Salt dough is very cheap and easy to make, is versatile and can be turned into many things such as coasters, door plaques, eggcups or just plain old models – the only thing to limit you is your imagination. You could even make your own set of beads. One thing that is very easy and satisfying to make, though, is simple Christmas tree decorations.
As salt dough is non-toxic, this is an activity that can be used to occupy young children, who love to play with playdough. In fact their creations, such as pretend cookies, cakes and so on, can be dried for them to play with - as long as they are old enough1not to put the eventual salt creations into their mouths.
- 2 cups flour (plain white flour2 for best results)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup salt (cheap table salt is fine)
- food colouring (if desired)
Combine the ingredients together in a bowl; the consistency should be such that the dough can be rolled and shaped easily. If this is not the case, more flour or water can be added until the correct texture is acquired.
You can colour your dough at this stage by adding food colouring. To do this, make a small well within the dough and add a few drops of the required colour. Mixing the dough roughly together will produce a marbled effect. To produce a more even colour, the food colouring should be added to the water before mixing with the flour and salt.
Shaping and decorating
Once you have your dough to the required colour and consistency, you can begin to decorate. Cookie cutters, butter knives, and toothpicks or cocktail sticks are useful at this stage.
Simple shapes, such as a Christmas star, can be cut with the cookie cutters, and designs then drawn onto these with the toothpicks/cocktail sticks. Due to its doughy nature, shapes are easy to make using butter knives and fingers. Young children can take part in this process as no dangerous equipment is needed.
Create balls by rolling small quantities of dough between the palms of the hands in a circular motion. Sausages can be made by rolling the dough up and down on a flat surface, or between the palms. Experiment with different shapes; make a large flat circle and stick different shapes onto this by pressing pieces of dough together. You can experiment as much as you like. This is all part of the fun, and can keep your young helpers amused.
If you are planning to hang your decorations, for instance on your Christmas tree, remember to pierce a hole in them before baking. This is best done with a pencil or a chopstick. You should make the holes slightly larger than they need to be as the drying process will slightly reduce the size of the finished hole.
Drying your Creations
Once you are happy with your completed piece, you can make it solid by slowly baking it in the oven, or leaving it in a warm dry place.
To oven dry your creations, you want a low heat for a long time. Gas mark 2 (150°C) for around an hour and a half should do the trick. It is important to turn your pieces occasionally so that they can dry on both sides. Wait until the dough has turned a golden brown and smells and looks ready.
To air dry your creations, leave them in a warm dry place, such as an airing cupboard or on top of a radiator, for 24-48 hours. Larger pieces may take longer, and air drying is not recommended in humid climates.
Painting and Varnishing
Once your creations are cooled and dry, you can paint them with your chosen design and colours. Poster paint or even water colours can be used. You may also choose to use glitter to give them some sparkle. Once the paint is dry, varnish them with either PVA glue or clear varnish.
Storage and Lifespan
Take care to store your decorations in a dry location. PVA glue or varnish should help to protect them. With care, the decorations may be reused for several years.