Salt Dough Ornaments (or DIY Play Dough)

Play dough is such a fun activity for kids and parents. Kids get to create a snowman or some figurine while parents can use a ball of it in their hands to relive stress. However you use it, play dough is a great activity to keep your kid busy!

This simple recipe for DIY play dough can be used for creative play….create keepsake hand/footprints…or make adorable ornaments for gifts. When it comes to gifts I’m positive that Grandmas would love a handprint ornament for their tree!

DIY Play Dough or Salt Dough Ornaments
From Food.com

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 ½ cups water

Directions call for your to combine all ingredients and knead for 15 minutes. I let my mixing bowl do the elbow grease for me. Tip: spray the bottom outside of the bowl and mixer stand with cooking spray. The pressure from the mixer kneading the dough will cause the bowl to get jammed into the base of the mixer. We had to take a towel and a hammer to free it from the base! Since I used the mixer in lieu of my hands, my dough was ready to use in a speedy 5 minutes. Another tip: you will want to use the “hook” attachment (see picture below).

Apply some flour to the counter and rolling pin to roll out the dough. Tip: roll it out as thin as you can. The thicker it is the longer you have to bake it and the puffier the ornament will be. However if you are attempting to make an impression you will want to make it thick enough so you won’t poke all the way through!

Use cookie cutters or a bowl to make the shape of the ornament. Tip: Measure your child’s hand against the bowl to make sure you will have enough room!

Apply some flour to a metal spatula to get the ornament from the counter to a cookie sheet. Tip: get all the ornaments cut and onto the cookie sheet before you try making a impression of your child’s hand. I found it easier to pull up a chair and let your child stand on it while you attempt to capture their hand or thumbprint. If one parent holds their kid on the hip while the other is pulling their arm down, your child will feel like they are being forced to do something…I know because we tried with Lily. She flipped out! I think standing on a chair gave her a sense of being involved and not forced. You want your kid to have happy memories right??

The first two attempts she dug her middle fingers deep into the dough and we had to pat it down and try again. But what kid wouldn’t want to squish their fingers all the way down in play dough?? This same thing happened when we attempted to get her handprint when she turned one (read about that here). I know with age it will be easier to explain “don’t push too hard”…but you know I like the imperfect handprint….it makes me smile. And in twenty years it will be a fun story to tell Lily. We made one family ornament with our thumbprints….it doesn’t look pretty, but it’s a sweet memory. Look at her tiny finger!

To make sure you can hang the ornament poke a hole in the dough before placing it in the oven using a wooden skewer. I also used the wood skewer to poke holes for the date and used plastic letter molds to imprint her initials on one of the ornaments. The two other ones didn’t have enough room!

Bake the ornaments at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden. It might take longer depending on how thick you made the ornaments.  Let them cool on wax/parchment paper or a wire rack. They will harden over time.

Since I had leftover dough I used a Christmas tree cookie cutter and made a bunch of ornaments for Lily’s playgroup buddies. I used plastic letter molds to apply the first letter of each child’s name to the tree. Using the wooden skewer I poked a hole at the top so they could be hung and at the bottom I punched the date. Hemp twine was looped through the hole so they were tree ready and wrapped in clear plastic bags. Sweet simple gift for her awesome buddies!

Still having a huge amount of dough leftover I made a starfish. Living coastal we have starfish already hanging in the tree along with other “beachy” ornaments. To start, take small amounts of the dough and roll them out. Make two pieces the same size. Take the first piece and make an upside down “v” and then take the other and make a wide “v” (more like a wide “u”). Take a third smaller piece and have it sticking straight up the middle (see picture). Next start to mold the three pieces of dough to form the star, smoothing out the mold. Lightly flatten the top of the star to prep for the next step. Taking a wooden skewer, press the stick down the middle of each arm of the star. Using the pointed end of the skewer start to make tiny pricks all around each arm (make sure you do the edges too!). I added a hole to the top of one arm so I could hang it in the tree. I baked this at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. After I let it cool it was still a little soft so I popped it back in the oven for a little longer!

After Lily did her impressions Mike placed her in the high chair and showed her how to roll a snowman. She enjoyed the sensation of squishing the material in her hands, but like everything she popped it in her mouth…and it was the best sour face EVER. The dough was so salty that she didn’t try it again! To store the play dough place it in an airtight container or in a Ziplock bag(be sure to squeeze out the air before you seal it). One final tip…take a gold paint marker or a colored Sharpie and mark the year on the back of the ornaments!

 
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