Salt Dough- Frugal Kids Craft

Salt dough beads and buttons.
As the summer is nearing its end, as your patience and summer fun budget runs closer to zero, you might be looking for something entertaining and frugal to do with your kids, to keep them out of trouble and doing something constructive.

Salt dough crafts is the perfect solution.

Salt dough is an easy to make project, involving no special or expensive ingredients, no tools, no toxic ingredients (terrific for little kids who have a hard time keeping craft materials out of their mouth), and best of all, no cooking or baking, which is a boon if you a) are trying to minimize cooking so as to not heat your home or b) have older children, old enough to direct an activity, but too young to use the stove on their own.

With salt dough, you mix 3 or 4 or 5 basic ingredients together to make a dough that is terrific for molding, and then dries rock hard, and can be painted and kept for many different purposes, the same way you can use clay that has been baked in a kiln.
Salt dough has been used as far back as Ancient Egypt, where it was for rituals and gifts, and had be used for decorative purposes as well. I've seen people making salt dough the most around the Holiday season, where they make ornaments, nativity scenes, menoras, etc... out of this very easy, cheap, and versatile dough.

So, how do you make salt dough?

Salt Dough Recipe

2 cups white flour (I know! Not so healthy, and has gluten in it, but unless you plan on eating it, or are so sensitive to breathing or touching it, its not a problem to use it. You're modeling with it, not making a meal with it.)
1 cup salt (use cheapo salt for this. No need for expensive healthier salts. Again, you're not eating it.)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional- this makes it dry harder)
1 tablespoon oil (optional- this makes the dough easier to work with)

1. Mix the flour and salt very well in a medium sized bowl.

2. Add half a cup of water, and the oil and lemon juice if using. Mix well.

3. Gradually add more water, bit by bit, until you get a workable, non sticky dough.

4. Shape to your heart's content. I had the kids make whatever their heart desired, while I made beads and buttons to use for a future activity. Lee made a "choo choo train", while Ike made... who knows? A sun? An octopus? A pile of mush? He kept on changing his mind.

5. If, while shaping, the dough starts getting a little too dry, add a sprinkle of water (but just a sprinkle!) and mix it in to the dough.

6. Let your salt dough dry for 3-4 days, turning over every 24 hours to help it dry faster. If you want it ready quicker, stick it in the oven on a low temperature for an hour or two.

7. When dry, paint as desired.

Lee making his "choo choo train."
Lee working diligently and methodically.
Lee shaping the dough.
Ike concentrating hard on his project.
Can you identify what used to be a sun?
Ike working the dough.
Poking at the salt dough, making holes.
My buttons and beads.
Just a note- if you noticed the wooden skewers used for poking the dough and were worried about the safety with such kids, I only had one skewer on the table at the time, and while the kids were using it, I stopped what I was doing to watch him very carefully to make sure he didn't poke anyone with it or doing anything dangerous with it whatsoever. If they were at all hyper or wild, I wouldn't have let the kids be anywhere near something sharp like that, but this was a very calming, relaxing activity, and they were very supervised the whole time, so I wasn't worried about the possible danger of the skewer.

Have you ever made salt dough with your kids? What did they think of it? What did you think of it? Any chance you'd do this project with your kids after reading it?
What is your perfect low budget way to entertain kids when they're bored and want something to do?

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Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. i loved this recipe! thanks for sharing. we made a triple batch since i had seven kids ages 2 to 10 making different creations. so easy and quick and i love that it used things i had on hand. i hate those clay recipes you have to start days in advance and require things i would never use again. when they were dry we painted them and the kids had a blast doing both the shaping and painting parts of this.

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