Re: Air-dry clay or unfired ceramic clay
I haven't been on this site for ages, started in 2001 and the forum was also dead at that time. With the aid of several other artist we breathed a bit of life into it but has since died again it appears.
I cannot give you an unbiased answer to your question but know that using just the most ancient modeling material known, wet clay of any type, one can get almost any quality desired. As to young children I know they love the feel of the wet clay as I also do. It does have the disadvantage of needing to be fired if it is to be handled much but I have 15 year old pieces, unfired still intact. No experience with the paper clay or new polymers but sure they have their place. I would note that most pieces that young or inexperienced beginners make do not really demand longevity and if cost is an issue wet clay is cheap. I did several demos back in the day for the forum that may be of some help.
Hope that is some food for thought.