Stamped salt dough ornaments

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This is the third year in a row that we've made salt dough ornaments—I guess it's become a Christmas tradition for us. We use them to decorate our tree and to give as gifts. We've had lots of fun with the ornaments each time and Maia keeps requesting that we make them again. The first year we made plain ornaments, then painted and glittered them. Super fun! Last year we tinted batches of salt dough different colors before making the ornaments, then decorated them with glitter glue. Not quite as successful, but still fun of course. This year, I brought out our stamps, inspired by our recent experiments with stamped cookies.

Also, this year I followed a new recipe, shared by a friend. It was much easier to work with! Here it is: Mix 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt, and 1 1/2 cups water. The dough wasn't sticky at all and the ornaments kept their shapes. Perfect!


I made a tester batch ahead of time, while Maia was in school (I wanted to experiment a bit and also wanted some pre-baked ornaments for the girls to decorate). I used stamps without ink for subtle designs.


And also tried some with ink, which I really liked.

Note: The straw is perfect for poking holes to hang the ornaments.


After school, Maia, Daphne, and our friends Sarah and Marlise all did some more ornament making and stamping with a second batch of salt dough. The parchment paper you see helped keep the dough from sticking to the table.


Maia and Marlise moved on to the studio rather quickly, where they painted the pre-baked batch of ornaments. Daphne surprised us all by outlasting everyone at the table. So much for the 5 minute toddler attention span. She spent at least an hour in her seat completely engrossed in the process of stamping, using the cookie cutters, and just handling the dough. And keeping up a running commentary the entire time…


Here is a batch of salt dough ornaments ready for straw-punched holes then the oven. The snowflake is Maia's. The rest are a mix of mine and Daphne's. Daphne used the "wrong" side of the stamps more often than not, with very striking results. Maia used the entire stamp pad to color hers first before stamping it.


Here are the girls' ornaments after they baked. The black background (and my neophyte photo editing skills) make them look rather washed out. Sorry about that.


And some that I made, after they baked. I'm considering adding a coat of Mod Podge to them—has anyone done that with salt dough? I imagine it would work fine, right?


I snuck back to the studio to take a couple photos of the older two working their magic with paint (BioColor) and glitter.


Here are some of their painted ornaments (as you can see, some had been stamped first). The BioColor worked great on the salt dough! Better than tempera paint, which we've used in the past and which soaks into the dough too much and dries kind of powdery. The BioColor, on the other hand, dried quickly, stayed on the surface of the dough, and remained vibrant once dry.

How about you? Are you making salt dough ornaments this year?

Another update: I baked these at 225 degrees fahrenheit for 3-4 hours.

Update: I totally thought I had an original idea here with the salt dough stamping, but no! Melissa pointed out on facebook that she had seen examples of stamped salt dough gift tags on Pinterest, so I headed over to take a look. Not only has it been done many times before, but had I actually pinned one example of stamped salt dough on my Christmas board a few months ago (although funnily enough it turns out it was stamped clay, not stamped salt dough)!! Oh dear. I don't know if this is a crazy example of mommy brain malfunction or if I just absorbed the idea into my subconscious then forgot about it. I always try to give credit when I'm trying someone else's idea, so this is pretty disturbing to me. I wonder if I've done this before — seen an idea somewhere then later "thought of it myself". And I wonder how often other people do this?

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  1. says

    I have made salt dough ornaments with kids before, but have never tought to use stamps & ink! I love this! Another project for the to do list!

  2. Tamrah T says

    What a brilliant use of items we already have on hand! Cookie cutters and stamps…the possibilities. Now if I can see about getting that BioColor. Really love the way they display!

  3. says

    Yeah, we’ve used BioColor for lots of arts and crafts projects now. I wasn’t so into the idea of a separate kind of paint (in addition to all the ones we already had), but I have to say it’s a nice paint and very versatile.

  4. says

    I just read your entire post out loud to Henry and he was totally enthralled. Your book may be a read-aloud classic when it comes out! ;)
    We are setting off to make some ornaments right now.

  5. says

    We made salt dough ornaments this year too, and we’ll have to try stamping them next year. I also saw those clay ornaments, and they were described as salt dough…not so! I’m sure I’ve pinned things and replicated them mindlessly. Not to worry, though, since most of these ideas aren’t completely original anyway. You always do a good job giving people credit where it’s due and you’re so thoughtful to make the updated correction.

  6. Meg Roke says

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing the less-sticky recipe. I will have to try them with my daughter this weekend. How long/at what temp did you bake them for in the oven? Can you start to paint them once they’ve cooled?

