Students use modeling clay to make a self-portrait based on one of their favourite toys.

Required Time

60 Minutes

Grade Level

Kindergarten to Grade 3


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour self-portrait shape texture


Crayola Modeling Clay Canvas Boards - 15.2 cm x 20.3 cm (6" x 8") - 1 per student Toothpicks

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SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Mix the colour you want to use for your skin.
    - red + blue + yellow = brown
    - orange + small amount of black = brown
    - brown + white = skin tone
  2. Mix enough for arms and hands, neck and ears.
  3. Roll a small ball for your head.
SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Press the ball onto the canvas board.
  2. Flatten the ball with your fingers.
  3. Spread the clay into a shape for your head.
SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Make a small pyramid shape for the nose.
  2. Stick it to the face.
  3. Use a toothpick to make the nostrils.
SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Roll 2 small white balls of clay.
  2. Roll 2 smaller coloured balls of clay.
  3. Press the white balls flat on the face for the eyes.
  4. Press the coloured balls onto the white balls.
SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Roll 2 tiny black balls of clay.
  2. Flatten the tiny black balls onto the coloured balls.
  3. Poke each black ball with a toothpick to finish the eye.
SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Make a small coil for the neck.
  2. Press it into place.
  3. Add details by pressing clay onto the canvas board.
SELF-PORTRAIT INSPIRED BY A TOY – Form, Detail, Colour - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Add details that show things about you.
  2. Look closely at your toy. Notice:
    - the hair
    - the arms and hands 
    - the legs and feet
    - the clothes
    - features on the face
    - special characteristics
  3. Add details that show something about your toy.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a modeling clay self-portrait inspired by a favourite toy;
  • mix a colour to use for their skin;
  • include details that show something about themselves;
  • include details that show something about their toy; 
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;  
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


Have students:

  • work with a partner;
  • write a story that features both self-portrait characters;
  • draw pictures to illustrate their story;
  • share their stories with the class.


  1. Spend time playing body awareness games, such as Simon Says, and singing songs such as Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes.
  2. Gather and make available books about the self such as, Marvelous Me, by Picture Window Books; I Love My Hair!, by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley; What I Like About Me, by Allia Zobel Nolan, and‎ Miki Sakamoto; Parts, by Tedd Arnold; and The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown.
  3. Download images of portraits from the Internet, for example,
    Strongest Man
  4. Have students bring in a favourite toy that is either an animal or human figure.
  5. Set up an art centre with modeling clay, canvas boards, and toothpicks.


  1. Conduct a read-aloud with a book such as What I Like About Me, by Allia Zobel Nolan, and‎ Miki Sakamoto.
  2. Focus on what students like about each other.
  3. View and discuss a portrait such as Lovelace.
    - What do you think this person likes about herself?
    - What do you see that makes you say that?
    - What else do you notice?
    - How has the arist helped us to know about this person?
  4. View and discuss some of the toys.
    - What do you like about this toy?
    - Why do you like that?
    - What else do you like about it?
  5. Discuss how students can combine what thay like about their toy with what they like about themselves to make their self-portraits.
  6. Introduce the art centre.
  7. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a modeling clay self-portrait that shows something about you and something about your favourite toy.
  2. Mix a colour to use for your skin.
  3. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity. 
  4. Share your ideas about the artworks with others.

The Process

  1. Ensure that students understand the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I:
    - use my own ideas to make my self-portrait 
    - show details about myself
    - show details about my toy
    - mix a skin colour
    - share my ideas with others
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in the lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Gather students to view and discuss their self-portraits. Ask students to share:
    what they learned about making a modeling clay self-portrait
    how they added different details to show what they like about themselves and their toy
    - what they like best about their self-portraits
  2. Display all the sel-portraits in the classroom.
  3. Encourage students to view the self-portraits and notice how they are similar and how they are different.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, holds artwork to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Have students in grades 1 - 3 write a reflection that includes things such as:
    - How they made their self-portrait.
    - How they decided what details to add.
    - What they like best about their self-portrait.
  4. Have students draw a picture of their self-portrait.