Best Salt Dough Recipe (No-Bake Air Dry) for Crafts and Play


Looking for a quick and stress-free way to indulge your artistic side or keep your kids entertained for hours? This simple salt dough recipe (no bake) is a versatile and wildly popular dough for non-toxic play and homemade crafts. 

What makes this salt dough so awesome? It’s all about the texture. It’s soft, and pliable, and lets you shape intricate designs with ease. Plus, it’s a no-cook saltdough making it super quick to whip up. Whether you’re into crafting delicate sculptures, making cute little keychains, or whipping up homemade ornaments, this is the best easy salt dough recipe to work with. And the best part? No need to fire up the oven – just let it air dry, and you’re good to go!

Salt dough recipe no bake pin (the ultimate salt dough for non-toxic crafts and play)

This dough is a huge hit with the little ones, too. It’s full of squishy, moldable goodness that’ll keep those tiny hands busy and their imaginations running wild. Not only will they have a blast, but they’ll also develop important fine motor skills along the way. They can create their very own animal figurines, whip up heartfelt homemade gifts, or just go wild with playdough-style fun. It’s a hands-on craft that sparks their senses and their creativity.

It’s also a great opportunity for kids to learn basic kitchen skills before they play with it for hours! 

So, whether you’re an artsy pro looking to sculpt or a parent seeking a hands-on activity that’s both entertaining and educational (think rainy days), this air dry salt dough recipe is a go-to staple. Let’s get started!

Why you’ll love this salt dough recipe (no bake)

Not only is this recipe super affordable, but it’s also a breeze to make and use! Plus, the best part: it’s non-toxic! No need to worry about those little hands getting into any sticky situations.

The magic of this salt dough is that it can transform into whatever your heart desires. Imagine adorable ornaments for your tree, jaw-dropping sculptures that could rival the works of art in a gallery, or cherished handprints saved for years to come. 

And you know what? Kids just absolutely love this stuff! They can shape, mold, and create to their heart’s content. It’s like play-doh, igniting their imaginations and helping them develop those fine motor skills, but it’s homemade, more affordable, less messy, and can be durably preserved. 

Parents adore it because it’s a mess-free, budget-friendly way to entertain the little ones for hours, and it’s become a go-to material in classrooms all around. It’s not hard to see why. It’s a hands-on experience that sparks their curiosity and makes learning fun.

RELATED: 4 salt dough handprint keepsakes you’ll want to cherish (step by step with photos!)

Salt dough recipe for handprints and ornaments

The benefits of salt dough for kids: fun learning

When kids dive into the world of salt dough, they’re in for a delightful mix of learning and fun! Check out all the cool things they can pick up along the way:

Sensory Exploration

Imagine the joy of squishing and shaping that soft, squishy salt dough! It tickles their senses and lets them explore different materials and textures. They’ll love the feeling of the dough between their fingers as they squish, sculpt, and shape away.

Fine Motor Skills

Shaping, rolling, flattening, and molding salt dough requires precision and control of small muscles in the hands and fingers. As kids play with the dough, they improve their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and dexterity. It’s like a workout for those little fingers!

Creativity and Imagination

Salt dough is a blank canvas waiting to be transformed into creations. With salt dough as their trusty companion, kids become mini artists and inventors. They can shape it into anything they dream up, from magical creatures to their favorite foods. This process nurtures their creativity, encourages self-expression, and boosts their problem-solving skills.

Cognitive Development

Salt dough isn’t just about play—it’s a sneaky way to teach valuable lessons. Kids will follow simple instructions, learn about cause and effect as they mix ingredients, and develop an eye for shapes and proportions. It’s like a secret classroom where they’re having too much fun to notice they’re actually learning! These cognitive processes enhance their critical thinking and decision-making skills.

Patience and Persistence

Creating with salt dough teaches kids that good things come to those who wait. They’ll learn to be patient as their masterpieces air dry and become proud of their creations. Plus, if things don’t turn out as planned, they’ll develop resilience and problem-solving skills as they find creative solutions. These qualities are essential for their overall personal and academic growth.

Science and Math Concepts

Salt dough lets kids experiment and discover scientific concepts like how ingredients interact or the wonders of air drying. They can also practice basic math skills by measuring ingredients or shaping the dough into different sizes and shapes.

Self-Confidence and Pride

Completing a salt dough project brings a burst of pride and self-confidence. Kids will beam with joy and a sense of accomplishment when they hold up their finished masterpieces. These little confidence boosts will fuel their eagerness to take on new challenges and explore their creativity further.

