Every year, I love making Christmas ornaments with my students. First, we decorate our classroom tree, and then they take their ornaments home and decorate their family’s tree. One of the ornaments we made this year were salt dough ornaments. I do not do this activity every year with my students, as it depends on the amount of time we have.
Oddly enough, I can recall making salt dough ornaments when I was in third grade…20 years ago! Pretty much the only reason I remember is because I had a cut on one of my fingers and I remember the salt hurting. Our teacher was videotaping us making our ornaments, and she asked me why I was shaking my hand, and then asked me why I thought the dough hurt my cut. (Looking at the events through teacher’s eyes now, I understand that she was trying to make me think! Coincidentally, she was one of the best teacher’s I’ve had.)
So I can remember something from third grade, but not to get some meat out of the freezer to thaw for supper. Go figure!
So anyway, this year I had enough time with this class to make these fun ornaments. The concept is rather simple, it just takes some time when working with 6 and 7 year olds!
The ratio we used was 1 part salt, 1 part water, 2 parts flour. For us, that meant 2 1/3 cup salt (which was an entire cylindrical container of iodized salt that can be purchased for a very low price at Aldi stores). We then added 4 2/3 cups flour and 2 1/3 cup water last.
Since the kids were doing the measuring, I am certain these measurements were not exact! However, here’s the great thing about this dough. If it sticks to your hands like crazy when you handle it, add some flour. If it’s dry and crumbly, add some water. Easy as pie!
I purchased small cookie sheets from the Dollar Tree to be used as magnet boards in my classroom, but these cookie sheets worked very well to make our ornaments on! It was easy to keep all of the ornaments separated too, so that every student got to take the ones they made home.
I let the students knead the dough and play with it for a little while, and then we got down to business! Each student took a portion of their lump of dough, rolled it into a ball, and then flattened it until it was about ½ to ¾ inch thick. The students then pressed three fingerprints into the dough to look like a snowman.
I used a straw to poke a hole in the top of the ornament to thread ribbon through.
Since the students had some leftover dough, I let them make whatever ornaments they wanted. I had a few cookie cutters they could use if they chose, but some got pretty creative!
Messy hands were in abundance by the time we were finished!
We made the dough on a Friday, and when we came back to school on Monday, the ornaments were still not completely dry. They were dry enough on the top for us to paint them, but the bottom needed some time. These ornaments could be baked to speed up the drying process, but I did not try it, so I cannot make any good recommendations.
I gave the students a choice of some pastel acrylic paint colors for the background of the ornament. Interestingly enough, everyone picked teal or blue…I thought for sure some of the girls would’ve picked pink or purple!
We painted around the fingerprints first, and then painted white inside the snowman. I also showed the students how to make dot snowflakes around their snowman if they wanted to.
Only one ornament is completely finished, and the students and I will finish the rest tomorrow using Sharpie markers for the nose and mouth. Our snowmen are going to be looking up in the sky, so the carrot sticks straight up and the coal smile is beneath it. No need for eyes!
The stick arms can either be done with a brown Sharpie, or a very small paint brush and brown acrylic paint. If you are doing this with kids, I recommend the Sharpie!
The ornament possibilities with salt dough are endless. Fingerprints, handprints, footprints, cookie cutters…the list goes on and on! My mom and I even discussed making salt dough ornaments and putting essential oils in them next year.
These ornaments can be used as gifts as well as keepsakes! You can paint them fancy and give them to relatives, or you can do this as a craft with your kids to decorate your own tree!
I love that these ornaments are simple and rather inexpensive, but they look great on a Christmas tree!
Have you made salt dough ornaments before? What kind of ornament shapes do you make? What do you do with them after they are made? I would love to hear about it!