Making salt dough with kids is cheap, quick and easy, and can lead to hours of fun.
What you need;
- 2 cups of flour (cheap, plain flour is fine...gluten-free flour also works if necessary)
- 1 cup salt (again, cheap is fine, cooking salt tends to be chunkier, so opt for fine table salt if you want a smoother dough)
- approx. 3/4 cup water
I'm pretty relaxed about mess (as long as it's outside!!) and I love letting the kids get involved in the making process. I use a big plastic tub and a 1cup measuring cup and get one of the kids to measure out 1 cup flour and plonk it in the tub, followed by the second cup, followed by the salt. As you can imagine, this can be a messy and inaccurate process, but the dough is very forgiving!! Adding the water can be tricky as too much of it makes the dough too sticky. I start with 1/2 cup and let the child throw it all in and start mixing with their hands (sometimes they like using a stick too). They'll find it's too dry, so offer to add the extra water in yourself until you have the right consistency. If it becomes too runny, just add more flour until it's right. Let their hands do the work if they can manage it, but step in, if you're needed, to finish the job.
Whenever I'm working with children, I'm always thinking about what fun the kids can have, and how much they can learn in even the simplest of situations. Whilst making salt dough, the younger child may simply enjoy working their hands through the ingredients to feel their way to the right consistency. The older child might ask questions and want to discuss the why's of the process. Go with your child! You might end up with dirt in your dough and flour on your cheeks, but fabulous memories of a fun, shared experience.
- Rolling pin - to roll out the dough into a usable pancake. A rock, hands, buckets or a table can also be used to flatten the dough into shape.
- blunt knives - plastic knives or children's stainless steel knives can be excellent for cutting dough (with no chance of cutting fingers)
- shape cutters - just like making biscuits
- Fingers! - these are the best and can create all sorts of shapes, patterns and sizes
- Decorations - wooden beads (if this is suitable for the age and ability of your child/ren), sticks, rocks, leaves, flower petals, herbs, seed pods, anything you can find in your backyard or local park that might work.
Creative Dough Ideas;
- Footprints and Handprints - Make a ball big enough for their feet and help them as little or as much as they need. Rolling the ball out to the foot or hand size required, and make sure it is about 2cm thick (so the foot doesn't break through the bottom). You can cook your creation in an oven heated to 180C. The time to cook will depend on the size of the piece of dough, so keep an eye on it. Once it's cooled down it can be painted or decorated as you desire. These can be fabulous to look back on in a year or 2 or 3 as their feet and hands grow.
- Go on a "collecting walk" - take a handful of dough and walk around your garden or outdoor space looking for "treasures" to put in your ball.
- Make "Echidnas" - using sticks for their spines, seed pods for eyes and bark for a beak. Your child might like to do something wildly different and call it something else too. Whatever suits your child is what's best!!
- Make "pizza" or "sushi" or "biscuits" - So many children love "cooking" with dough. Use whatever materials you have to hand and let your child's imagination go!
- Make patterns - using the materials you have on hand, make patterns on a pancake of dough.
Any of your dough creations can be baked in the oven (at 180C), but I would only cook the creations that are made from plain dough alone as other materials could burst into flames in the oven!
Use your own creativity to make it fun for your family. Follow your child's lead and allow their creativity to flourish too. There is no "right" way to enjoy this experience. The making and creating can be therapeutic for parents too! If you feel you want to create something beautiful, and your child just wants to squish and squash, then sit side by side and create your masterpiece while your child squishes and squashes!! For adults, the joy can be in the creation. For kids, the joy can be the creation and/or the destruction!! It is possible for everyone to be satisfied. Talking about these differences can help your child to understand that people are not all alike and can do things in different ways.
Little fingers get;
- a sensory workout, building vital muscles and growing hand-eye co-ordination.
- a time to focus, helping Mum and Dad get on with other jobs (such as dinner).
- a sense of relaxation from repetitive hand movements
- a chance to be creative and explore ideas, textures and artistic expression
Big Fingers get;
- a fun, shared experience with their child/ren
- possibly a few minutes peace (you can always hope!) while the kids roll, squeeze and push the dough around.
- a big mess to clean up!! (wait a minute...if you do this outside, the mess can mostly just stay outside! Save any extra dough for later, or bin the bits you no longer need before they get spread all over the house). Hands can be washed with soapy water, clothes can be changed (if necessary) and washed.