Salt dough is one of the easiest and affordable craft mixtures to make at home. It is very similar to play dough. Most people who can remember making Christmas ornaments in grade school have probably made something with a salt dough recipe over the course of their lives. The bland Christmas trees, snowmen or reindeer that most primary students create with cookie cutters and decorate with glitter, food coloring, paint and other crafty embellishments are usually preserved with all the other holiday ornaments that parents save as mementos. Most adults love seeing something that they once made with their own hands, a fact that makes salt dough ornaments very popular craft projects for kids.
To make salt dough, combine two cups of flour with a cup of salt and a cup of water. Keep mixing the dough until it feels thick like clay. A craft rolling pin can be used to smooth the dough on a flat surface before making something with it. The high content of salt in this dough makes it inedible, though many curious young crafters have tried. To make large amounts of salt dough, keep the ratios at two parts flour to one part salt and one part water. Projects that required a uniform color for salt dough also require food coloring to be added while mixing. Unless an unusual coloring pattern is needed, make sure the color is mixed throughout the dough. Then it is ready to be molded and shaped.
Once the salt dough is made and the crafting has begun, it is important make projects immediately and not leave the dough out too long before starting. Otherwise, the dough will start to harden, a process that is desired after the craft project is completed. If necessary, take the dough that is not being used, wrap it tightly in cling wrap and place it in the refrigerator until it is time to use it. After the dough has been shaped and decorated, it should sit in a room for a few days to dry and harden. Hardening time will depend on the temperature of the room and the thickness of the molded shape. Some choose to place salt dough ornaments in an oven or microwave in order to speed up the hardening. This is risky, since concentrated heat tends to make salt dough crack.
To ensure the salt dough is sealed and will preserve longer, it is important to use some time of finish or hardener. Many crafters choose something as simple as a clear polish nail hardener, but shellack can also be used. Although this hardener protects the salt dough, it will still deteriorate in dampness or water.