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I often lament the loss of Christmas spirit and how each year the commercial elements of Christmas steal yet another inch of this special time of year, but this year is undeniably strained and commercialism aside I don’t think anyone’s festivities are the same this year.

As a mother of five children and living in Wales we have seen various regulations introduced here in Wales and also those affecting our friends and family over the border in England. Our nine month old baby has only seen his grandparents twice during his little life and it now seems that we will not see them over Christmas as they are in tier three areas.  So, I pondered over the question ‘what can we do to make Christmas that little more festive? ‘ Well, as having extended family over or visiting them is clearly out of the question, I thought that a more home spun approach to gifts was in order. So, after a little thought I decided to entertain my children and make meaningful Christmas gifts at the same time, my solution was salt dough.

Yes, salt dough is the ideal medium for capturing festive memories and it is also cheap, cheerful and its pretty straightforward. This year I have mixed up a batch of salt dough to allow the little ones to cut out shapes from the dough and generally have fun playing and then I made another batch with I have rolled out and captured each child’s hand print.

It’s important to roll the dough out quite thick it needs to be at least the depth of a pound coin, but preferably a bit thicker. With my youngest I opted for a foot print as it was a more achievable goal.

Once baked, a simple coat of varnish on these  and some ribbon threaded through them and they make the perfect sentimental gift.

 

Salt Dough Recipe

 

I must admit that when measuring with children I find that a simple approach is best, after all, they always want to get involved, so I just use simple measurements that involve weighing out by mug or the like.

3 mugs of strong white flour

1 mug of water

1 mug of salt

1 table spoon  of Vegetable oil

 

Mix the white flour and salt together in a bowl, gradually add the water and mix with your hands, bring the dough together and add the oil.

Knead to combine.

Once you have a smooth dough, divide it up between children and allow them to roll it out and shape it on floured boards.

Don’t forget to poke holes in the decorations to allow ribbon to be threaded through them!  A drinking straw is great for this task.

If making handprints, roll the dough out and then place your child’s hand down flat into the dough, press down on their fingers to make sure a good impression of their hand is formed.  Transfer the prepared salt dough decorations to a baking tray lined with parchment and bake in the oven for 1 and half hours on 150c , gas mark 2.

After 45 mins I usually check their progress and ensure that the hole has not sealed up. Whilst the dough is still warm and soft you can poke a straw into the dough to open-up or create a hole.

The baking time can vary depending on how thick your dough has been rolled so be flexible and just check the progress of your creations as you go along.

When the dough creations are ready they should feel firm to the touch and you should be able to touch them without there being any give in them.

Once baked allow them to cool completely before either painting and or varnishing. Thread a ribbon through the holes and write the date that they were created on the back! Christmas memories ready to give as sentimental gifts or hang on the tree.