Making salt dough ornamentation for Christmas

We have done this for years, at least 3 now.  Big Brother remembers and loves it; he was excited to start talking about it weeks ago.  Such a simply thing, salt/flour dough.  If you search SALT DOUGH on the Net it is amazing how many hits you get.  So many great craft sites out there; here are a few of the new ones I found that I marked to look at more – for other projects ideas.  Can’t get enough arts and crafts here, and momma is not creative or crafty.  I do ok after I have an idea, especially as my “workers” are 3 and 5, but getting the ideas is hard for me.

I do find it frustrating that the recipes vary so much for the “same thing”.  The ratio of flour to salt is all over the place:  from 4:1, 2:1 and 1:1.  That makes no sense to me.  I mean, ok I get that there is room for variation, but that seems like a big variance.  Not being able to find my tried-and-true recipe from last year (that made over 20 batches).   I have been forced to go back to the start and try different ratios.  White flour works so much better, the whole wheat stuff makes the dough so much more dry and hard to roll and crumbly.  I bought a new bag of cheap all-purpose, bleaches white flour for using in the dough.

Monday we tried the one I thought was what I remembered:  2 cups flour, 1 cup salt and 1 cup water.  Nope, not right.  The boys were all excited to jump right in (see photo) but the dough crumbled while still being sticky.   I managed to roll some of it out, but could not get it thin enough.  Just did not work out.

So Yesterday we tried again and things went much better.   4:1:1 ratio seems to be working for us.  The dough took a long time to form dough, but it rolled nicely.  I should have rolled it thinner, the first batch of decorations I left too thick and I am worried they did not dry all the way though.  I set our oven as low as I can, 170, and then just let them sit all afternoon and into the evening.  Tomorrow afternoon we are set to make more and I will try to get them roll out more.  I save, each year, a couple of each boys best decorations and a couple of his brother’s best decorations and label them with the year and pack them up.  So for 2009 I set back 2 great ones of Big Brother for him and 2 good ones of Little Brother’s also for Big Brother (so Big brother got 4 decorations, 2 his and 2 brother’s creation).  I set them back, year after year, and when the boys are adult they will have 20+ years of their own art and also their brother’s work.  When my boys marry I want to be able to give them their history.  With this in mind, I make sure the decorations are well “glossed”; I am hoping that will preserve them; I don’t really know and this may all be wasted effort and sillyness as in 5 years I may have to throw everything out, but I really really hope not.  So I need to make sure the decorations are nice and thin and totally dry and hard; so I am going to try to make the ones tomorrow thinner.

Since we have done this craft for gifts for the past couple of years, I wanted to somehow make it a little different this year.  So when we pulled out our tubbie of cookie cutters, we left some of the standard Christmas images in the tub and I let the boys choose some different cookie cutters to use this year.  The 2010 decorations will include ducks and bears.  I want an angel and a Santa, neither of which I have, but I have looked in 3 stores and can not find them; I also want a snowman with a hat one, and can’t find that either.  I get frustrated with so many of the cookie cutters being so small, honestly for cookies to decorate rather than decorations to paint and hang, I’d still like a nice big 3 to 4 inch image. 

Big Brother put for real effort and concentration on rolling out and cutting out his own decorations.  He understands the process and while he can’t fully make his hands corporate he attends to it and is doing the work.  He made 6 all his own.  Little Brother was frustrated with the rolling process.  Big was last year too, but Big didn’t have a brother he saw being successful so he kept at it.  Little got more flustered watching Big Brother being able to roll the dough (struggle though it was, and Big still needs a lot of progress on that) so I rolled and let Little brother help “cut”.  He chose the cookie cutters and put them on the flat dough and helped me push them in, then relished pulling them off and seeing the cut out shape.  The joy on his face was heart warming; there are some momma moments that nothing can touch.  Both boys not only really put forth a real effort, but took their time (as much as you can, when you are 3 and 5 and excited) and took the work seriously.  They had so much fun, and the light in their eyes and the joy shining when they “created” the shapes was amazing.

Here are some recent photos of their shineing faces: 



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3 responses to “Making salt dough ornamentation for Christmas

  1. Thanks for the ratio; I’m going to try this with dd this week. 🙂

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