Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. ― Peg Bracken
Salt Dough Ornaments make adorable little gifts! Younger children will enjoy manipulating the dough and relish the sensory feedback they are getting, especially from their tactile sense! Squishing, rolling and cutting the dough are fun activities by themselves and will keep your children engaged for hours! We make Salt Dough Ornaments every year and they really never fail to excite children and parents alike!
- Salt Dough (mix 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt and up to 1 cup of warm water. Knead until you have a non-sticky dough)
- Cookie cutters
- Small rolling pins
- Pipe cleaners or craft wire
- Tempera paint (or markers, crayons etc.)
- Trays (if you want to contain the mess on your table)
- Cookie sheet (for baking)
Step 1: Prepare your Salt Dough
Combine and mix all ingredients ahead of time: 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of warm water. Let the children take turns kneading the dough until it is smooth (we pass it around the table). If it is too sticky just add more flour. Place small rolling pins on the table. Give each child a handful of dough and and show them how to:
- roll the dough into a ball,
- press the dough flat with the palm of their hands,
- roll the dough out with the rolling pins (1/8 – 1/4 inch thick).
If you don’t want to paint your Salt Dough it’s also fun to add food coloring (or liquid watercolors) and some glitter to your dough. Simply split your dough into 3-4 parts, add a few drops of color to each part and knead. We kneaded all our colors together and ended up with beautiful colored ornaments, no paint needed.
Step 2: Cut and bake shapes
Place a few cookie cutters on the table. Remind the children of taking turns and discuss a few sharing techniques:
“What can we do if someone else is using the cookie cutter you want? How can you ask your friend nicely for that cookie cutter? What can you say if you are still working with your cookie cutter? Is it ok to take all the cookie cutters or do we take one at a time and put it back in the middle when we are done using it so our friends can use it too etc.?”
Show the children how to cut out the desired shape and pull away the extra dough from around them. Help the children to place their ornaments on a cookie sheet and then use a straw to poke a hole in the ornaments for hanging (I do that while the children are still making ornaments). We usually don’t keep track who made which ornaments before we paint them since there will be so many similar ornaments but if you want you can always let the children place their ornaments on their own trays. Bake the shapes for 1-2 hours at 200 degrees until they are dried out (not browned!). Let cool overnight.
Step 3: Add a hanger
Before painting the ornaments add a pipe cleaner or craft wire through the hole (twist the end). Invite the children to add some beads to their ornaments. To make the hanger twist the pipe cleaner into a loop and shape a heart.
Step 4: Decorate the Ornaments
Set out tempera paint in little jars. Place a paintbrush in each color and invite the children to paint their ornaments. Remind them to use one color at a time and to put the color back in the middle when they are done with it so others can use it.
To avoid making brown you can tell the children to let the colors on their ornaments touch but not overlap each other. Set out some glitter as well to shake onto the wet paint for sparkly ornaments.
Don’t forget to write the name of each child on the back of each ornament. In the past we have also experimented with crayons and (chalk) markers to decorate our ornaments. Crayons are especially fun to use when the ornaments are still warm from the oven because they melt on them (the Artful Parent has written a wonderful post about Melted Crayon Ornaments here). Let dry.