A Blast From the Past

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Christmas is hands down my favorite holiday. Each year I put up two trees (because I don’t have room for a third…not that I haven’t tried to figure it out) and hope that all my ornaments will fit on them. Each ornament has a story and is special to me. Some are store bought, some belonged to my grandparents or parents, and some were handmade by friends or even myself. Each one makes me smile, and for about a month, no matter where I look in my house, I can’t help but be truly happy surrounded by all the memories.

Growing up in the 80s (yes the 1980s), I remember the trend for handmade ornaments being dough, specifically salt dough. Very creative folks could build, bake, and paint them into something truly magical. I still have several that were given to me: Raggedy Ann and Andy, a fireplace with family names on the stockings, and even a teddy bear. I have some I made thanks to an enthusiastic art teacher (and I must say, my work may not have improved since being in Mr. Walker’s 6th grade class). My parents hung each ornament I made, no matter how unartistic it was. Now that they have all come back to me, I hang them because my parents cherished them.

Salt dough ornaments can last a long time and are a lot of fun for children to make. The recipe is simple:

Salt Dough

1 c. salt

1 c. flour

½ c water

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You may need a little more or a little less water to reach a playdough consistency. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour. Time to make the creation; children can roll them out, mold them, and cut them. This is the fun part, because it is only your imagination that limits you. They are great for footprints and handprints. One of the neatest ideas I saw involved rolling out a piece of dough and making a handprint. Once the piece has its impression, add a hole to slip some yarn, ribbon, or a hanger in. Now it is time to bake it. This is where patience is necessary. Depending on the thickness of the piece, it could take anywhere from two-three hours to bake at 200 degrees in the oven. The goal is to dry it out, so it is hard but doesn’t crack.

Once it is out of the oven and cooled, it is time for the paint. Acrylic paints are perfect for this project. Let your child’s imagination run wild! Handprints can be turned into Santa, and a footprint could be a snowman; it’s really anything they can think of. When the paint has dried, make sure to put their name and year on the back, so they will always remember when they did it and bring back the memories. Then spray it with a clear acrylic coat and get your hanger of choice for the tree. These would make great gifts for friends and family.

For more information, contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, or by E-mail at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.