Yesterday, the stars aligned, and we miraculously ended up with a free Saturday afternoon. We’d whizzed through our to-do-list in the morning, and found ourselves at a loose end. After putting our feet up for a little while (As much as you can with a baby) I decided to bite the bullet, and make the most of our time, creating some baby footprint salt-dough tree decorations.
I’d had them in the back of my mind all week, but as is so often the case at Christmas, I’d written them off as ‘Would have been nice to do, but nevermind’ as the days had flown by without time to wash my hair, let alone make handmade decorations….
So when we were at a loose end, I knew how we could spend our afternoon. After all, our little one won’t have such tiny cute baby feet for much longer.
The dough was easy enough to make, and I used a teacup to measure as we only wanted to make a few decorations.
2 cups of plain flour
½ cup of salt
¾ cup of warm water
5 tablespoons of white acrylic paint
To start, I mixed a dough using the flour, salt and warm water. Once combined, I kneaded it for around ten minutes, until soft and pliable. The dough was a little of the dry side, so I added a tiny splash of water as needed.
I’d already decided I wanted the ornaments to be white, but I was a little worried that painting them after baking would lose some of the detail of the footprints. Mixing in the paint with the dough, meant we preserved the little lines and winkles.
We mixed in a tablespoon at a time, and more or less paint would change the effect on the finished ornament. Less paint would give you more of white-washed finish, and more would make the decoration a brighter white. We found five tablespoons was just about right.
Of course, you could use different colours, or even add a little glitter into the mix for a sparkly finish.
To roll out the dough, we used plenty of flour and a chopping board, giving a firm surface to work on to get the print. The dough was rolled out to around half a cm in thickness.
Definitely a two man job, I held the board, while my husband positioned our baby boy’s foot on the dough.
Confession time, I had intended to do handprints, but they were a complete disaster. We’ve never successfully been able to get a handprint, so I don’t know why I thought this would be any different.
We found strapping Harry into his highchair, and giving him some toast, made the process much easier. This is definitely a good activity to coincide with lunchtime, as he was so focused on his food I don’t think he even noticed us taking his foot-prints.
Too light an imprint will be lost in baking, so to get a successful print, you need to push quite firmly, but not through the dough. Using the same process we did some puppy paw-prints as well as our baby boy’s footprints, they’re part of the family too after-all!
I cut round the shape of each footprint, giving it a slight border, and transferred each one to brown paper. I then used the blunt end of a pen to make a hole to thread ribbon through. I purposefully made this a little bigger than I’d need, as it was likely the gap would close a little with the heat of the oven.
I then cooled the salt-dough shapes in our fridge for half an hour. Not completely necessary, this just helps them to keep their original shape a little more throughout baking.
The salt dough was baked at 150 degrees on our fan oven, and I checked on them every so often, to make sure they weren’t browning.
To make sure the decorations were baked all the way through, I switched the oven off, and left them for another hour to dry out as the oven cooled.
You could be done there, but once cooled I decided to coat them with some clear varnish spray. Toughening the ornaments up, and making doubly sure they are going to last for Christmas’ to come.
Once the varnish was dry, I just threaded them with some ribbon and added them to our tree.
While it took from afternoon to evening for the decorations to be finished, most of the time was taken up with baking and drying. It only took around ten minutes to get the footprints, so it’s a great activity for young children with short attention span. Everything else can be started and finished at your own pace. You could pre-make the dough, and you could even leave the salt-dough cooling in the fridge until you know you’ve got time to check the oven every so often.
Now they are finished and up on the tree, I’m so glad we took the time to make them. It’ll be strange to compare them to his feet next year, especially as he’ll be up and about walking on them by then…