creating with children (salt dough recipe)

January 15 create

As more children have joined our family, I have gradually moved away from many organized craft projects for them with a specific finished object in mind.  Our house isn’t conducive to napping, and my youngest children rarely continue to take signifcant naps beyond 18 months or so.  There isn’t a time to do complicated crafts with older children while the younger ones nap, and the little ones always want to do what the big ones are doing.

January 15 create

So, arts and crafts at our house are almost always pretty open ended these days.  My older children do create on their own, and I help them as needed.  More typically, I stick to facilitating creativity amongst them all at levels that the youngest to the oldest can enjoy.  The result has been a reliance on the classics, rather than exciting eye candy filled craft projects.

January 15 create

I am working to teach my older boys how to follow recipes and cook.  So, the other day when Beatrix really needed to work with her hands, I asked Seth to help make her a batch of salt dough.  Multiple craft books were consulted.  You’d never guess how many different recipes there are for salt dough!  We chose one that didn’t involve cooking on the stove .

January 15 create

Beatrix of course took care of all the stirring.

January 15 create

The salt dough fun lasted for some time (and through multiple outfits on Bea’s part.)

January 15 create

Beads and basic shapes were made and baked.  Eventually the leftover dough was taken outdoors where the girls used it to hold “trees” made from twigs, creating little scenes using other bits and pieces from nature.

January 15 create

Yesterday, Larkspur asked if she could paint her beads, and I said that she could.  I checked in with her minutes later and discovered Beatrix finger painting with acrylic paints.  Sigh.

January 15 create

Not long after the paint mess was cleaned up, we received a package in the mail from my mom that included blank journals for each of us.  Beatrix was so cute, with a jar of markers and her new journal, “writing” on the pages.  But mere moments later, my back turned, her face became a jumble of black and brown with accents in red and green.  Another sigh.  At least she didn’t draw on her new shirt or her doll.

Salt Dough recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups salt

1 c. warm water

1 T cooking oil

dissolve salt in warm water before adding flour and oil.  Mix until it’s a nice consistency.  You may have to adjust water or flour amounts to get the dough to the right (not too sticky) consistency.

If you want to bake finished objects, bake at 210 F for an hour or so.  It is a good idea to flip objects about halfway through the cooking time.

p.s.  I found it best to let the bits and pieces of dough that ended up all over the kitchen floor actually dry and harden before cleaning them up.  Once they were dry it was easy to sweep them up.


  1. All of your children seem wonderful via your blog – but your little Beatrix – well I seem to look forward to what she has got up to with paints!
    Your a wonderful mum not putting paints away!
    I wonder if Beatrix will be an artist one day.

    Love Leanne NZ

  2. Oh so much fun!!! I wish I had as much patience about the mess as you do! I have to take deep breaths and repeat “let it go” over and over long before we start a project like this. But, it’s always worth it in the end :). Thanks for the recipe, will make this week!

  3. Oh my, look at that sweet face! I’m sure you’ll all treasure these pictures when she grows up. I love the salt dough and I love that your recipe doesn’t involve cooking. We’ll have to try it. Today we awoke to snow and we made Molasses on Snow candy.

  4. Oh, Ginny! Maybe Beatrix will become a make-up artist for the movies? 🙂

  5. We love salt dough too! And yes, the pictures made me laugh and remember toddlerhood.

  6. Thank you for the recipe! I’ll ty to save it for when my boy is bigger (I0m guessing 15 mnths is a bit too soon to get his hands on dough – but maybe I’m wrong!).
    I love the photos of your little ones. Beatrix makes me always smile! Even though I imagine it can’t be always easy on you, you’ll have a bunch of wonderful stories about her infancy to tell!
    Best wishes, have a nice week!

  7. Thanks for your blog Ginny. Those photos gave me such a giggle this morning. My little girl is only 13 months still, but also has that live wire streak. Thanks for the reminder that art and crafts are fun whatever the result!!
    Take care x

  8. hee hee. she makes me sigh too and she’s not even mine.

  9. Thank you for the recipe ~ I have been wanting to do salt-dough beads for a while.

    I love Beatrix’s wardrobe changes.

    You have such a peace about you. I benefit greatly from your perspective. Thank you!

  10. The stories of Bea make me feel SO MUCH BETTER about the mess and chaos that my little ones get into on a daily basis. It is s reassuring to know that it happens no matter how hard you try to think ahead and pre-empt them. And so calming to read your words “sigh!” and to know it’s not a big deal. I would love to hear how you approach a situation like that with her. Do you really just “sigh” or is there some kind of ‘talking to’ or do you not even bother with that? Is Bea around 3 and a bit? That’s my son’s age and she reminds me so much of him sometimes…

    Thanks for sharing. xx m.

  11. That photo of Bea covered in paint made me laugh. So cute.

  12. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m SO glad that you have a child who is always drawing on themselves, doing the unexpected, expressing their creativity in, um, inventive ways. It helps me to enjoy what my Lucy does (and remember to grab the camera, too) 🙂

    Will have to try the salt dough recipe. (and the tip on letting it dry before sweeping it up)

    Thanks for keeping it real! Best wishes!

