Making holiday gifts is a wonderful tradition, and these salt dough ornaments will actually be used year after year. The best part is that your children will have an absolute blast making them. My five and seven year-olds were entranced for longer than I ever thought possible because this craft project has several parts they can actually participate in and with which they can help. They can make the dough, cut out shapes, paint and decorate the cooled ornaments and even decide where to hang them. It's a project that will keep the family creating for hours! Read on for an easy, very kid-friendly craft activity and homemade gift idea.
1. Gather the ingredients and supplies you will need.
For the ornaments:
- 4 cups flour, plus a little more for rolling out the dough
- 1 cup salt
- 1 1/2-2 cups water
- Cookie cutters
- Acrylic or tempera paint (I highly recommend acrylic over tempera paint, but I also advocate for using what you have on hand! The tempera paint requires more coats of paint (which my paint-loving kids didn’t seem to mind) and has a more powdery, cracked finish. Since these are kid creations, it did not matter to us, but the acrylic paints we had on hand delivered a much more “finished” look)
- Any other decoration tools, such as glitter, that you might want to use (optional)
- Clear nail polish/shellac (also optional, but this gives a more finished look and seals in the paint for longer use)
- Twine, string, or whatever you want to hang your ornaments with
2. Make the dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt and mix well. Gradually add the water and mix until it has a putty-like consistency. I needed closer to 2 cups of water for this (if it gets a little watery, you can always add a few tablespoons of flour). Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth and well-combined. The dough will be pretty firm, so you and your kids can roll it out together! Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch in thickness on a lightly floured surface.
3. Cut out the shapes.
Cut out shapes using whatever cookie cutters you like and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. You can also create holiday keepsakes by imprinting your children’s hands or thumbprints in the dough. Remind your kids not to try to eat the cookies since they are super salty.
4. Make a hanging hole.
Using a toothpick, make a hole at the top (or wherever you choose) of the ornament, twisting to make sure the hole stays large enough for string or ribbon to go through.
5. Bake the ornaments.
Place the ornaments in the preheated oven and bake until firm, about 40 minutes to an hour. Start checking them after about 35 minutes. There are several methods for baking these ornaments, including letting them cook for several hours at lower temperatures and even letting them dry out naturally for 48 hours on a countertop. This baking method allows for quicker gratification for kids and works fine as long as you are painting the ornaments since parts of the ornament may brown slightly. Remove the ornaments from the oven and let them cool.
6. Paint and decorate the ornaments.
Once the ornaments are cooled, let kids go crazy with their creations. They can paint both sides or leave one side blank to “sign” their craft. After the paint has dried, paint with clear nail polish if desired.
7. Hang the ornaments.
Using string, twine, pipe cleaners, feed through the hanging hole and tie a loop and a knot. Hang on Christmas trees, Hanukkah bushes, around the house, and be sure to send a few ornaments to some loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, teachers, or any other special people in your children’s lives! This recipe made about 35 ornaments. Happy holidays!