How to Make a Keepsake Salt Dough Ornament

baby holding adult's hand

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Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly
  • Estimated Cost: $1

There's nothing sweeter than a baby's tiny hands, so it's not surprising that making baby handprint ornaments is a popular activity for those who have young children. These keepsake ornaments are quick and easy to make with a simple salt dough. And if you don't get the imprint right on the first attempt (as is often the case with fussy babies), you can just reform the dough and try again. Once you're happy with how it looks, you simply bake and decorate the ornament to your taste.

Besides being personal keepsakes, these ornaments also make excellent gifts for family members, daycare providers, and other special people in your child's life. In addition to hanging them on your Christmas tree or anywhere else you'd like, you also can slightly adapt the ornament by adding a magnet to the back and using it on the refrigerator or another magnetic surface.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutter
  • Pencil or knife
  • Microwave (with microwave-safe plate) or oven (with cookie sheet and silicone/parchment paper liner)
  • Acrylic paint and paint brush
  • Ribbon or string

Materials

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup hot water

Instructions

  1. Make the Salt Dough

    Combine the flour and salt in your mixing bowl. And then slowly add the water, mixing as you go. Knead the dough into a ball to thoroughly mix the ingredients. The salt dough should feel a bit drier than purchased Play-Doh. If it feels too dry or is very crumbly, you can add a bit more water.

  2. Roll Out the Dough and Make the Imprint

    Roll out the dough on a flat surface, so it's about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Then, cut out your preferred ornament shape using a cookie cutter. (You also can freehand a shape using a knife if you wish.) Remove the excess dough around the ornament shape.

    Gently press your child's hand into the middle of the ornament. If you don't get a clear impression on the first attempt, don't worry. Simply knead the dough back into a ball, roll and cut it out again, and redo the imprint.

    Tip

    You also can make this project using a footprint instead of a handprint. This can be especially helpful if your child wants to grab things with their hands, rather than open their palm to make a flat handprint.

  3. Poke a Hole

    Use a pencil or the tip of a knife to poke a hole in the top of your ornament, so you will be able to hang it once you are finished.

  4. Microwave or Bake the Dough

    When you're satisfied with your imprint, place the ornament on a plate and microwave it for approximately 3 minutes. Then, wait for the ornament to cool.

    If you don't want to use the microwave, you can bake your salt dough ornament on a cookie sheet with a silicone or parchment paper liner at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 1/2 to 3 hours or until the dough is firm. The dough might brown slightly, but this shouldn't be an issue if you are planning to paint the ornament.

    It's also possible to let salt dough ornaments air dry, especially if you live in a dry climate. However, this is generally not recommended because it often results in an ornament that is more fragile and prone to breakage than if you microwaved or baked it.

  5. Decorate Your Ornament

    Use acrylic paint to decorate your salt dough ornament however you wish. For instance, you can paint the entire ornament one solid color or paint the imprint a contrasting color for added interest. Consider writing your child's name and the date on the ornament. Finally, thread a piece of ribbon or string through the hole at the top for hanging.