  13. Thank you for the recipe, Ginny. I’ve never tried one that doesn’t involved cooking the dough; but what a great idea for little ones who love to help!

    I’ve been thinking about you since you wrote about how it can be difficult for you to fall asleep before midnight. I have had times of night wakefulness, and recently I’ve been working some pressure points that have been really helpful. Maybe you know about this, or have tried this, but in case it might be helpful, here it is. . . There are a lot of acupressure points along the lower legs and feet that are associated with restful sleep. As soon as I get in the bed, I massage under my knees, along my calves, on my ankles, and all over my feet. When I take 10 minutes or so to do this, I find that I fall asleep much easier and sleep more deeply.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing little windows into you beautiful, joyful family life.

  14. Tricia F. says:

    Hang in there, Ginny. I, too, am a (Catholic) mother of 6. My kids range in age from 9 to 22 so I am at a different place than you are. If it helps, my fifth child managed to be the one who confounded me the most; I have a picture of her, naked, covered head to toe with permanent sharpy marker. She also cut her hair numerous times. She cut her sister’s doll’s hair and painted two of her own doll’s faces with whiteout. She also caught a baby rabbit and brought a dead snake in the house. I could go on but I think you get the idea. She is 13 now and a wonderful, active, energetic girl. Your thoughts on ‘open-ended’ art are great; when left to it, kids come up with the best results – their own. Thanks for your blog.

  15. Man, if Beatrix ever outgrows this face-and-body-painting phase, your blog is going to lose a lot of its charm…
    …just kidding! But I do relish it. And I’m sure she does it with full knowledge that you are going to take her picture when she does!
    Hope your weekend was lovely.

  16. How perfect. That is one of the things I love about homeschooling though I do struggle as Poppy (Bea’s age-ish) is just at the stage where she is making a few less messes, but Silas is a terror and eats it all…I love that children of different ages must work together and help each other.
    love it and your sighs 😉

  17. I have a three-year-old with a similar proclivity for getting paint and markers EVERYWHERE. I generally just roll with it and clean up afterwards. Thank you for the salt dough recipe – we will definitely give it a try!

  18. I love this! Thanks for being so “real”. Beatrix is insanely adorable!

  19. Hi Ginny, I LOVE your blog! Your authenticity always shows and I always come away inspired:) I can so appreciate this post. I just posted something recently on my own blog about my shying away from organized crafts these days:) thanks for sharing in a way that’s so real!

  20. We have the same attitude about dough and rice. Let ’em both dry and they are *so* much easier to clean up! In fact, my girls are elbow deep in homemade play-dough as I type this…

  21. My kiddos are often painted including the oldest. I even bought face paint in the hopes that it would aid their passion while limiting the permanence of the look. So far we have had many different looks. I also find the classics are hits among all the ages. I was even preparing a similar post today about dough in our household. Clay, modeling and creating are all favorites here.

  22. As a teacher and a mother I have never cared for the “dog and pony show” type crafts. I would much rather give the children the tools and freedom to create for themselves. I used to teach kids at Michaels and I was saddened to see that school had beaten all of the creativity out of them.

  23. What fun with the salt dough (and paint…and markers…) I really like art/crafts projects that are more about exploring the possibilities for a particular medium or a particular idea instead of coming up with a definitive end product. There’s a certain satisfaction in the latter, too, but I like just seeing where the materials and inspiration take us.

  24. Never a dull moment! I think this open-ended approach is really the best way most of the time. The few times I’ve done organized craft projects with my littlest I’ve felt like I’m constraining his creativity. Looking forward to trying the salt dough recipe. Thanks for keeping it real with your photos of Beatrix — they gave me a good laugh, but I feel for you! What a character! 🙂

  25. That last photo will have me giggling to myself now and then all afternoon. One to save forever. I like the way you allow your kids to make messes too. It’s not always fun to clean up but the clean up is also good practice for kids. I live by the saying : Pardon the mess~happy children live here. 🙂

  26. I love your take on crafts and creativity 🙂

  27. I have good memories of making salt dough ornaments with my grandma. In the first picture, your son looks so much like your husband!

  28. I have to say I love your post. They just seem to remind me that nothing is ever perfect. As far as art goes… looks like your children are your walking art canvas. =)We have to keep scissors away from our youngest who will be 5 (sigh) in 2 weeks as she will be an awesome hair dresser when she gets older. lol I think I would rather take makers to the face then scissors to the hair. Hope you have an exciting day!

    • We should keep the scissors well hidden as well. Those short bangs on Beatrix were of her own cutting. In fact all of her layers she created herself.

  29. Cracking up at that last photo of Beatrix! Bless her, she seems like a force of nature. I admire you for allowing your children such creative freedom, just the way it should be. I have to learn to relax and allow Violet to make more mess and not get too hung up on how much cleaning up I will have to do in the aftermath…

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