I’m excited to share one of my very favorite crafts—salt dough! Salt dough is easy and inexpensive to make, versatile in its uses (meaning that you can do a lot with it), and you probably have the ingredients in your kitchen pantry right now. I’ve combined this craft with one of my other favorite things, nature exploration. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go far (or even outside at all!) to explore!

Just a heads up, by completing this activity, Girl Scout Juniors have finished number three of the Outdoor Art Explorer badge.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ cup of salt
  • 1 cup of water

TOOLS

  • Measuring cups
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large spoon for mixing

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Gather your ingredients, consider putting some newspaper down on top of your craft space. Things are about to get messy!
  2. Measure 1 cup of flour. Don’t forget to level the top off; you can use a butter knife to do so!
  3. Measure ½ cup of salt. Level this off, too.
  4. Pour the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix with your spoon.
  5. Slowly add the water and stir everything together. When it gets too hard to mix with the spoon, use your hands! It’s more fun that way, anyway.
  6. After kneading it (squishing it with your hands) for a few minutes, your dough ball should now feel like Play-Doh. If it’s too dry, add more water. Too wet? Add more flour. Be careful, though! Add small amounts at a time until you reach the Play-Doh consistency.

Now is the super fun part. You can use this salt dough to make all sorts of things like holiday ornaments, small bowls and jewelry (a quick Internet search will get you instructions for these). Still, my favorite thing to do with salt dough is to use it to investigate patterns and make prints, especially using items from nature.

I use items I’ve found from around my home, like a seashell from a beach vacation I took last summer, a buckeye from a nature hike, and I also grabbed a few leaves from my houseplants. Go on a little scavenger hunt around your house to find things that you think might make some good prints or patterns.

Don’t forget to look around outside if you can, too! Nothing nature-related? No problem! Other things around your living space will work if you use your imagination (if you would like to use items that don’t belong to you, be sure to ask permission, and to tell the person that the item might get a little messy).

After you’ve assembled your items, make some predictions about the patterns and prints that your items might make with a friend or family member.

  • What item do you think will work the best?
  • What item do you think won’t work well at all?
  • What item(s) can you use as a stamp to make prints?
  • What item(s) can you use to make patterns?
I predicted that my seashell would make the best print, so I was excited to try that one first. It did not. The ridges got stuck in the dough and didn’t make the stripes I wanted. Bummer.
Next, I tried to make a flower pattern with my buckeye, which also didn’t come out as intended. But my plan is to dry it and paint the impressions to try to make them look like petals (see baking directions below).
I used my houseplants next. I made sure to find leaves that had thick veins on them for the best outcome. I decided to use a spider plant leaf to make lines on the dough. It reminded me of the lines on a candy cane! I love making comparisons like this. It helps me make more connections to nature.
Next, I used a leaf from my Pothos plant. I was pleased with how it came out. I also thought, “Hey, I never realized the leaves looked like teardrops!” When I was finished with the leaf, I cleaned it with water then put it in a bottle with water to grow a new plant.
Finally, I used a leaf from my rabbit’s foot fern. I thought this would not work at all—I figured the little leaves would rip. Well, I was wrong! In my opinion, this print came out the best!

More options:

  • You can choose to leave your dough pieces out to air dry and harden, or you can bake your dough in the oven at 200 degrees for 30 minutes to several hours until dry. I’ve always found that it takes a long time to dry them in the oven, so I try to plan for this activity and let mine air dry.
  • Once your dough is dry, you can paint it too, making this a longer or multi-day activity. If you have a can of gloss finish sealing spray on hand, it makes your project shiny!
  • Add food coloring to your dough while kneading it for a pop of color.
  • You can use a rolling pin to get the dough flatter if you want your dough to dry out faster.
  • You can use a cookie cutter to get your circle perfect if you’d like. I enjoyed hand-making dough circles.

Follow up activity:  

Go outside and look for the same patterns in nature. How many other patterns can you find?

Kerri Kelley—Kerri joined Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri in 2019 and is the organization’s Health Program Manager. Always one to eat her vegetables, Kerri loves helping eastern Missouri change-makers navigate this world through the power of healthy eating, living an active lifestyle and practicing mindfulness. For more information, contact Kerri at kkelley@girlscoutsem.org.