I remember salt dough from when I was a kid and I'm sure my parents had a few examples of kid-crafted ornaments on their tree at some point. I definitely remember making some kind of cinnamon dough reindeer ornaments and stringing them on little red ribbons…ahhh Christmas :) This craft tapped into all of the good kinds of holiday nostalgia and I'm thinking some kind of salt dough crafting will be a tradition in our house for years to come. If I had this much fun making them by myself this year I'm sure I'll be over the moon to make them with Alden's help :)
I used a very simple salt dough recipe: 2 C flour, 1/2 C salt, and about a C of water. Make sure to use regular table salt and not a larger grained salt like sea salt and remember that the exact amount of water will vary depending on the weather, temperature, etc.
After my dough was made I chilled it in the fridge for a few minutes so it would be a little easier to work with and then rolled it out on floured parchment paper to the thickness I wanted (ended up being about 1/4"). I searched the house for something round that was bigger than Alden's hand and ended up with the lid to one of Nick's coffee cans. I gently pressed the lid into the dough so that we would have guidelines of where to press Alden's hands. Next came the handprints. Not as easy as it looks, people ;) With a sweet, immobile newborn this part would have been easy peasy but with our 10-month old, interested-in-everything, want-to-do-it-myself little man, the handprints were a repeated exercise in both patience and speed :) All Alden wanted to do was squish the dough between his fingers so Nick & I ended up with a crazy system where he would hold Alden like a football, I would spread out his hand and press it into the dough while Nick held on to his other hand and helped give me some pressure for the imprint- and we would do this really fast, with countdowns and everything to help keep Alden occupied :) As funny as we must have looked, we got all 7 handprints done and there were only a few holes in the dough…
After the prints were made, into the oven they went! I simply cut the parchment paper around each ornament and slipped them onto the cookie sheet- this is why you want the parchment underneath them from the beginning. You can also choose to let them air dry but it takes days (at a minimum) for them to completely dry and I needed mine to be finished in less than 48 hours. I baked them in the oven for about 1-1 1/2 hours the first night (at 325 degrees) and put them on a drying rack. The next day they still seemed a little more moist than I wanted them to be so I stuck them back in the over for a few 30 minute stretches, checking them in between.
*Note: you have to put the hole for the string in the dough BEFORE you bake it but I forgot until they had already been baking for about 15 minutes :/ Turns out, it was super easy to make the hole after the dough had dried out a little because it kept the dough from stretching too much and I was able to use a toothpick to make the hole the size I wanted without having to mess with gooey dough at the same time!
Once they were finally dry, I got to painting. I had originally planned to leave them white and just glitter the edges but they all had lines baked into them where the parchment paper had wrinkled and weren't all evenly colored (some areas of flour were lighter than others) so painting seemed like a better idea. We have a pretty modern aesthetic around here so I chose a pretty gray for the background, silver glitter for the edges and a classic red ribbon for the loop. I then took one of my very thin paint brushes and freehanded Alden's initials and the year on the inside of the handprint. (I originally wanted to paint his monogram on the back of the ornament but the not-so-flat surface put the kibosh on that idea pretty quickly…)
I tied them onto the front of our family's presents and loved seeing them get hung on everyone's trees, including ours. They're certainly not perfect but the glitter on the edges twinkled just right in the lights of the Christmas tree and I got all warm and fuzzy inside every time I glanced up and saw my little boy's sweet handprint :)
much love, L&N