Rainy Day Activity: Salt Dough Creations

Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 1.51.37 PM.png

As we start to hear the faint jingle of Christmas bells in the distance (what, too early?), we also begin to feel the anxiety that comes along with gift giving.

Sound familiar?

If your life is anything like mine, you have a ridiculous amount of gifts to purchase each year for your siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, mother and father in law, best friends, colleagues, and the list goes on.

Say hello to broke January, Mamas, the one and only depressing fact about the holidays.

The great thing about kids, though, is that their best gifts don’t come from Macy’s, but from the heart. And the ideas are endless… thanks to (God-sent) Pinterest.

How in the world did our parents do without it when we were little? 

My sixteen-month-old is slightly too young for most crafts (I prefer to spare my house from the inevitable damage!), so I had to really think hard to come up with cute gift ideas for our relatives this year.

Then I thought of one of my favorite rainy day activities as a child: making pâte a sel, known in English as salt dough.

This dough, once cooked and hardened, is indestructible (well, to some extent). My grandparents have ornaments that I made for them twenty something years ago and they’re still intact, paint and all. And on top of that, they’re a lot of fun to play with, bake, and paint.

A fun activity for our toddlers and a gift to check off our Christmas lists. Sounds good to me!

The recipe is super simple:


 *Adjust depending on the amount of dough you want. (I often do two cups flour, one cup salt, one cup water!)

Add the water slowly. You might not need it all, depending on the texture – you want the dough to be slightly dry! Knead the ingredients together until the result is smooth, and let the fun begin!


For ornaments, have your toddler place his hand in the center of the dough and poke a little hole through the top (with a toothpick, chopstick, or scissor) so that you can slip a piece of ribbon through it later. 

When I was little, my mother would bake salt dough ornaments in the oven at low heat for a few hours (sometimes up to three or four!) before it was time to paint them. However, I recently found out that you can also microwave salt dough and it hardens in under three minutes! Meaning you won’t lose your toddler’s interest midway through the activity and can actually get to the painting part before naptime. Winning!


Once hardened, go ahead and paint your handprint, or leave it as is. 


-For a slightly shiny look (think “Modge Podge”), brush milk or egg on the salt dough halfway through heating.

-For natural “tints” to the salt dough, add paprika (tan/orange color), turmeric or saffron (yellowish color), or cayenne pepper (pinkish color) to the ingredients.

-To decorate, use lentils, beans, and all types of uncooked pasta shapes.

-Don’t stop with handprints… go ahead and make full blown characters out of salt dough! Here are some of the ones we made today:


Screen Shot 2016-12-03 at 1.53.56 PM.png


Posted by

Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

5 thoughts on “Rainy Day Activity: Salt Dough Creations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s