Every year I break out the cookie cutters, paint, false hopes, baking supplies, sealant spray paint, and rolling pin to start the undertaking of making salt dough ornaments with small children.
My goal – to produce cute ornaments we can give as gifts and keep some for our own tree. Every year when we pull them out I am a blubbery, sappy mess, fawning over how little my kid’s hands used to be. Just be prepared, because this task is no easy feat.
Spread This Out Over Three or Four Days
I usually spread out this undertaking over three to four days, so that way I have some time to regroup with my mental stamina.
Diving into a Pinterest project with tiny humans usually leads lots of mess, but way more prep than actual project time. Before starting, lower your expectations and properly caffeinate yourself.
In fact, due to the amount of preparation it takes to complete this project, I include my neighbor along with her little ones in on this undertaking because misery loves company.
Materials You Will Need
Ingredients: Salt, water, flour
Bake-ware: rolling pin, cookie sheets, drinking straw, large cookie cutters that are wide enough for small hand prints, smaller cookie cutters for projects decorated with paintbrushes or finger prints
Craft supplies: acrylic paints, paintbrushes, sealer spray paint for acrylic paints (I use Krylon Crystal Clear Spray), ribbon, paper plates, newspaper, water cups
For you: LOTS OF PATIENCE, large quantities of coffee
Day 1: Salt Dough Recipe
- flour – 1 cup
- salt – 1 cup
- warm water – 1 cup
- Bake at 250 degrees for an hour on each side (at least)
When in doubt, add more flour. Also, the thinner the dough, the better the ornaments turn out. If you bake thicker ornaments, they tend to puff up. I have used this recipe three years so far, and have not been disappointed in the results.
My son loves being a part of the recipe and mixing process! For all of fifteen minutes he enjoys this, and then grumbles out a, “You do it.”
Be sure to take your pictures of the initial mixing and cookie cutter usage while the newness of the process is still fresh. That’s when you are going to get your best perfect holiday spirit photos for Instagram and Facebook.
After you have produced enough dough ornaments, used a plastic straw to make the ribbon holes, and stuck the ornaments in the oven, breathe a sigh of relief and brew yourself a fresh, hot cup of coffee. It’s okay to still have flour everywhere, but make sure it doesn’t end up in the coffee. Just be sure to keep setting a timer while you check on finishing up those ornaments. Once they are done, have them sit out and cool overnight.
** Important Disclaimer For Your Pets**
These salt dough ornaments might smell delicious to some dogs. Please place these ornaments high up on the tree so dogs are not tempted to eat them. The high content of salt is not safe for them. Be sure to pass along that message to whomever is on the receiving end of these adorable and tempting ornaments.
Decorating the Ornaments
I recommend that you go the route of painting hands as opposed to trying for hand prints in dough. Pressing hand prints into the dough resulted in squinting to see if you can locate digits in the barely recognizable imprint. We have also had a baby squeezing lots of dough into palms and refusing to let it go.
Learn from my mistakes and save yourself a very small amount of stress.
Day 2: Painting Day
Cover up all that is good in the room that you are painting in. Art smocks, wet towels ready on stand by, wipes, newspapers, and a garden hose should be handy. If you have a tarp, lay it out.
By all means HAVE TWO ADULTS PRESENT. Last year I conned a babysitter into helping me with the process of getting the baby’s hand prints on several salt dough ornaments.
My little lady bawled when I painted her hand, and was trying to thrash it around madly. You will need one adult in charge of that wild hand, and the other person will be the ornament person.
Stamp and go with speed. Then wipe off your baby’s hands quickly and cuddle him or her. While you are feeling mom guilt for tormenting your baby, remind yourself that your child will giggle as you recount this holiday story to them when they are older.
Here are a few of my favorite ones that we have done in the past years that are trickier for children to completely mess them up:
Please squint at the photo, and humor me here. Pretend like you see some freaking reindeer.
Using brown paint, a hand print becomes the face and antlers. Glue on mini red pom poms and small googly eyes that will haunt your Chirstmas dreams.
Christmas Tree Lights
After painting the whole thing green, have your little cherub dip their fingers into different colored paints to make little dots with their fingers to be the lights. Depending on how artsy or anal you are in attempting to make it cute, you can try and use a Sharpie to connect the lights into a string after the paint has dried.
Christmas Tree Hand print
After you have scarred your baby for life by painting their hand green and stamping several ornaments, wait for the paint to dry. Paint a brown tree trunk and star on top to complete the look. You may need to paint over a few green smudges and some tears.
More Ideas From Way Craftier Ladies Than Me
Here are a few of the other adorable options I am choosing from for this year’s ornaments that we mass produce with forced cheerfulness because it’s the holidays:
The Resourceful Mama has compiled a list of 12 + adorable ideas for salt dough ornaments.
From I Heart Art N Crafts, there is a list of 27 ideas for your salt dough ornaments.
Day 3: Fumigation Day, i.e. Sealer Spray Paint
I live in Minnesota, so when I spray paint the salt dough ornaments on paper plates with the acrylic sealer outside on my front yard, I sometimes can’t feel my fingers. As I curse the cold, I remind myself that I chose this frozen tundra.
I will have you know that the sealer works even on days below freezing while there is snow on the ground. Beware, because the fumes are impressive! I put the paper plates out in my garage to allow the ornaments to dry and air out, without my family getting high from them. You will need to repeat this process at least twice to coat both sides of the ornaments.
Day 4: Finishing Touches
Once the salt dough ornaments are dry, add the finishing touches like ribbons to hang them on the tree. Use craft glue to attach pom poms for the noses of whatever creature you are pretending your child’s hand is.
Take pictures to document on social media again, showing that you should be mailed out the Mother of the Year award, the MOTY, very soon. Work on your acceptance speech for that important award, and then forget all about how much of a process this was until you start mixing up the ingredients for the ornaments next year.
It is All Worth It
Be sure to take a mental note of the look on your child’s face when their grandparents open up the gifts. Your child will beam with joy when they watch their favorite people and ooh and ah over their (mostly your) work. That’s when the pride your child has for giving a special gift to loved ones makes this whole messy process worthwhile. When they are little, there isn’t much that they can make on their own, so giving them a chance to participate in creating something as a gift is important. And it’s a great exercise in testing your own sanity.