Like many new parents, I was in awe of how tiny my son’s hands and feet were when he was born. We had gotten a clay footprint and handprint kit as a baby shower gift and used it within his first week, but I soon started to wonder if the clay would start to crack as the years went by. I knew I would be devastated if my only keepsake of his little hands and feet were gone . . . so I decided to make my own! As soon as I started poking around the internet about how to preserve baby handprints and footprints, something called salt dough ornaments started to flood my results. I had no idea what these were and they looked so pretty that I figured they were super complicated to make. Luckily, I was wrong! Salt dough ornaments are very easy to make (mix three ingredients, shape, bake, and seal!) and are the perfect way to memorialize those tiny hand- and footprints. If I can do it, so can you!
The picture below will give you an idea of what salt dough ornaments are. You can find tons more pictures online in different colors and shapes if you’re curious as to what the possibilities can be. The dough is soft and they can be shaped (with hands or a cookie cutter) into literally anything. The basic dough is white and there are two ways to get the ornaments to be colored– either add food coloring to the dough itself, or paint the ornaments as the last step. In the picture below, I added green food coloring to the dough, and then filled the handprint with glitter afterwards.
Before you make these ornaments, check out your hands to see if there are any cuts or scratches on them. If there are, cover them with a band-aid or put on some disposable gloves. Salt dough ornaments are (obviously) very salty and the mixture will make find its way into any open cuts and make them burn. Also, I found this easier to do when my husband was home– having an extra set of hands was useful, especially with the footprints.
Now that you’ve been warned, here are the instructions for making the salt dough ornaments. You’ll need flour, salt, water, a straw, and food coloring (optional).
- Preheat your oven to 175º F.
- Pour 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup salt into a mixing bowl.
- Slowly pour 1/2 cup of lukewarm water in, mixing as you go along. You may not need it all. The goal is to end up with a nice soft lump of dough. If you are using food coloring, add it now.
- Once you have something resembling dough, dump it out onto your counter and knead it for about ten minutes.
- Roll it out until it is about 1/4″ thick.
- Now you can either cut out circles (using a cookie cutter, small bowl, or an inverted water glass), or have your baby make his hand/foot prints first and then cut around them.
- Odds are, your baby didn’t make a very deep indentation in the ornament. No problem! Use your knuckle or a pencil eraser to deepen it.
- Use a straw to make a small hole near the edge.
- Put them in the oven for four hours. Set the timer for two hours and flip them over.
- When they get out of the oven, let them cool before decorating.
To decorate, you can write on them with a sharpie (I wrote baby’s name and date on the back), paint using acrylic paint, or glue glitter on them. Whatever you choose, once your decorations have dried, you’ll want to coat them with varnish to make them shiny and ensure they will last a long time. You can use either a clear acrylic spray (it’s usually kept in the spray paint section of the store) or a clear brush-on glaze. You may want to test the glaze on the back of an ornament first to make sure it doesn’t discolor it (this is rare, but I’ve heard it can happen). I put about three coats of glaze on mine and they are pretty shiny and feel durable, like they will last years and years.
This is easily one of the cheapest baby keepsakes we have but it’s also one of our favorites. All in all, I’m quite happy with the results and the grandparents loved receiving these as presents!