Dads And Their Children Moldclay Memories

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Dads, grandpas and volunteers folded their adult bodies into the tiny chairs arranged at short-legged tables in order to share a morning of bonding with their children.

"Look! I made a spider," Darren Sinon told his grandfather, Gary Cook.

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Head Start welcomes community visitors who want to share their talents and activities. Artist Helen Tennent helps Marco Lira make a clay animal.

"I made a turtle and I made a snowball," three-and-a-half-year-old Sinon added.

"It's going to be a snowman eventually," Cook said.

The morning of Dec. 5 at Head Start was punctuated with the excited voices of children as they rolled, pounded and squished clay into shapes.

Artist Helen Tennent shared her life-long love of clay with the group.

She started them with simple forms -- snowmen and turtles.

She made the pieces crude so the children would get the idea, then, make clay sculptures with their hands, plastic knives and small wood dowels.

"Little kids love the first piece they make with clay. Of course, the first clay children use is mud," Tennent said.

Art is a way for children to express their feelings, refine their small motor skills and be creative, Lynne Winans, site manager of Head Start said.

Hailey Zimmer, age five, was full of smiles as she worked side by side with her father, Randy.

They made two turtles before they went to work on snowmen.

How does the clay feel?

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Abstract artists Levyn and his dad, Jonah Rosensteel, work with clay at Head Start on a recent morning.

"Mine was soft, but he gave me a hard part," Hailey said, then turned to look at her father. "Why'd you give me the hard part?"

Hailey's dad found her a softer piece.

"Stop breaking," four-year-old Levyn Rosensteel said, as he rolled the clay on his board.

Levyn and his father Jonah are rather abstract artists with this clay, but the two make lots of things at home.

"We make arrowhead. I can make the biggest of all," Levyn said, then asks his dad why the ball of clay his dad has handed him is "squishier" than the dry clay he had.

"I've been rolling it in my hands," Jonah answers his son.

Kids like clay because it has a soft, cool feel, and they can pinch it, pound it, poke it and make things with it," Tennent said.

"Three-year-olds make cookies. A little older and kids make things out of their imagination," she said.

"The dads really got into it and are being creative with their projects," Winans said.

Five-year-old Slade Conway helped his grandfather David make something called a "turtle-gator."

"We encourage dads to be a part of their children's' educational experience. It is valuable for them to become involved while their children are young so they can continue to be involved as the children grow through their school years," Winans said.

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The art is in the details for Luke Screur during his Head Start class last week.

Kenny Ryden and his 4-year-old son, Hunter spend time together at home.

"We go on rides, we color, we hike, I help him learn the alphabet and do schoolwork," Kenny said.

This is not the first activity most of the men have attended with their children.

"Head Start is great. I see a difference in Darren's learning and he always enjoys himself," Cook said.

The children were able to take their projects home, but no one escaped homework.

After the clay hardened, each father and child were to mix equal parts Elmer's glue and water and paint the clay.

When the glue dried, under their father's watchful eyes, the child could paint the sculptures and keep the treasure forever.

There is a waiting list for Head Start, but when a space opens, the Head Start board fills it, based on need.

For more information, contact Winans at Head Start at (928) 474-2738.

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