Many standing structures have an inner system, like skeletons inside animal bodies, that serves as support and resist to tension, compression, and bending.

With this play invitation children can explore the idea of skeleton through clay, building on their motor skillls and the ability to solve problems and make comparisons. Children can also reflect on shape, balance, support, verticality and structure.

What Could Lead Us to This Play Invitation

  • Children have been exploring different animal shapes;
  • Children are curious about balance, how some things stand and others fall;
  • Children are excited about building very tall structures.

Materials Needed

  • A wire frame: wood boards, screws and wire
  • Clay
  • Water

Setting up this Play Invitation

  1. Prepare a simple wire frame by screwing four screws to a wood board, wraping four lengths of wire to each screw and then join them together. You can create the shapes you want, you can see in our pictures we mould our wire into an animal shape.
  2. Place these structures over a table.
  3. Add a large piece of clay, or several smaller portions, over a tray or large bowl.
  4. Keep water sprays close to wet the clay as needed.

    Tip: Make sure the clay is soft so children can easily mould it and stick it to the wire frame. If the clay you have in your classroom is hard, pinch some holes in it with your fingers, spray it with water and cover it with a damp cloth. Let it absorb the water overnight.

How to use the wire frame with the clay

  1. Show the following picture to the children and start a dialogue by asking:
    • Why do animals have bones?
    • What animal could this be? (Its a horse)
    • What other things needs a structure inside? Why do you think that?
  1. Offer the wire structure and the clay so children can create an animal, or any creature.

With younger children: Skip the questioning part and offer the wire structure and the clay. While they are exploring it you can carefully comment what you see they doing, for example “I see you sticking your clay to the wire.”, “Your work is getting really tall.”.

How to Nurture the Natural Unfolding of the Child’s Identity During This Play Invitation

  • Children have the right to have materials thought out and prepared. The educator’s work begins long before each proposal is presented. Building materials to respond to children’s interests and curiosities is an extraordinary way to enrich the educational experience.
  • Children have the right to approach matters from original perspectives. This happens when, for example, we intersect concepts or ideas. In this proposal, we approach the subject of animals from their inner structure and not from their species or habitat.

The Academic Learning Opportunities

  • MATH: Describe and compare measurable attributes, quantities and shape.
  • LANGUAGE: Engage in exploratory and imaginative play, and elaborate on an imaginative idea, build characters and narratives.
  • PHYSICAL: Build on their fine motor skills and visual-spatial relationships.
  • SCIENCE: Explore balance and verticality.


  • Children can apply color directly on the dried clay, or they can use it as a model and draw it on a sheet of paper with markers.

Book Recommendation

A fascinating book that teaches about the function and adaptations of skeletons in the animal kingdom.