Thursday, January 23, 2014

Toddler Friendly Homemade Ornaments

Alright. I realize this  tutorial is pretty far out of season but I've been meaning to write it for a long time so you'll just have to grin and bear it while I talk about Christmas in January.

Salt Dough Ornaments (Recipe source)
1/2 c. Flour
1/2 c. Water
1 1/2 c. Salt

Other materials needed:
Nontoxic finger paint
Chopstick or straw to make holes
Ribbon (I used 3/16", the thinnest I could find)
Hot glue gun (Parents only or parent's controlled supervision required based on child's abilities)
Odds and ends to decorate with. We used buttons.
Mod Podge or another brand of shellac that you like to use
Paint brush or foam brush
Permanent marker, like a Sharpie

Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Mix dough ingredients together evenly.
Roll out. I kept mine at about 1/4" thick but this prolongs cooking time when they're so thick.

Use seasonal cookie cutters to cut out shapes. We used bells, Christmas trees, stockings, gingerbread boys and snowmen. My three and a half year old insisted on doing this himself. You might need to fix or redo a few ornaments... (Also, I recommend putting the holes in before cooking. See below...)
Lay out on a cookie sheet. No spray required. Cook about 8-10 minutes. At this point, I punched the holes into the ornaments. Next time I do this I'll punch holes before baking. Since I didn't wisen up after the first 12, I'll share my little wisdom with you.

  1. The outsides are already stiff. You need to punch them right away or the whole cookie will harden and it will be impossible. 
  2. I burned my hands a lot. And I melted a couple straws. I ended up starting the hole with the larger end of a chopstick and making it bigger with the straw. This was also hot and inefficient. It looks terrible because it was impossible to get smooth edges.
  3. The dough doesn't expand or change shape or size at all during baking. What you put in is what you get out, so your holes won't close in the oven if you make them before hand. If only I knew!
Let them cool. My one and a half year old was really into the painting. He also was confused that these were non edible. Hence the nontoxic paint requirement if you're doing this with really little ones. Because he ate the paint off his fingers and tried to eat the ornaments too.


Let everything dry.
I ended up putting all the ornaments back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes because they were not totally dry due to thickness. This actually brightened the paint colors and dried the dough faster. 
My three year old demanded he use the hot glue gun. Now, he has very developed manual dexterity. He is a good listener and in the end I decided it was safer than having him put the buttons on the fresh glue and potentially burning his fingers. Oh wait, that happened. You know your child's abilities. So you'll be the ultimate deciding factor in who uses the hot glue. Rein in every instinct to "fix" their decorating. It's more meaningful for the recipient and if it really is from the kids they don't need to be picture perfect or Pinterest perfect.

My three year old picked out the buttons for each ornament and told me where each one was supposed to go.

After everything was dried, I wrote the date and, "Made by: name and name with love" in a permanent marker. I did all the shellac since it was another day and would have been a much bigger hassle than I wanted to go through. Add two coats of shellac and tie your ribbon through the holes after they're dry.

These make great gifts for grandparents, great-grandparents, Godparents, etc.

These don't just have to be Christmas themed. They can be themed for a special outing (like if grandpa took the kids fishing, or you went to Florida with the aunts and uncles, use fish, sailboat, or shell shaped cookie cutters for a fun reminder of the outing or vacation).

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