Big Gift for a Little Dough: Make These Handprint Ornaments With the Kids

DIY hand print christmas ornament
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about those last-minute gifts. Thankfully, if you have a child, you have a gift ready and waiting to go.

No, I’m not suggesting you gift your child this Christmas (although it might sound tempting during the 15th tantrum of the day). Rather, use your child’s natural love of crafting to make some meaningful gifts that your family members will cherish.

Of course, not everyone has been blessed with a love or talent for crafting. If you’re anything like me, the idea of making your own holiday gifts is overwhelming to say the least. But with the help of your preschooler, you can easily craft ornaments — and since they’re made by a child, no one will be expecting perfection.

Salt dough is one of the easiest materials to work with and is cheap to make using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

DIY Salt Dough Recipe

For my salt dough, I followed a recipe from The Best Ideas for Kids, which also has a handy video to help guide you. To make the dough, simply combine the following ingredients.

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup salt

1½ cups water

Start making the dough a while before you tell your child it’s time to craft, as it’ll take about 10 minutes of kneading to produce a soft, workable dough. I knew my daughter Rose would get frustrated with the long kneading process, so I did this part myself and waited until it was ready to tell her what we were going to do.

If you want to make it in advance, store the salt dough in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it to prevent it from drying out too soon. I made mine early in the morning. We didn’t get around to shaping it until mid-afternoon, and it was fine.

Shaping the Dough

Once your dough is smooth, it’s time to start shaping it.

Roll the dough out flat using a rolling pin ( a smooth-sided bottle also works, if you don’t own a rolling pin). Then, use cookie cutters to create holiday-inspired shapes, such as Christmas trees, reindeer or stars. I only had cookie cutters designed for dog treats, and another  in the shape of Ohio, so I free-handed them with a knife.

For more personalized ornaments, cut circles out of your salt dough and have your child push down with her hand to create handprints.

I had to help Rose push her hand down hard enough to make an imprint. I gave her some extra dough to play with while I set the printed shapes aside — as a Playdoh fan, she was happy to squish it around and generally make a mess.

You don’t have to stick with circles here (though that’s certainly the easiest shape to work with). We made handprint ornaments in heart and star shapes in addition to the plain circles.

Before baking, use a toothpick or straw to make holes in the top of the ornaments for string or ribbon so you can hang the ornaments from your tree. Make sure the holes are big enough for the string you plan on using.

Bake the ornaments at a low 200 F until they’re hard, which should take about one to two hours.

Decorating the Ornaments

Once cooled, it’s time to start decorating. I used tempera paint as that’s what I had on hand. If you’ve made handprint ornaments, make sure you paint the hands a different color from the rest of the dough to help them stand out. You can also add glitter to the handprint, like The Best Ideas for Kids does in their video.

I painted the handprint ornaments myself and let Rose help with the regular shaped ornaments. I wanted to paint the handprint one color and then surround it with a different color to help it stand out more. Older kids might be up for the challenge, but my squirmy toddler doesn’t yet have the required motor skills (or patience) for this.

Once the paint is dry, use varnish or Mod Podge to finish the ornaments so they’ll last for years to come. Thread your string through the holes in the top (I used sparkly pipe cleaners for a more Christmassy feel) and they’re ready to hang from your tree or gift to your nearest and dearest.

Salt dough ornaments are fun to make and leave a lasting impression on your holiday decorations.

Catherine Hiles typically uses her mixing bowl and oven to bake delectable goodies, from cakes to vegetarian (meat)loaves. After making salt dough ornaments, she’s excited to see what else she can produce.

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