MAKING SNAIL MODELS FROM CLAY AND SEA SHELLS
The minibeasts topic at my daughter’s school is now well under way and they were set the usual project homework; one of the options is to make a model of a minibeast, either a ‘real’ one or one you have invented yourself. There are so many possibilities for this and a child could incorporate their own interests, favourite colours, and so on. One boy has made a Minecraft-inspired minibeast out of items raided from the recycling bin. Another has made a tarantula inspired by his favourite television programme. A girl has made a ‘hungry caterpillar’ from egg box cartons.
My daughter decided she wanted to make snails. For a while she was keen to try making one out of cake and icing but in the end she found these beautiful snails on Pinterest and thought she would make one like them. I was dispatched to Hobbycraft to buy air-drying clay. (I always buy Das rather than the Hobbycraft cheaper own-brand as I have read some bad reviews of the Hobbycraft stuff and for the sake of a pound or so would rather not risk a homework project crumbling on the way to school or something awful like that!) Shells we had aplenty due to many holidays in the UK searching the beaches for pretty stones and shells. We also had some my mum bought in a souvenir shop in Wales when I asked her specifically to bring some shells back for my daughter’s seaside-themed birthday party nearly five years ago.
Once my daughter had shaped the snails from the clay and stuck on the shells (she really enjoyed doing this and made up little stories about them and how they were related to each other as she went) we left them to dry. Some of the shells didn’t attach properly so we stuck them on again with some glue. They don’t look much like the ones that had inspired her but they had a beauty of their own and in the end she decided not to attempt painting them or gluing on tiny fabric flowers as we had discussed but just left them.
I feel a little guilty as it was meant to be the product of a whole term’s homework time but you can’t over-egg the pudding. Shells snails are a quick, fun activity which look great and use up some of those piles of shells from the beach. You can use glue or glitter to make a trail for your snail and could even go on to make them a habitat from an old box, some stones, real or paper grass, flowers, and so on.
You could inspire younger children beforehand with a snaily book like Ruth Brown’s Snail Trail or Julia Donaldon’s The Snail and the Whale about a snail who hitches a round the world lift on the back of a humpback whale but ends up saving the beached whale’s life by using his trail to give an SOS message to a class of children (you can also get a colouring-book version and sticker book). Another possibility is Sue Henrda’s Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell about poor Norman, a slug who longs to be like the snails and who transforms himself with a dazzling doughnut ‘shell’ or Allan Ahlberg’s The Snail House in which a grandmother tells her grandchildren a story about them becoming so tiny that they can go and live in a little house on a snail. Slightly older children might enjoy Sophie’s Snail by Dick King-Smith about a little girl who wants to be a farmer and who befriends a beautiful, tiny snail. Most children’s libraries will have some books about snails (or about minibeasts generally but including some snail-formation) and there is, of course, loads online (check out Snail-World.com!) for children who are interested in learning facts about real, live snails. Last year snails became very topical when Jeremy, a rare sinistral (left-swirling shell) snail, was finally found a mate. Snails can apparently only mate with snails whose shells swirl in the same direction and, as most snails are ‘right swirlers’, poor Jeremy had a hard time finding love until scientists managed to match him up with a choice of two potential partners!
If you want to do more snail craft, there are tons of ideas online. Paper plate snails, button collages, egg carton snails, snail fairy cakes – or just draw one!