Learn how to make salt dough ornaments and kid’s handprints with this well-tested recipe for salt dough. I’ll share my tips and tricks for working with salt dough so that you get great results, every single time.
Making salt dough ornaments and handprints is an enjoyable holiday activity that I love to do with my kids each year. It’s an easy craft project that we can do together as a family.
What’s more, salt dough ornaments and handprints make thoughtful keepsakes and adorable Christmas tree decorations. I love pulling out our little collection of salt dough ornaments that we’ve made throughout the years, and hanging them on our Christmas tree.
If you are looking for a small gift that your kids can make for their grandparents and other family members, consider sending a few of these salt-dough ornaments or handprints. They are sure to become a treasured keepsake!
How to Make Salt Dough for Ornaments
Salt dough is easy to make. It’s a fun project for the whole family, so don’t be afraid to let your kids get in on the action.
Making salt dough is really as simple as combining three basic pantry ingredients into a soft dough. Roll the dough flat, cut it with cookie cutters, and bake until hard.
Once they’re baked and cooled, the fun part begins. You can decorate the salt dough ornaments with craft paint, glitter, and ribbon. The sky’s the limit.
This particular salt dough recipe is pretty foolproof – just follow along with the measurements and read through the rest of the post for more tips and tricks.
Easy 3-Ingredient Recipe
Salt dough for ornaments is made from three common pantry staples. More than likely, you already have the necessary ingredients in your kitchen.
- All-purpose flour: I recommend regular all-purpose flour for best results in this recipe. For the most consistent white color, choose bleached all-purpose flour.
- Table salt: You’ll need a cup of regular table salt for this recipe. Salt helps preserve the ornaments so they’ll last for years to come. Choose a brand of salt with a small crystal size. (Avoid kosher salt or any kind of flakey sea salt.)
- Warm water: Warm water helps dissolve the salt and bring the dough together more easily.
Here are the other supplies you’ll need for this project:
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- Cookie cutters
- Straw or chopstick—for poking a hole for the ornaments to hang from
- Baking sheet
- Optional: Items like a fork, toothpick, or lace for adding texture to the ornaments.
How to Make Salt Dough
Mixing up a batch of the salt dough recipe couldn’t be easier! Here are step-by-step instructions on how to mix salt dough for ornaments and crafts.
Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and the salt. Slowly stir in the water, adding a few tablespoons at a time. Stir the mixture until the dough starts to come together.
Tip: If the dough is still dry and crumbly at this point, you can add a little more water. Stir in more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.
Step 2: When the dough becomes too hard to stir, use your hands to knead the dough together. Knead the dough until it’s nice and smooth, about 5-10 minutes. After that, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Tip: The rest time will allow the dough a chance to hydrate and relax. This will make it so much easier to roll out later! I know you may be tempted to skip this step, but try to let the dough rest for the best results!
Stand Mixer Instructions: You can also use an electric stand mixer to do the kneading for you. Using the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients on low speed. After the dough has come together, switch to the dough hook to knead the dough on low speed for 5 minutes. Then, continue on with the rest of the recipe.
How to Make Salt Dough Ornaments
Now that your salt dough is made, you can use it to make holiday ornaments, kid’s handprints, or even little sculptures.
Roll Out the Dough
Divide the batch of salt dough into 4 even pieces, and work with one piece at a time.
Then, lear a large area on your counter to roll out the dough. I like to roll out a sheet of parchment paper to cover my workspace. (Since I roll the dough out on top of the parchment paper, I never really need to add more flour to prevent sticking.)
Next, use a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle) to roll the dough to an even thickness. For ornaments, I like to roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4″.
Tip: If you the dough too thin, the baked ornaments can be too brittle and break. But, if you roll the dough too thick, the dough can puff or bubble when you bake it. So, try to aim for that magic 1/4″!
Use Cookie Cutters
Next, use your favorite cookie cutters to cut shapes from the dough. Transfer the shapes to a parchment lined baking sheet, being careful not to distort the shapes. (Don’t worry, you can always reshape the pieces once they’re on the baking sheet!)
Make A Hole for Ribbon
I like to use a drinking straw to punch a hole into the top of the ornaments. After the ornaments are baked, you can thread a ribbon through the hole to hang the ornaments on the tree.
If you don’t have a drinking straw handy, you can poke a hole with a chopstick or the wooden end of a paintbrush.
How to Make Salt Dough Handprints
The process of making salt-dough handprints is very similar to making ornaments, with a few exceptions.
First, roll out the dough as directed above – but roll it slightly thicker than you would for regular ornaments. That way, when you press down into the dough, it won’t get too thin.
Then, help your kid press their hand into the dough. Try to make the print as even as possible.
Next, use a large cookie cutter or a sharp knife to cut a circle or oval around the handprint. You can use a drinking straw or toothpick to make a hole in the top of the ornament.
Then, continue with the baking and decorating steps.
