One of the most popular holiday-themed posts on my blog is my tutorial for how to make cinnamon ornaments—they are easy, smell wonderful, and are a super fun craft for the whole family. But if cinnamon isn’t your thing, another great option for homemade ornaments is using salt dough.
One distinct advantage to making salt dough ornaments is that I can almost guarantee you already have all the supplies you need in your kitchen. All you need to get your ornaments going is all purpose flour, salt, and water. It’s a great craft for those days when you just aren’t quite sure what to do with the kids (or adults). No special materials or equipment required. Just mix, cut, bake and decorate!
Before I dive into the (really simple) directions, I want to answer a question you see a lot when talking about salt dough—why salt? Well, there are a number of reasons. First up, the large volume of salt makes this dough not-so-tasty, which is a good thing when you have the littlest elves helping you and they are determined to take a sample taste of the craft project.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, salt is an excellent preservative. If you left the salt out of the recipe below, and just mixed together water and flour, you would end up creating a near perfect little homestead for mold to set up shop in—not so great if you want to keep these ornaments in a box in the basement for the majority of the year.
Alright, now that we’ve covered why you should definitely make sure to add the salt, let’s get started making these ornaments. Here’s the recipe for the dough itself (scroll down to the bottom of the post for a printable version):
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup table salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
And here’s the tools and supplies you’ll need for the project:
- Mixing bowl and large spoon
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- Cookie cutters
- Straw or toothpick
- Baking sheet
- Glitter, paint, and ribbons
- Polyurethane spray (like this one)
Alright, let’s get started. It’s so easy!
Step 1: Mix the Dough
Grab your large mixing bowl, and add in the flour and salt. Stir until well combined. Then, slowly stream in the warm water while stirring. Keep stirring until you’ve added all the water.
You’ll get to a point where it is too hard to stir with a spoon. Put it down and use your hands to get in there and mix it well.
Once the dough starts to come together, keep kneading with your hands for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable (just like making a pizza!).
Step 2: Roll Out & Cut
Put down a large piece of parchment paper, and place a good-sized chunk of dough in the middle. Place another large piece of parchment on top, and roll out the dough until 1/8″ thick. You want to err on the side of a thinner dough. Too thick, and the ornaments tend to split or break easily because of air pockets that get trapped in the middle. I’m a believer that all body types are beautiful, but in this instance, thin is in.
Removed the top sheet of parchment, then using cookie cutters, cut into the dough—do not try to remove the cut out pieces! You want those to stay on the parchment.
When you’re finished cutting the piece, peel away the excess dough, leaving behind the shapes on the parchment.
I like to put texture into my ornaments, so this is where I bring out any random object that has a fun texture—forks, straws, other cookie cutters, scissors. There are no rules! You can also use rubber stamps.
And then, take a drinking straw, and poke a hole in the top of each ornament for a ribbon to hang from.
Step 3: Bake
Transfer the whole parchment paper and shapes onto a baking sheet. Bake the ornaments in a 300°F oven for about an hour. This isn’t an exact science, because inevitably, your shapes won’t be 100% even in thickness. They are done when they feel hard. They are really done if they start to brown (no worries, that’s something we can fix later!).
Let the ornaments cool completely before proceeding to the next step.
Step 4: Decorate
Now the really fun part, get out that glitter and decorate! You can hang the ornaments as is, if you like, but they really look beautiful with some paint added to them.
Before I start decorating, I like to mist all of my cooled ornaments with a thin coat of white spray paint. This helps cover up any irregularities in color (like when some got too brown from baking), and I think helps the ornaments looks more like clay than hard bread. This step is totally optional.
Once the spray paint is dry, I paint using acrylic paints and brushes (puffy paints would also work wonderfully).
Where I want glitter, I use Mod Podge or school glue.
It’s a fun, carefree way to spend a holiday afternoon!
Step 5: Seal and Hang
Once all your decorating is dry, it behooves you to seal these ornaments so they last a good, long while. I have a salt dough ornament that hangs on my tree that I made when I was five! These things can really, really last if you take time to seal them. It’s easy, too! Just use spray poly. You can nab it at hardware stores or craft stores.
I just do one coat on each side, let it dry completely, and then string a pretty ribbon through. I like to use matte or satin finish poly so the ornaments still feel like unfinished clay, but if you dig the glossy look, use semi-gloss or glossy poly.
And then put those beautiful new ornaments on your Christmas tree!
These also make wonderful, thoughtful gifts!
And they are a great way to mark major milestones in your life. This is a salt dough ornament we made last year to mark Juni’s first Christmas. Her hand was so tiny. *sniff* *sniff*
To make it nice and easy for you, I’ve included a printable version of the “recipe” below. Share it, print it, and store it with your Christmas cookie cutters so you always have the recipe ready when Christmastime comes around!
I hope you have an absolutely wonderful holiday, my friends! I’m taking the next week off from the blog to enjoy time (and eggnog and chocolate and all the Christmas movies) with my loved ones. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist posting holiday cheer over on Instagram, so make sure to follow me there for all my holiday updates. I’ll be back right after the holiday to start talking all things new year—goals, resolutions, healthy recipes! See you then. Happy Holidays!