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Ingredients you’ll need

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup fine salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water *May need a little more water once kneaded
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional, for added pliability)
  • Food coloring (optional)

Step-by-step how to make salt dough – a simple salt dough recipe (no bake)

This easy salt dough recipe allows for air drying while maintaining a soft and malleable texture during shaping!

Flour and salt in a bowl for this salt dough recipe (no bake)

1. Mix dry ingredients

In a large mixing bowl, mix the all-purpose flour and fine salt together. 

2. Add water and mix

Add water to the dry mixture while stirring. Mix until a rough dough forms. If you’ve had issues with grainy dough in the past, you can boil the salt with the water before adding it to your bowl for an even smoother dough. Remember to let the boiled mixture cool before adding it to the dry ingredients!

3. Add optional add-ins

If desired, add optional add-ins to enhance your dough: 

  • For a more pliable dough, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  • To change its color, add food coloring. If you want a more tie-dye effect, add different colors towards the end of kneading (next step).
  • To add scent, add a few drops of essential oil. The scent will fade over time from crafts but it’s a fun initial experience!
Kneading salt dough to smooth out

4. Knead the dough

Knead the dough with your hands for about 5 minutes or until it’s smooth and all ingredients are thoroughly combined. If the dough is too crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dough reaches the proper texture. On the other hand, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour by the teaspoon until it’s no longer tacky.

5. Use the dough

Once the dough is ready, take a small portion and begin shaping away. Store the salt dough in a Ziploc bag when it’s not in use to prevent it from drying out.

How to air-dry this salt dough recipe

Place it on a flat surface when you’re ready to air dry. Make sure there’s good airflow around the crafts for even drying. 

Allow the salt dough crafts to air dry completely at room temperature. This process typically takes 24-48 hours or longer, depending on the size and thickness of the creations. Be patient and resist the temptation to rush the drying process, so that the dough hardens properly.

Once the crafts are completely dry and hardened, you can further enhance their durability by applying a clear acrylic sealant or a varnish. This step is optional.

How to bake dry this salt dough recipe

Guess what? With this fantastic salt dough recipe, you can actually skip the baking step! That’s right, no need to fire up the oven and wait impatiently for your creations to dry. If you have time to spare, air drying is the way to go! It’s convenient, hassle-free, and kid-safe, and gives you more time to focus on the fun part – crafting and shaping your salt dough wonders.

However, if you’re feeling a bit antsy and want to speed things up a bit, baking is an option. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Preheat your oven to a low temperature, between 125 – 200°F (51.6 – 93°C). The lower temperature is best to avoid any puffing but takes longer.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat to prevent sticking.
  • Carefully arrange your salt dough crafts on the baking sheet. Make sure they’re not overcrowded.
  • Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and let the magic happen. Keep a watchful eye on your crafts as they bake. The time can vary depending on the size and thickness of your creations, but a general guideline is about 1-2 hours. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
  • Once baked, remove the crafts from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Remember, the beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity and versatility. Whether you choose to air dry or bake your salt dough crafts, the result will be equally delightful.

Need it dried even faster? Simply put your salt dough craft on a microwave-safe plate and then zap your salt dough craft for 10 seconds at a time. It will be done in no time!

How to seal salt dough crafts

Sealing not only adds durability and protection from moisture but also gives your creations a polished look. If you want your crafts to last, you will definitely want to seal them.

Here are three top sealant options to consider:

  1. Clear acrylic sealant: Provides a transparent, protective finish against moisture, dust, and wear. Spray or brush it on for a smooth coat.
  2. Varnish: Offers a glossy finish, enhancing colors and textures. Brush it on for a shiny look.
  3. Mod Podge: A versatile sealant that works as both a glue and a protective topcoat. It adds a beautiful sheen.

Simply brush a thin layer of sealant over the tops, bottoms, and sides of the craft. TIP: Coat the craft while leaving the bottom portion uncoated. Once the coated areas are completely dried, proceed to coat the bottom. Remember to allow the bottom to rest without sitting on a surface to ensure proper drying.

Using salt dough as a playdoh alternative

This salt dough recipe can be slightly adjusted to make it a perfect play dough alternative. Simply add the optional cream of tartar to get that flexible stretchy feel to your dough. Here are my tips:

  • Add 1 tbsp of cream of tartar for a stretchier dough
  • Add an additional 1 tbsp of vegetable oil for extra softness
  • Add a few drops of essential oil for fun scents

If properly stored in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, the salt dough can remain soft and malleable for several days or even up to a week. 

To extend the lifespan of salt dough, you can try misting it lightly with water or kneading in a small amount of vegetable oil to restore moisture as it starts to dry out. 

