Salt dough ornaments are one of my all-time favorite projects to do with kids around the holidays. Best of all they work for any holiday, we have done spooky Halloween-themed ornaments, Christmas tree ornaments, Easter eggs, and spring flowers – you’re only limited by your imagination! Today we will show you our easy salt dough ornament recipe and project for the holidays.
Easy Christmas Salt Dough Ornaments
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The beauty for me with salt dough is the simplicity and economic value! Projects with kids can get expensive quickly and these have simple ingredients that can be stretched a long way and give you a big wow in the end. This makes them an excellent project to do with your classroom or group. Plus they make lovely parent gifts that last forever when stored properly.
Important Safety Note – if you are doing this at home or sending the ornaments home with students, please include a warning. Salt dough is toxic to pets if they ingest it. Any salt dough creations should be kept far away from your furry friends.
What is Salt Dough?
Salt dough is easy, inexpensive and the results very durable. Quite simply, it is a dense, sturdy dough that can be rolled, cut, molded, and dried easily for creative projects. The dough is baked to remove the moisture and you’re left with creations that can be painted and decorated to display. When stored in an air-tight container these holiday decorations can bring joy year after year after year! My mother-in-law still has my husband’s kindergarten ice cream cone ornament proudly displayed on her tree every Christmas.
Salt dough ornaments can make wonderful Christmas crafts and keepsakes that will be treasured for years to come.
How to Make Salt Dough Ornaments
Salt Dough Recipe
Salt dough is so simple and easy! All you need is 3 ingredient:
2 cups of Flour + extra for dusting
1 cup of Salt (table salt is perfect)
1 cup of Warm Water
Classroom Tip! You can alter this recipe to any size, just ensure you keep the ratio 2:1:1.
Chopsticks, straws or skewers to make a hole for hanging
Oven – This speeds up the process but you can also air dry the ornaments.
For the Decoration
String, ribbon or twine for hanging the ornament
Mod Podge or Clear Spray Sealer
How to Make Salt Dough
In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of salt. Add warm water a little at a time until mixing as you go until it forms a dough. This can also be in a mixer with a dough hook if you’re working at home. Once you have the dough formed, transfer it to a floured surface and knead it well for about five minutes.
Christmas Tip! Add a little cinnamon, nutmeg or even essential oils to your dough to give it a wonderful festive scent. You can also add food coloring to your dough.
Let the dough “rest” for ten minutes or so and then you’re set to go!
Instructions for Making Salt Dough Ornaments
Preheat the oven to 250℉ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Working on a flat, floured surface use a rolling pin to roll your dough out, just like you would for cut-out cookies, to about a quarter of an inch. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and transfer them to the parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Use your chopstick to poke a hole into the top of each ornament before you bake it. This is where you will add a ribbon or hook so you can hang the finished piece.
Once all of your shapes are set, slide into the preheated oven and bake the salt dough ornaments for two hours.
If your students would rather model the dough than roll it and cut it, that is absolutely fine, just be aware that if the dough is thicker in their creation you may have to bake it a little longer than the typical two hours.
If you don’t have an oven, you can leave the ornaments to air dry for about 7 days until they are hard.
Decorating Salt Dough Ornaments
After the ornaments have been baked and cooled you can use all of your paints and glitter to decorate them, let the creativity run wild! When everything has dried, sealing the ornaments with a layer of Mod Podge or spraying it with a clear sealer will help them last.
Salt Dough Lessons
As with any kitchen science activity, there are math and science concepts to be explored.
Salt Dough Math
Fractions are a perfect subject for this project.
First, have students work out the recipe ratio between flour and salt.
Then ask your students: If we wanted to make this recipe in double or triple amounts for a school wide project how would our recipe change? What would you need to do to make that triple batch of dough? What about cutting it down to make less, could you cut the recipe in half?
For another math activity, I like to give my kids different-sized measuring cups and have them determine the correct number of each measurement they would need to complete the recipe. For example, if I gave them a ¼ cup measure how many would it take to get to 2 cups? If we know that 4/4=1 whole and they need two whole so they would multiply 4×2 – they would need 8 scoops.
Salt Dough Science
Salt dough is science terms is a polymeric (starch) composite with salt as filler.
The salt particles give toughness to the resulting composite, while the starch from the flour, which is just the same as in our bread science, connects the salt particles. It is flexible and pliable like playdough due to the addition of water. This water evaporates off during the baking process. The result is a very hard material.
The salt also acts as a preservative to help the ornaments last longer.
Science Investigation! Did your Salt Dough Ornaments puff up during the baking? What do you think caused this? Puffing up happens when water evaporates too quickly from the dough! To solve this issue bake them at a lower temperature or try air drying.
The technique used to make salt dough is similar to the technique used to make bricks for centuries!
Art, Science, Math, and merriment! I hope you try this recipe with your kids or your class and make some timeless treasures this holiday season!