Something for the Kids: Simple Salt Dough


Salt dough ornaments before cooking.

Salt dough ornaments before cooking.

Here’s a little something different for this week’s column. Hope you enjoy it!

We all know how commercialized the holiday season has become. And while a focus on materialism saturates our society, I have yet to meet anyone who actually approves of society’s focus on Christmas as a time to engage in massive spending and acquiring. Yet it can be difficult to step outside of that societal drive to buy, buy, buy. There are other options, of course. Many people choose to shop locally, ensuring their money goes back into the local communities they call home. Others choose to make most of their gifts by hand or give money to organizations working to build a more unified world.

For those of us with young children around, this time of year offers an opportunity to slow down and make things with our children, reminding them that some of the best gifts in the world are those conjured from our kitchen cabinets. People have been making salt dough creations for thousands of years. As a child I remember loving our collection of salt dough ornaments, those hard, slightly misshapen cut outs of stars and and snowmen decorated in glitter and chipped paint. For the last few years I’ve been making them with my children, and I’m never sure who has more fun.

Salt dough is cheap, simple, and surprisingly long-lasting. You can use the salt dough to make ornaments and figurines; paint, glitter and yarn spruce them up into personalized creations for decorations and gifts. They’ll last for years and when you’re ready to be done with them unlike plastic, they’ll easily compost. This year we took my mother’s huge stash of cookie cutters to create robots, snowmen, angels, stars, bats, and Santas. Simple acrylic paints will add color and you can take ribbons or yarn to hang them. If you’re like us and forget to make the holes for the ornaments before you bake them, you can take a drill and drill a hole in them once they’re baked.

Here’s What you Need:

1 cup flour (wheat flour will give extra texture, but white flour works great too)

½ cut salt

½ cup water (or more as needed)

Rolling pin

Cookie sheet

Straw to make holes for the string

Cookie cutters (if you don’t have these use the bottom of a can to make simple circles)

Paintbrushes and paints


Yarn or ribbon.

How to Make Them:

20141214_195241Mix the flour, salt and water together and kneed the dough. Little kids love this part. Take the rolling pin and roll out the dough into ¼ inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to make the shapes or craft something by hand! Bake in the oven at around 250 for several hours until the shapes are fully cooked and dry. After cooling use the paints and glitter to make your original designs.


What crafts do you make each year for Christmas? I’d love to hear about it. Visit me online at and click on the “Contact Us” link. While you’re there check out our other photos of ornaments and learn more about our work at the McElroy House and our soon to open center at 420 S. 2nd in Dardanelle! We’ll also have links to articles with suggestions for how you can use your shopping money to support local communities.



Thanks so much for reading! May your holidays be filled with much love and togetherness!




The Seed and the Story is a partnership with the Courier newspaper in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas. This weekly column explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources and Community Action and humbly attempt to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.