Craft ideas with this salt dough recipe (no bake)

Salt dough is so versatile and perfect for those looking for an engaging activity to keep the little ones entertained or simply want to explore their artistic side with quality crafts. Here, we’ve gathered a variety of play and craft ideas that will inspire you to make the most of this magic dough. 

These project ideas offer a range of options suitable for different age groups and occasions, from simple shapes and handprints for younger children to more intricate sculptures and jewelry-making for older kids and adults. 

Salt Dough Ornaments

  1. Roll out the salt dough to about ¼ inch thickness.
  2. If you have stamps, you can stamp designs into the dough.
  3. Use cookie cutters or freehand cutting to create desired shapes (e.g., stars, hearts, animals).
  4. Make a small hole at the top of each shape using a straw or toothpick for hanging purposes.
  5. Allow the ornaments to air dry completely for 24-48 hours or until hardened.
  6. Once dry, paint the ornaments with acrylic paints and let them dry again.
  7. Thread a ribbon or string through the hole for hanging and display them on a holiday tree or as decorative accents.

Salt Dough Handprints

  1. Flatten a portion of salt dough to about ½ inch thickness.
  2. Press your child’s hand firmly into the dough to make an impression.
  3. Use a knife or cookie cutter to trim the excess dough around the handprint.
  4. Make a small hole near the top for hanging (optional).
  5. Let the handprint air dry completely, flipping it over occasionally for even drying.
  6. Once dry, you can paint and decorate the handprint as desired.

Sculptures or Figurines

  1. Take a handful of salt dough and shape it into a ball or the desired form.
  2. Use your hands or simple tools to sculpt the dough into various shapes and objects, such as animals, flowers, or abstract designs.
  3. Add details and textures by pressing objects like buttons, shells, or leaves into the dough.
  4. Allow the sculpture to air dry completely, turning it occasionally for even drying.
  5. Once dry, you can paint, varnish, or seal the sculpture for a finished look.

Salt Dough Jewelry

  1. Roll out the salt dough into thin, flat sheets.
  2. Use cookie cutters or a knife to create shapes for pendants, beads, or charms.
  3. Use a straw or toothpick to make holes in the pieces for threading.
  4. Let the jewelry pieces air dry completely.
  5. Once dry, you can paint them with acrylics or decorate them with glitter and seal them with varnish.
  6. Thread them onto cords or chains to create necklaces, bracelets, or keychains.

Salt Dough Stamps

  1. Flatten a piece of salt dough to about ¼ inch thickness.
  2. Press various objects, such as textured items, toy stamps, or cookie stamps, into the dough to create impressions.
  3. Carefully remove the objects to reveal the stamped designs.
  4. Allow the stamped dough to air dry completely.
  5. Once dry, you can use the salt dough stamps to decorate homemade cards, wrapping paper, or other craft projects.

Picture Frames

  1. Roll out the salt dough into a rectangular shape, slightly larger than the desired frame size.
  2. Place a photo or artwork in the center of the dough and press it gently to create an impression.
  3. Use a knife or cookie cutter to trim the dough around the impression, leaving a border.
  4. Make a small hole near the top for hanging (optional).
  5. Let the frame air dry completely, flipping it over occasionally for even drying.
  6. Once dry, you can paint the frame, decorate it with beads or shells, and seal it with varnish.

Salt Dough Fridge Magnets

  1. Roll out the salt dough into small, flat shapes like circles or squares.
  2. Use alphabet stamps or small objects to create imprints or write messages.
  3. Attach a magnet to the back of each shape using adhesive.
  4. Allow the magnets to air dry completely.
  5. Once dry, you can paint and decorate them with acrylics or markers.

See a post on this here

Salt Dough Garden Markers

  1. Roll out the salt dough into thin strips or flat shapes.
  2. Write the names of different plants or herbs on each strip using a toothpick or small stick.
  3. Make a pointed end or attach a small stick to the bottom of each marker.
  4. Let the markers air-dry completely.
  5. Once dry, you can paint them with acrylics or use markers to enhance the text.

Storytelling Props

  1. Use the salt dough to create characters, objects, or scenes.
  2. Sculpt the figures and details, such as animals, trees, or buildings.
  3. Let the creations air dry completely.
  4. Once dry, you can paint them to bring the characters and scenes to life.
  5. Use the props for storytelling, puppet shows, or imaginative play.

Salt Dough Coasters

  1. Roll out the salt dough into circles or squares of desired coaster size.
  2. Use stamps, textured objects, or freehand carving to create designs on the surface.
  3. Let the coasters air dry completely.
  4. Once dry, you can paint and seal them with varnish for protection.

Here’s some inspiration for a beautiful salt dough coaster design.

