooden rolling pins. The picture above is a really sweet team work moment between mother and child.
A few students actually gravitated towards incorporating wooden stylus tools into their clay work to create sculptures. Because I had a lot on hand I encouraged them to keep going in this direction. After students have worked with the clay for a while I introduce water and sponges for smoothing any rough edges or cracks. Water and clay is such a fun sensory experience too!
I use Laguna air-dry clay and we have had amazing success with painting directly on wet clay with either washable tempera or bio color from discount school supplies. paint to go directly on the wet clay.
For embellishments we used gems, buttons, beads and pipe cleaners.
Here are some pieces drying on cardboard.
If you want more ideas for working with clay check out these other posts: Open-ended Clay Play, Clay Flowers, Clay Leaves, and Clay with Recycled Materials.