  7. says

    I noticed that star with the pink squares on it in the first photo and figured that was one that you had done while Maia was at school because I thought it looked so funky and cool – Go Daphne with the back of the stamp!
    I hope we’ll have time to try this project this season. If we don’t manage it for Christmas maybe we’ll do hearts for Valentine’s…

  8. rachel says

    good to know about the mod podge (via comment)… feel free to borrow ours if you need to jean. thx for your red paint!
    thx for the inspiration! we found a link for painted handprints in salt dough… have been working on those and they are amazing! are newest idea for doug for xmas (shh!) is to make a big rolled out piece of salt dough and let all the boys make their handprint… and then they can each paint, or just leave plain, still figuring that part out. it’ll be so heavy i don’t think it could be hung. could be fun though propped up in d’s garage or something!

  9. rachel says

    i’m going to reply to myself! ;) the mod podge actually just smeared the kids’ (permanent) sharpie drawings… wouldn’t have expected that. i’m afraid to mod podge more!

  10. nina says

    Hmm, that’s weird. I used sharpie (silver) on one of ours as well as watercolor paints and glitter glue and we didn’t have any smearing issues with the mod podge. What a huge bummer. :( We only got through half of our batch of ornaments before my kids petered out, so we have more to do. I’ll report back if we have problems with the mod podge.

  11. janie barbopur says

    just found your site !! these look soo fun…i am going to try them this week with my 15 year old artist daughter….will let you know what she comes up with…i love homemade anything ! 56 and still learning ! no worries jean, there are no original ideas…just ones we haven’t heard of yet. have a great christmas. peace, janie

  12. says

    I have so done that. I ‘came up’ with this brilliant idea I shared with my sister and then (re)discovered it in one of my old Martha Stewart magazines that I had completely forgotten about! Had to shake my head at myself over that one…

  13. rachel says

    i was brave and tried again w/the mod podge and it didn’t smear this time… maybe i was more gentle? or maybe more time b/t application of sharpies and mp? anyway, all well here now!
    new idea i might try this wk… punching holes (w/straws) all around outside edge of ornament or even all over the ornament … then it becomes an ornament to be threaded… either w/yarn or pipe cleaners. we’ll see! :) i’m feeling addicted to salt dough!

  14. says

    Omg absolutely love this! Now i know exactly what im gonna make to send out with christmas cards. My family wll love it!!!! I have a salt dough recipe and i totally forgot it. And stamping! Never even thought of it

  15. says

    I found a recipe for salt dough ornaments in a 1983 craft book. It recommended using “shellac” as a top layer. I went to the craft store looking for shellac to no avail, and the salespeople I asked weren’t sure what it was I needed. I looked at the mod podge for a while, wondering if it would work, but I too was uncertain. We painted ours with acrylic paint so I’m afraid it might smear.
    I did pick up a marker designed for writing on porcelain. I figured I could add customized notes after the sealing is done (if I can figure out how to seal them!)

  16. says

    Thanks so much for this great idea. I have a nine-year-old son with a developmental disability and sometimes it’s hard to find a craft that really allows him to do the project himself and keeps him engaged. He really loved every aspect of it, as did his sister and some friends who were over for a playdate. Painting is tricky for him, but we used Dot markers (similar to what folks use playing bingo) and he just loved it. He decided right away that he wanted to make an ornament for his personal care attendant/friend and he kept exclaiming, “So happy!”, knowing that the young man would be so happy to receive this homemade gift.

  17. Ashlee says

    Thanks for the idea! The kids just finished stamping some nativity scenes on ornaments for gifts for the grandparents. I noticed how smooth your dough is, and mine didn’t turn out quite so nice. My suspicion is that the air here is SO dry right now, that I needed to add more water. I added a full half cup more and still had some cracking, even though I kneaded it with my kitchenaid AND by hand?

  18. says

    I won’t say how many decades I’ve been around but my Mother did salt dough when she was a child. We did this together when I was growing up. I don’t know how long people have been doing this craft. I had totally forgot about it until I came across your website.

  19. Katie says

    Were any of these painted before going into the oven? If so, with what kind of paint? I’m hosting a mommy and me craft time tomorrow to make salt dough handprints for father’s day and we wont have time for them to bake and then paint after they’ve cooled. I’d rather have the kids make the prints, paint them and then bake, but I’m not sure if it is safe to bake the paint.

  20. Pam says

    I plan on making these with my 4 little ones this Christmas…just a thought, how about pressing lace dollies to leave the imprint for some added elegance?

  21. says

    If you add some alum to this mixture, it will air-dry without getting moldy. We use salt dough mostly for sculptures, though the ornament idea is neat. Another fun dough to make, especially for ornaments is applesauce dough. Just mix applesauce with lots of cinnamon, enough to make a dough. It will air dry and it smells great!