Salt Dough Keychains

  1. Roll out the salt dough into a small shape of your choice, either flat or into a ball for further sculpting
  2. Cut or sculpt into desired shapes such as a circle, heart, or custom design.
  3. Use alphabet stamps or a toothpick to write initials or a short message.
  4. Create a small hole near the top using a straw or a skewer for attaching a keyring later.
  5. Let the keychains air dry completely.
  6. Once dry, you can paint them with acrylics or use markers to add color and details.
  7. Apply a coat of varnish or sealant to protect the surface.
  8. Attach a keyring to the hole and your salt dough keychain is ready to use or gift.

More fun salt dough ideas:

  • Bookmarks
  • Name plaques or door signs
  • Personalized Christmas stocking tags
  • Customized gift tags
  • Salt dough imprints of pet paws
  • Quote plaques
  • Christmas garlands
  • Suncatchers or window ornaments
  • Recipe card holders
  • Handprint pumpkins
  • Christmas tree toppers
  • Tealight holders
  • Garden stepping stones
  • Easter egg decorations
  • Graduation keepsakes
  • Customized cake toppers
  • Personalized photo frames

Salt dough tips and tricks for the best results

Don’t rush drying

Let your salt dough creation air dry thoroughly before handling or applying any sealants. It may be tempting to rush the process, but proper drying time is key to making your crafts harden properly and maintain their shape.

Optimal drying conditions

Find a flat, well-ventilated area with good airflow for drying your salt dough craft. Humid or damp environments will prolong the drying time.

Avoid waterlogged dough

When adding water to the dough mixture, be careful not to make it too sticky or wet. If your dough becomes too moist, sprinkle in small amounts of flour until it reaches the desired consistency.

Seal and protect

If you want to preserve your salt dough creations for the long term, apply a clear sealant or varnish. This adds a protective layer, making them more durable and resistant to moisture or damage. Choose a non-toxic sealant suitable for crafts.

Protect dough while crafting

Store your spare salt dough in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out prematurely while crafting.

Safety precautions

Stay safe and enjoy your salt dough creations with these safety tips:

  • Keep an eye on the little ones by making sure they don’t eat the dough. If they accidentally eat a little it’s ok, but too much can cause digestive issues because of its high salt content.
  • Salt dough making direct contact with the eyes will likely cause discomfort. 
  • Adding essential oils for scent? Be aware of any allergies or sensitivities people may have. Some oils are not suited for young children so always do your due diligence.
  • Keep your salt dough creations out of reach of pets or curious little ones who might mistake them for food. Salt dough is toxic for most pets.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is salt dough safe to eat for kids?

The high salt content in the dough can cause an unpleasant taste and may even upset little tummies if ingested in large quantities. So, it’s best to keep it out of little ones’ mouths.

How long does salt dough take to dry?

Generally, salt dough crafts take about 24 to 48 hours for the dough to air dry completely, but it can vary depending on a few factors. The bigger the size and thickness of your creation, the longer the air drying time. If you’ve crafted a very large, thick piece, it could take days to weeks for all the moisture to evaporate and for the dough to fully harden.

How do I know when it’s fully dried?

First, give it a gentle touch. If it feels hard and solid without any give, that’s a good indicator that it’s dried through and through. Next, observe the surface of your creation. If it looks and feels completely dry, without any dampness or soft spots, that’s another positive sign. And here’s a handy trick: You can even hold it up to your nose and take a whiff. If there’s no lingering moisture scent, then you can be pretty confident that it’s fully dried! If you’re unsure, give it a little extra drying time to be safe.

My craft puffed up in the oven. what happened?

Your craft may puff up if you’ve dried it in the oven at too high of a temperature. Temperatures in different ovens vary, so if this happens it’s a sure sign that you should use an even lower temperature the next time you bake dry a craft.

How long will they last?

Your ornaments should last for 30 years if not longer so long as you seal them and store them carefully.

Does salt dough air dry?

Yes, homemade salt dough will air-dry and harden over time. Salt dough is a simple and popular craft material made from three basic ingredients: salt, flour, and water. When you mix these ingredients together, you create a pliable dough that can be shaped and molded into various forms and then dried for cherished keepsakes.

Salt dough recipe no bake pin (the ultimate salt dough for non-toxic crafts and play)
5 from 4 votes

Salt Dough Recipe (No-Bake Air Dry) for Crafts and Play

The best salt dough recipes I've made. A fun and fuss-free way to unleash your creativity or keep your little ones captivated! This easy-peasy salt dough recipe (no baking required) is a superstar when it comes to safe and exciting playtime and crafting. It's a go-to favorite that's loved by all— from toddlers to the elderly!

