Hi friends! I don’t know about you, but my kiddos are really getting into seasonal activities this year. They look forward to each season and holiday that we introduce and love learning about all the symbols and traditions. We are going to host a little Valentine’s Day play date on the big day for the twins and some of their friends, so we’ve been making a few decorations together to spruce up our home for the occasion. One activity that the twins never tire of is playing and creating with dough- play dough, salt dough, cloud dough…you name it! I have a post coming soon on the developmental benefits of this childhood classic, but in the meantime I thought I’d share our Valentine Marbled Salt Dough in case anyone wanted to try it.
Making the Dough
To make our valentine marbled salt dough, 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
- 3/4 cup warm water (*you may not need the entire amount of water)
Combine your dry ingredients and then slowly add your water, mixing until you have a dough-like consistency. *It seems like I always need slightly different amounts of water each time I make salt dough, maybe due to humidity or brand of flour? Just add your water a little at a time and when the dough feels right, stop! Otherwise your dough will be too sticky. 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!
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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, kneading in the color to create white, red, pink, and purple dough. 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 .
Now, if you saw our rainbow marbled salt dough post, you know that I’ve also tried using liquid watercolors to color salt dough. I honestly thought the liquid watercolors would work better, but I have to say that the powdered tempera yielded the most vibrantly colored dough. Our rainbow hearts were much more on the pastel side, even though I added a LOT of liquid watercolors and had to add more flour to compensate. Just an FYI- it depends on your desires for the end product. Food coloring could also be used for adding color to the dough (although I haven’t tried it), and some of my readers reported that pre-mixed tempera paint worked well for the autumn leaves version, too- it’s just a bit messier during the kneading process.
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. They love this part- this time they brought in some little Playmobil people and made homes for them to live in and structures for them to climb. Eventually I had them pile up their scraps in a big mound (see photo above). *Tip- the smaller your pieces, the more of a “marbled” effect your finished ornaments will have.
Next, with a little help from me, they each rolled their “mountains” into smooth slabs of marbled color and then cut out all our ornaments using these heart cookie cutters (I love the scalloped edges mixed in with the smooth hearts). I used a skewer (you can also use a plastic drinking straw) to poke two holes in each heart for threading and then baked them for almost two hours on the lowest setting, flipping occasionally to keep both sides drying evenly and prevent browning. After they were dry, we added a coat of glossy Mod Podge to the “good side” of each ornament.
After your ornaments are dry, it’s up to you what to do with them! You can add hemp twine like we did to string them into a salt dough garland (my personal favorite), or you can make individual ornaments like the first photo in this post . You can omit the holes and use them as table scatter or basket filler, or even use them to decorate gifts like we did with our rainbow version. So many possibilities with this simple dough!
The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book
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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.