Salt dough ornaments are one of those crafts that look easy and fun to make…and they actually ARE. They also keep my kids occupied for hours, which feels like a major parenting win during the chaos of Christmas.
In between sports and school they plop down at the table and pick up a brush and paint the ornaments. I’ve been letting my OCD guard down and leaving the drop cloth on the kitchen table with all the supplies and just let them pick up where they left off with their creativity.
My inner clean freak is losing it a little, but I know that I will be so happy we did all of these next year when I am hanging them on the tree and lamenting about another year passing by. They really do provide such nostalgia and let me know what the kids were into that particular year. (Dinosaurs were a common thread for Shep this year while Odette seems to be having a Jackson Pollock moment.)
I can’t remember where I found the original recipe, but it’s morphed over the years and this is the version I’ve found to work best.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the dough:
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 cup of tap water
And here’s what you need for the fun part:
- Assorted cookie cutters – I have round and fluted biscuit cutters plus a few holiday options (candy cane, snowflake, pine tree)
- Metal Straws – they’re perfect for making holes for ornament hook or ribbon.
- Any acrylic paints – there are even some paints with glitter in them, which you can use on top of any of the other acrylic colors once your first coat has dried
- Assorted small paint brushes – there are lots of brush sets for kids that aren’t terribly expensive. No need to pull out the Van Gogh set for this.
- Ribbon or twine
- Cookie cutters
- Paint brushes
- Rolling pin
- Cookie sheet
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, then stir the ingredients together by hand or with a mixer and turn the dough out onto a floured countertop. It’ll be sticky, but freely add more flour if it’s unruly. Then roll the dough out to 1/4” – 1/2” thickness being careful not to get it too thin otherwise they’re tough to lift off the countertop and onto the cookie sheet. Grab your cookie cutters and start making shapes! Remember to use the straw to create the ornament holes before you bake—I’ve forgotten that step before…
Place the ornaments onto an ungreased cookie sheet—don’t worry about the spacing, this dough won’t rise much—and bake for 3 hours. I like to flip mine after the first hour to keep the ornament surfaces smooth, but it’s not a big deal if you forget this part. Let the baked ornaments cool for 20 minutes and then you’re ready to decorate!
For decorating, I cover the table in my go-to drop cloth and put out various paint colors in kid bowls or cups that I can easily wash when we’re done. A few cups of clean water are helpful for cleaning brushes otherwise it’s a good idea to designate a couple of brushes for each color and leave it at that.
For little ones who haven’t mastered the brush grip—or for those only mildly interested in participating—I pre-paint some ornaments a solid color (snowflakes white or pine trees green) so that we’re a little further on our way to success. Another sweet option: Press your little one’s hand into the dough to create little keepsake handprint ornament.
Once you’re finished with your creation let it dry for an hour or so and cut an 8”-10” piece of ribbon or twine and thread it through the hole. Tie a small knot and hang your ornaments from the tree, garland, doorknob…wherever you want to add a little holiday cheer.
I treasure the memories of making these ornaments with my family and friends and love seeing them hanging from the tree year after year.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Share it in the comments!
My 3 favorite things to do with my niece is decorate cut out cookies, make a gingerbread house and make a Christmas birthday cake
My girls and I always got or made a Christmas ornament each Christmas. Then when they went off to school they had at least 18 to put on their tree.
I remember making ornaments and beads for jewellery like this when I was a kid (decades ago!!). You really are making some amazing memories with your little ones.
I haven’t made these since I was a kid myself!! Ahh the nostalgia. ?
