As I said at the beginning of this Advent Calendar of Christmas Activities, I’m not a super craftsy person (even though I’m working on becoming one now!), and this little project of making salt dough ornaments really reminded me about my inexperience… To begin with, I hadn’t realised that this activity would need to be spread over two days. It’s been years since last time I did anything with salt dough, and then it was only as a temporary play substance, with no intention of making anything to keep.
So, this ended up a great learning experience for both me and Penguin. And I did think of a clever little hack along the way (if I may say so myself), which I’ll share with you further down on this page 😉
We put some Christmas music on, made the dough, played with it for a bit, and then rolled it out, ready for cutting our ornaments out. We used a few different items for adding patterns, textures and other tactile (as well as visual) variations.
For the dough we used:
- 4 dl flour
- 1 dl salt
- slightly less than 1 dl water
As I’d seen a few recipes including oil as well, I decided to add about 2 teaspoons of coconut oil. I’m not sure if it had any real benefit, other than giving it a pleasant smell, providing some olfactory input 🙂
To add different textures we used some parts of plants, lace, textures rolling pins and a couple of other play dough implements. Shape-wise we mainly went for circular cutters, to make bauble-style ornaments. We also made some beads.
We then baked our creations in the oven, at gas mark 3 for about 90 mins. HOWEVER, here’s one of the lessons I learnt: If you let the items air dry first, before baking them, they’re less likely so swell up or warp like these did. So next time, I’ll leave them out over night at least, before baking them (you don’t have to bake them at all if you don’t want to, but they’re then likely to take ‘forever’ to dry, apparently).
So, we did things in the wrong order, baking first and then airdrying until the following day. Oh well, now I know ’til next time.
I covered the table with a wax cloth, and got a variety of materials out for decorating. We had acrylic paints in red, white, silver and gold, as well as a block of yellow watercolour, and used paint brushes, sponges and our fingers to apply the paints. My aim was to offer a variety of sensory stimulation (tactile, proprioceptive and visual) and a chance to practice different motor skills (squeezing, pincer grasp, and bilateral coordination).
Penguin wasn’t too keen to use his fingers, as he generally likes to avoid getting his hands sticky. This is very different from when he was younger, in fact only last year he still liked to cover himself in paint, if he got the chance to. On the other hand, he’s now happy to eat more sticky/juicy food stuffs, than he was a year ago. So sensory preferences can clearly vary over time, and sometimes in quite unpredictable ways.
Apart from using each colour of the paints separately, we also mixed them up, making a silver-shimmering white, and a gold-glistening red. I will say though, that I was slightly dissapointed in these acrylic paints (which we bought quite recently), as they were somewhat more watery than the ones we had previously.
Now, here’s my craftsy hack:
To let the items dry effectively on both sides, a made little ‘drying racks’ for them by simply cutting up an empty toilet roll. The resulting cardboard circles were great for resting our ‘baubles’ on, and when flattened they made little canoe-shaped supports for our beads. See pic below👇
Perhaps my little toilet roll trick is old hat to some experienced crafters, but anyhow I’m delighted to have thought of this useful bit of recycling ☺️♻️
When the paints had dried (almost anyway – again, that was taking longer than I’d anticipated…) we added some thread or yarn for hanging, trying different combinations, also including pipe cleaners, a small flower-like shape and some of our homemade beads, as well as a small jingle bell (auditory 😉).
Finally done. Phew!