Kids’ How to Make Salt Dough for Crafts, Gifts, Jewelry and More
Playing with dough for a lasting creation
Artistic Craft for Kids
Parents, teachers, babysitters and grandparents often search for fun and unplugged activities for children. Making items from a salt dough taps into everyone’s artistic-creative side and is quite easy to do. Additionally, it is not expensive. (Yippee!) The ingredients usually are already in the kitchen, especially if you do any sort of baking. The tools are similarly commonplace: baking sheets, aluminum foil, paper clips and a few other items. The only part of the procedure which for you must use your judgment whether to make putting the creations in the oven the “adult only” task.
So, let’s begin!
Already in the Kitchen
Flour, salt, and tap water. That’s all it takes. For the hooks of pendants or ornaments, I use a half a paper clip. As far as tools go, you will need measuring cups and a bowl for mixing along with a sturdy spoon. The craft sticks are optional tools for making lines and indents in the unbaked products. One could also use cutlery, pencils, toothpicks, ruler edges, and so forth. Your imagination is your only limit for what can be used.
I have made these salt dough ornaments at home with my own children and in classrooms. The photos for this article show junior high school students in an urban school working in their regular classroom.
Common Kitchen Tools
Because we were in a regular classroom which did not have a sink, I laid old newspaper out to protect the desks. Also, I filled a large stockpot with water for hand rinsing. The good old roll of industrial paper towels further served us well.
These amounts yield enough dough for about ten ornaments.
2 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
½ cup table salt
¾ cups tap water PLUS some extra water if needed to fine-tune the dough
Put flour and salt in the mixing bowl. Stir. Add the water and stir gently.
The spoon will handle the first part of the mixing, but it must be finished with squishing and kneading by hand. I often volunteered to do this step so as to save the students or little ones from dealing with “icky” stuff. This has a benefit – if I am doing the final kneading, I can judge if a little more water is needed to make the dough workable. In general, whole wheat flour seems to suck up moisture, so a few more spoons of water will be needed. The final consistency should be like commercial Playdough™.
To help with both ease of working the dough and later clean-up, I encourage the children work on foil. Their dough will lift more easily from foil than it will from newspaper or a kitchen counter.
I just love seeing what children want to make. This is a fun tactile, artistic, imaginative endeavor. Hopefully, you can do it when time is plentiful. It is just fun to roll, braid, mold, reconsider, start over, and refine a creation. A few children may find the high salt content of the dough irritating or itchy to work. For those individuals, allow them to stop and wash their hands immediately. Of course, other safety considerations which may need to be discussed are that although the ingredients are “food safe,” we would not like the taste of the dough and the dough should not go in the mouth, eyes, or anywhere other than the work space on the desk or table.
Busy Hands and Busy Brains
If the artist plans to have the dough creation hang from a string or ribbon, it is important to insert half a paper clip into the dough before baking. I have used a pair of pliers with a wire cutter feature to cut the paper clip, but it is not necessary. Many times I have also just bent and twisted a standard ¾ inch paper clip until it snaps in the middle.
When all are complete, bake on a foil lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for an hour. In the case of a classroom teacher, it does not hurt to have these ornaments air dry throughout the day. I took them home to bake and all was great.
Optional Finishing Steps
The ornaments are done after cooling. However, they will decay and decompose if they are not preserved. With my children, we painted some of their works (especially the Christmas ornaments) and I applied shellac to all of them. This has nicely preserved them for years. With my students, I discussed the need to preserve the creation if they wanted them to last. I suggested that they coat them with nail polish at home.
Good Old-Fashioned Fun
This activity is an inexpensive project which calls to mind family projects before television changed our world. I hope you will enjoy trying it with your special people.