One tradition was every year the kids would wake up early and have to sit at the top of the steps waiting for the thumbs up to go open gifts and check Santa’s cookie plate. I have pics of each year until they became teens. Now Jon 18 and Rachel 15 sleep until 10 or 11. ? Enjoy! Thank goodness for video and pics. ❤️
used to make those with my girls when they were little, wonderful memories a d keepsakes
My dad cooking Christmas breakfast for all of us, the smell of his breakfast and the sound of my parents laughter.
aka, Lady Jane
You two lovely ladies make a pretty pair! I enjoy your blog, because it’s so chatty and casual, like we’re visiting over coffee or a video feed. The idea of keeping the ornaments and paints out so folks can work on them through-out the day — or over a weekend — is fantastic! I’m going to keep that one in mind for other projects. btw, I adore the blue bowls you used for the paints.
Sharon (Mema to my grandkids).
I did this with my grandkids. It was a lot of fun. We also did gingerbread houses out of gram crackers and marshmallows . We always ended with paint everywhere and Marshmallows on our hands and sometimes in our hair. Your a great mom!
What a lovely idea! My little boys would love this and it looks so easy. I wonder if they could be decorated with marker instead of paint? My 4 year old has a Jackson Pollock tendency too…for the walls. Marker is much safer!
I tried it a few weeks ago with my 8 year old son, but I had a hard time getting them off the counter top. Plus I air dried them too. It all went wrong. I’m going to attempt your way – hopefully I’ll have better luck. Merry Christmas to you all.
I’ve never really had traditions like these with my family. I think the closest we got was picking out what we wanted to make for Christmas Dinner. But this is a tradition I definitely want to try when I have my own family. Or possibly try it next year.
We do the same thing in our Kindergarten (toddlers are 0-3) here in germany. The kids have so much fun.
We so ornaments for Christmas trees and the kids can take it with home.
I make Christmas cookies for me, my family and friends, which looks like yours.
We do the same ornaments in our Kindergarten (toddlers 0-3) here in germany. They can take it with home for her Christmas trees.
I making Christmas cookies every year, which looks like yours.
Definitely going to try this next week after Christmas since everyone will be home from school & looking for things to do! When my extended family gathers in Virginia, we sometimes paint ornaments. The ornaments stay at Gramma & Granddaddy’s house & we all love looking for our creations on the tree the next year. ?
It’s nice to see people making ornaments for Christmas. I have been making mine for 36 years now. I started out because we couldn’t afford to buy them and then it just became a tradition. Keep up the great parenting. Merry Christmas.
I made these with my students this year (Special Education class, grades 2-4) and we didn’t even bake them. We just left them on the windowsill in the sun overnight and they came out great! The kids loved making them.
Next time cut back on the flour and add cinnamon for scented Ornaments.
Making all kinds of decoration: wax figurines from leftover candles, straw stars, salt dough décor for the tree, folded paper stars and colourful window pictures.
Singimg Christmas carols. Like daily.
And baking austrian vanilla cookies!!! Lots of them…as they vanish with light years speed…
It’s so weird because I sort of remember making these as a kid. But I also feel like that it never really happened?
Suggestion if you don’t have straws on hand… A round icing tip can also do the trick.
Listening to John Denver and the Muppets sing Christmas songs while opening presents.
I remember making these as a kid!
My grandmother and I did this when I was tiny.
I remember making these with my kids but unforunately the years got the best of them and they got soft and fell to pulp, ever tried making home made playdough? that was hours of fun and we made it together, I did not have to worry about them likking it!
2 cups flour
3/4 cup salt
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (coconut oil works too)
Food coloring, optional
Quart sized bags
Stir together the flour, salt and cream of tartar in a large pot. Next add the water and oil. If you’re only making one color, add in the the color now as well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the dough has thickened and begins to form into a ball. Remove from heat and then place inside a gallon sized bag or onto wax paper. Allow to cool slightly and then knead until smooth. If you’re adding colors after, divide the dough into balls (for how many colors you want) and then add the dough into the quart sized bags. Start with about 5 drops of color and add more to brighten it. Knead the dough, while inside the bag so it doesn’t stain your hands. Once it’s all mixed together you’re ready to PLAY.
Store the play dough inside the bags once done to keep soft. Keeps for up to 3 months.