Baby’s First Homemade Ornament!
One of my favorite crafts to do with small children is making salt dough ornaments. It’s such a simple craft and so tactile. Little hands can get their first touch of dough and then feel and hold the finished product for years to come. It’s a great way to spend quality time together creating a memory you will treasure forever. Someday when they are giving their valedictorian speeches or jumping out of airplanes or just giving you that teenage look of sullenness, it will be hard to believe their hands were so so little once upon a time.
Making handprint tree ornaments each year, starting with baby’s first Christmas, is a great tradition not only for you but also as an annual gift to loved ones. For this tutorial, our little model is little toddler, which demonstrates how little ones can be involved at the youngest of ages.
Here is what you will need to create this craft:
For the dough:
• 1/2 cup of salt
• 1 cup of flour
• 1/2 cup of water
• a rolling pin
• a cookie sheet (parchment paper optional)
• something to cut a handprint-size circle with, like a bowl or an empty yogurt container
• a straw (for the ribbon hole)
• an offset spatula if you have one
for finishing the ornament:
• non-toxic water-based acrylic paint
• a paintbrush
• ribbon or twine
• clear Mod Podge
• wipes for quick clean-up of sticky fingers and messes
Now let’s get started!
Making this dough is really easy, even a baby can do it! Just kidding, it’s better if an adult makes the dough but small children really do enjoy learning how to mix up ingredients. Go ahead and let them have a go at the mixing bowl with a big wooden spoon. They’ll like helping you a lot better than whining at your feet for your attention.
At first your dough will seem too watery but it’ll clump up right away. If it stays too moist add a little flour until it’s the consistency of play dough or water if it seems too dry, but usually these measurements work out just right.
When your dough is a nice big clump, flour up a clean surface like your table or a cutting board and get ready to roll it out.
Roll the dough until it’s about a quarter inch thick.
Once you have your dough rolled out, use your circle cutter (aka bowl or clean empty yogurt container) to cut out circles. You should be able to get four ornaments out of this recipe and some leftover for little hands to play with. You can roll the dough out again and again to make sure you get the most ornaments. Just make sure to keep your rolling pin and flat surface well floured so nothing gets too sticky.
After you have your ornaments cut, use the straw to push through a small hole that you will use for your ribbon or string later. Wiggle your straw around a little so the hole is nice and big. Though there isn’t any rising agent in this dough, it does tend to puff up just a little in the oven which can make your string hole too small to pass ribbon through later.
Now for the fun part! Hand pressing! You might have to do this step a couple of times if your child is overexcited and wants to grab and squish the dough. Have patience though and gently press their little hand into the soft dough. Not too hard and not too soft but just hard enough to leave a small imprint. You could even do this with an infant when s/he is asleep.
Having that little extra dough to play with will be a great distraction so that you can whip away the ornaments to bake before they become claymation.
Gently lay your ornaments onto your cookie sheet. A very thin metal spatula (like an offset spatula) will be great for lifting them if you have trouble with the ornaments being too malleable. Parchment paper is handy too but not required.
Preheat your oven to 250 F. Bake for two to two and a half hours. I know it’s a long time but your little one will probably need a nap by then anyway. You’ll know the ornaments are done when they feel nearly solid in the middle. If there is a little softness, it’s okay. They’ll harden more as they cool but you want them to be sturdy so let them bake a good long time.
When they are done, remove from the oven and let them cool completely.
Now it’s time to paint!
You could skip the painting step if you are adverse to messes or having paint anywhere near your baby. I personally love the touch of a smeary handprint. It shows up more on the tree later. But you know your child, if she isn’t up for this, don’t push it. You can hand paint her handprint with a paintbrush yourself or just leave the ornament plain white. The handprint will be there, just more subtly.
Paint your child’s hand with a paintbrush. It will tickle. You can even let them paint their own hand or yours if you are so inclined. It’s fun. Just make sure the smeary handprints stay at the table where you are painting and don’t go wandering through the house before you can wipe them clean. Baby wipes are very handy.
Once their little hand is covered with paint, gently stamp their hand down onto the ornament as near to their hand imprint as possible. If it’s a little off don’t sweat it.
String the ornaments with your ribbon or twine and let your child hang their beautiful creation on the tree! You might want to grab your camera. It’s going to be a moment you won’t want to forget.
Happy First Christmas!
Difficulty Level: Easy
Appropriate Age levels: Anywhere from infant to adult. Everybody loves salt dough!
Published December 3, 2012. Last updated November 29, 2016.