Have you tried this recipe? Leave us a review!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 days
Total Time: 2 days 15 minutes
Cost: $0.25

Equipment

  • 1 Bowl
  • Measuring cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup fine salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water *May need a little more water once kneaded
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (optional, for added pliability)
  • Food coloring (optional, to change color)

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and fine salt.
  • Add water to the dry ingredients and mix until a rough dough forms. 
  • Add in any optional add-ins to enhance your dough: 
    For a more pliable dough, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
    To change its color, add food coloring.
    To add scent, add a few drops of essential oil. The scent will fade over time but it’s a fun experience!
    To mimic a playdoh consistency, add 1 tbsp of cream of tartar for a stretchier dough and add an additional 1 tbsp of vegetable oil for extra softness. This is great for play but not ideal for preserving crafts.
  • Knead the dough with your hands for about 5 minutes or until it’s smooth and all ingredients are thoroughly combined. If the dough is too crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dough reaches the proper texture. On the other hand, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour by the teaspoon until it's no longer tacky.
  • Once the dough is ready, take a small portion and begin shaping away. Store the salt dough in a Ziploc bag when it's not in use to prevent it from drying out.
  • Allow the salt dough crafts to air dry completely at room temperature. This process typically takes 24-48 hours or longer, depending on the size and thickness of the creations.
  • Add a sealant to your craft to add durability and protection from moisture.

Notes

To store your salt dough creations:
  1. Avoid moisture: Moisture can cause the dough to lose its shape or even mold. Store it in a cool, dry place away from humid areas.
  2. Protect from dust and dirt: Store completed crafts in a sealed container or wrap it in a clean cloth or tissue paper when not in use. 
  3. Separate individual pieces: If you have multiple salt dough crafts or ornaments, it’s best to store them separately to prevent them from sticking together or causing any scratches or dents. 
To bake dry instead of air dry:
  1. Preheat your oven: Set your oven to a low temperature, ideally between 125 – 200°F (51.6 – 93°C). Lowest heat setting is safest to prevent your craft from puffing, but takes longer.
  2. Line the baking sheet: Use parchment paper or a silicone mat to prevent sticking.
  3. Arrange the crafts: Carefully place your salt dough creations on the baking sheet, ensuring they are not overcrowded.
  4. Bake and watch: Put the baking sheet in the preheated oven and keep a close eye on your crafts. The baking time can vary (around 1-2 hours) based on the size and thickness. Remember, patience is key.
  5. Cool on a wire rack: Once baked, remove the crafts from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
Need it dried even faster? Simply put your salt dough craft on a microwave-safe plate and then zap your salt dough craft for 10 seconds at a time. It will be done in no time!
Salt dough keepsakes and gift ideas:
  1. Ornaments
  2. Handprint or footprint keepsakes
  3. Personalized keychains
  4. Wall hangings or plaques
  5. Jewelry pendants or charms
  6. Fridge magnets
  7. Decorative bowls or dishes
  8. Photo frames
  9. Bookmarks
  10. Coasters
  11. Garden markers
  12. Decorative figurines
  13. Name plaques or door signs
  14. Personalized Christmas stockings
  15. Customized gift tags
  16. Salt dough imprints of pet paws
  17. Miniature sculptures or figurines
  18. Inspirational or motivational quote plaques
  19. Alphabet or number magnets for educational purposes
  20. Christmas tree garlands
  21. Sun catchers or window ornaments
  22. Recipe card holders
  23. Desk organizers
  24. Personalized Christmas tree toppers
  25. Tealight holders
  26. Garden stepping stones
  27. Friendship bracelets or keepsake bracelets
  28. Easter egg decorations
  29. Graduation keepsakes
  30. Customized cake toppers
Course: Craft
Cuisine: American
Keywords: crafts, crafts for kids, homemade, Salt dough, salt dough handprints, salt dough ornaments

6 comments

  • 5 stars
    This salt dough recipe is such a great idea and a smart, safe, nontoxic alternative to traditional play dough! I bet my niece would love this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks so much for sharing your recipe for this dough! It is very useful to have one like this as it has so many applications.

  • 5 stars
    Your explanation of the recipe and the various ways it can be used for DIY projects is truly inspiring. It’s evident that you have a passion for homemaking and creating a warm, loving atmosphere at home. Thank you for providing such a simple yet versatile craft solution. I’m looking forward to trying out your salt dough recipe and adding a personal touch to my living space.

  • 5 stars
    Thank you for such a great recipe and so much valuable info. I appreciate the time you out into sharing this and it’s been so much fun!

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