Baking the Ornaments
Once you’ve cut out all of your salt dough shapes, it’s time to bake them.I recommend baking the cut-outs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for best results.
Bake the ornaments in a 300°F oven for at least 45 minutes, or up to an hour. Mine are usually ready in one hour. Yes, I know that seems like a long time! But, you want to remove all the moisture from the dough to help preserve the ornaments.
How long to bake, exactly? Thinner ornaments will be done in a shorter amount of time. On the other hand, thicker handprints and mini sculptures will take a little longer.
You’ll know the ornaments are done baking when they look dry and they feel hard. Try to remove them from the oven before they brown. But if they do brown, it’s okay — you can paint them!
Let the ornaments cool completely before proceeding to the decorating step.
Painting and Decorating
Decorating the salt dough ornaments is, without a doubt, my favorite part. So, now is the time to get our your paint and brushes. (And even the glitter, if you’re feeling brave.)
I prefer to use acrylic craft paint to paint salt dough ornaments, especially with older kids who can be trusted.
If you are making this project with younger toddlers, you might consider using non-toxic and washable tempera paints. (These types of paints are less durable on their own, so you will likely need to seal them later.)
Here are some of the supplies I reccomend to decorate salt dough ornamnts.
- Acrylic craft paint or tempera paint
- White craft paint or spray paint (for a white base coat)
- Glitter, glue, paint pens, etc
- Mod Podge or polyurethane (optional, to seal the ornaments)
- Ribbon, yarn, or baker’s twine
After the ornaments are dry and sealed, you can tie loops of ribbon or yarn to each ornament. Hang them up, and admire your creativity!
How to Get White Salt Dough Ornaments
Salt dough, by itself, has a natural cream color. And so, a lot of people ask how to whiten salt dough.
One way to make white salt dough is to mix a large percentage of white paint into the dough itself. But, in my opinion, the easiest way to get white salt dough ornaments is just to paint the ornaments once they’ve dried.
(This is even more importnat when doing this activity with toddlers, since they are more likely to try and “taste” the dough!)
To get white salt dough, you can give the ornaments a light base coat of white craft paint before you start decorating in earnest.
You can apply the base coat with paint and a wide brush. Or, you can give all the ornaments a light mist of white spray paint. (Make sure to only use spray paint in a well-ventilated area.)
How to Seal Salt Dough Ornaments
It’s a good idea to take the extra step of sealing your salt dough ornaments with a clear sealer to protect them and help them last as long as possible.
You can paint on a thin layer of Mod Podge, or spray the ornaments with a clear polyurethane spray. Matte or glossy, it’s your preference.
FAQ and Troubleshooting
My salt dough is too sticky to roll!
If your dough feels too sticky, you’ve likely added too much water. Go back to the mixing step and add a 4:1 mixure of flour and salt, a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky.
You can also try rolling the dough out between sheets of parchment paper.
Can you make salt dough in advance?
Yes, I’ve made salt dough up to three days in advance with great results. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Let the dough warm up a little before rolling it out.
Can you air dry salt dough?
Yes, some people have success letting their salt dough ornaments air dry for 3-4 days, depending on humidity. . I never have the time or patience to try the air-dry method, so I can’t recommend it one way or the other.
Why is my salt dough puffing up?
Sometimes the salt dough ornaments puff up while baking. If this happens to you, first check to see if you’ve accidentally used self-rising flour. Oops!
Or, it might be that the ornaments were a little thick and had air bubbles. In this case, if you catch it in time, you can use a sharp knife to pop the air bubbles (like you might use a fork to dock a pie crust).
What to do about sharp edges on my ornaments?
Sometimes cookie cutters can leave a ragged edge on the back of cut-outs. And you might not notice the edge until it becomes hard after baking.
But, don’t worry, it’s easy to knock off this sharp edge with a bit of sand paper.
How to store salt dough ornaments to prevent breakage?
Wrap the salt dough ornaments in layers of tissue paper or bubble wrap and store in a sturdy box to prevent breakage. And, since these ornaments are made from flour, after all, you’ll want to store them in a dry place to prevent mold.
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For the dough
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup table salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- acrylic paint
- glitter and white glue
- Mod Podge or polyurethane (optional, to seal)
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- Cookie cutters
- Straw or chopstick
- Baking sheet
To make the dough:
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and the salt. Slowly add the water, stirring until the dough starts to come together.
- Knead the dough until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
To make the ornaments:
- Preheat the oven to 300° F. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Work with one piece at a time.
- Roll the dough to an even thickness of 1/4". Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer shapes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a straw or chopstick to poke holes in the top of each ornament.
- Bake for up to 1 hour, until the ornaments look completely dry and feel hard. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
- Decorate with paint and other craft materials. If desired, seal the ornaments with Mod Podge or polyurethane spray. Thread ribbon through the hole, and tie into a loop for hanging.
Sarah Stearns is an artist, maker, and blogger at sarahmaker.com
Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and more.
Sarah lives and works in North Carolina with her husband and young kids.