A homemade Christmas tree (and BSM)

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. ;)

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though. 

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it. 

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry - They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. :)

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08  Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08  Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. :)

My choice for Best Shot Monday is the one of Ava and Julian together putting the ornament on the tree (2nd row, 3rd picture). Ava was being so sweet and helpful to her little brother. It just makes me smile. You can see more Best Shots over here.

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43 thoughts on “A homemade Christmas tree (and BSM)

  1. Such fun! We mad those one year when my now 9 year old was 2 or 3? We still have them and they get hung on the tree every year. Although we did paint them!

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  4. Gingerbread ornaments are another option as are sugar cookies with the sugar “stained glass” centers. I’ve also seen a lot of people making fabric garlands- a take on the paper chain garland but more durable.

  5. Your tree looks beautiful! I remember making salt dough ornaments as a kid, but it’s something I haven’t thought of in forever.

    The pics of the kiddos are very sweet. Don’t Christmas trees make a wonderful backdrop for closeups?

    Oh, and little Julian’s outfit – my little guy has the same one and I’d love for him to wear it everyday! So cute and snuggly!

  6. I just looked at your blog and did a trial run of these today so that we could do them at our St. Nicholas Party this weekend. Cool! Thanks, Megan

  7. I remember making those ornaments as a child! Maybe we’ll do that next year. I was going to make a popcorn/cranberry garland as well, but decided to put that off another year or so. I was worried the big dog would try to eat it and knock down the tree!

    Great pictures.

  8. I’m so glad I stopped by here. The ornaments are a wonderful idea. I think I’ll do some of these with my son (and I’m sure we’ll have similar experiences). :)

  9. In fifth grade we made Cinnamon ornaments. I think they were 2 parts cinnamon for ever one part applesauce. You mix it together and spread it out and use cookie cutters to make shapes then just set them out to dry, roll up the remaining dough and make more! They made the whole house smell wonderful, but I don’t think you can eat them, the teacher was very avid about that…

  10. Is it disturbing that I remember how these ornaments taste? I didn’t think I was that kid…OY!!! I love this – we’ll make these for sure when my parents arrive on Monday – how FUN!!! You’re the best!

  11. Wow, very creative! What a great craft to work on with the kids and making all your own decorations. The kids look like they had a wonderful time, too. Your tree looks lovely and full of LOVE. :)

  12. We have homemade ornaments from every year! You may have to shellac those to get them to stay together and sealed from moisture, etc.

    We put out homemade decorations for every holiday. Fun to see the progression from the Santa with 8 eyes to now.

    This type of homespun family fun just warms my heart. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I remember making dough ornaments as a first grade class art project. My mom still hangs them on the tree, even though it’s been a few years since I was in first grade. Or college even.

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  17. Do the ornaments shrink when you bake them? I would like to do this, but with the hands of my nieces and nephews (while they are young). I don’t want them to shrink….

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  21. Saw your blog for the first time today. I love your idea and can not wait to try it with my son. I was wondering do you have to do anything to the ornaments to preserve them for later years?

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