Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

Hello lovelies!  It may be October, but here in Texas we are still waiting for the fall fairies to visit and paint the leaves.  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing some fall crafts and activities in preparation for the day we spot the leaves a turnin’…like this Marbled Autumn Salt Dough. We used four different fall colors to make a beautiful marbled dough that made stunning leaf ornaments for our fall nature tree, and the twins (age 2.75) helped with every step!

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

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Making the Dough

To begin, we mixed a double batch of basic salt dough using this classic recipe (the recipe below is for a single batch):

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • about 3/4 cup warm water***

Combine your dry ingredients and then slowly add your water, mixing until you have a dough-like consistency. **I don’t always need the full amount of water, depending on what brand of flour I use…I recommend adding your water in small amounts a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. You want the dough to be borderline dry but wet enough to stick together. If you get too much liquid it will stick to your table or hands, but by all means if this happens please add more flour! At this point you can decide to leave it natural and add color by painting your ornaments or sculptures after they are dry, OR you can knead in some color and give our marbled dough a try!

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

Adding Color

To color our dough, I divided the batch into four equal mounds (remember, I doubled the recipe) and added several heaping spoonfuls of powdered tempera paint to each mound, creating brown, orange, red, and yellow.  I had to knead each color for several minutes to get the powder to mix in evenly, so don’t be discouraged if it’s slow going at first. You may also be able to add the powdered paint to your dry ingredients during the mixing process, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for it 😉

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

Mixing the Colors

So here’s where the real fun begins- mixing up the colors! I gave each child a hunk of all four colors and encouraged them to play and mix to their hearts’ content. Both played for quite awhile with the dough, making up stories, “cooking” pretend food, etc., until I eventually had them pile up their scraps in a big mound (see photo below).

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

Next, with a little help from me, they each rolled their “mountains” into smooth slabs of marbled color.

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

At first, the colors were in larger chunks throughout the dough.

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

As we cut out shapes with our leaf cookie cutters and re-rolled the dough, it became even more swirly and marbled.

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

The more “swirly” the dough, the prettier the ornaments became!

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

After we cut out all our ornaments, I used a plastic drinking straw to poke a hole in each one and then baked them for about an hour (turning frequently because I was paranoid about browning in our small oven) at 200°. They were mostly dry at that point, but we had a play date to attend so our baking time was cut short. After staying out overnight they were completely dry and the colors were a bit muted, so we added a coat of glossy Mod Podge to the “good side” of each ornament.  This was one of the twins’ favorite parts of the project- they were so meticulous about it!

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

After the glossy Mod Podge was dry, I added some hemp twine to make hangers and the twins eagerly decorated our little tree. Getting the loops on the ends of the branches is still challenging for their stage of fine motor development, so they got extremely excited each time they were able to hang an ornament independently.  It was such a joy to watch them get so much satisfaction out of a simple activity. All in all, I think this one was a keeper!

Marbled Autumn Salt Dough

Looking for more fall dough ideas? Here are two of our fall play dough invitations…both are open-ended and TONS of fun for little ones!

Fall Play Dough with Tree Block Stamps

Fall Play Dough with Tree Block Stamps from Twodaloo

Create a Fall Forest with Pumpkin Spice Play Dough

Create a Fall Forest at Twodaloo

As I was getting this post ready to go, I came across a lovely play dough version over at Here Come the Girls…check out her Autumn Leaves Play Dough and see how they used it for a fun counting activity!

Fun at Home With Kids also has a wonderfully scented Pumpkin Spice Salt Dough that I’d love to try this season, now that I know how much fun my kiddos had with this activity. I see many, many salt dough ornaments in our future!

The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book

If you love play dough, (or salt dough, or bread dough…) as much as we do, I highly recommend that you check out The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book written by Cathy James of NurtureStore. It is a super creative e-book packed with amazing ideas regarding all things play dough, including:

  • all the recipes you need for the activities in the book including non-cook and cooked play dough, gluten-free dough, salt dough, modeling dough, and real bread.
  • ideas for 52 weeks of loose parts play, in a printable poster format
  • a whole year of play dough activities, arranged seasonally. There’s an idea for every week of the year including sensory and imaginary play, storytelling, art ideas, small worlds, math activities, reading and writing ideas.

The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book by Cathy James (Nurturstore)

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  1. Your leaves are beautiful. We are in the S hemisphere so we’ll have to make some spring ornaments maybe some butterflies and flowers! My girls have REALLY been into play dough recently. <3

  2. These are so pretty. They would be great to hang on the cabinet knobs in my kitchen.

    • Ours are currently strung on a garland adorning our mantel for Thanksgiving. The twins are SOOO proud of them!

  3. What a great fall activity! We love salt dough and I never thought to mix in powdered tempura paint. We’ll definitely give it a try!

  4. This looks like such a great activity! We have only made salt dough a few times, but we definitely have to make some more! I think grandma would love some new autumn ornaments from the kids. :)

  5. The colors are beautifully blended. They are going to be great decorations for the home :)

  6. Can liquid tempera paint be used instead? We don’t have powdered but liquid.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Jenny! We haven’t tried using liquid tempera but I don’t see why you couldn’t use it- the mixing process may be a little more messy and you would need to balance out the extra liquid with extra flour. Good luck!

      • I tried the liquid tempera paint and it came out perfect! As you mentioned I had to be careful about the water ratio.

  7. Such pretty colors and they make beautiful ornaments too! I’ll be featuring this on The Crafty Crow soon.

  8. thanks for this! Gonna go try it!

  9. These Are Adorable! How Do You Recommend storing them To Avoid Moisture Damage Over The Years?

  10. To wet did not work.. Need another idea

    • I’m sorry it didn’t work, KK! I edited the post above to be a little more clear on the mixing part…if you try it again, try adding the water slowly a little at a time. You may not need the full amount!


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