The Salt Dough Leaf Impression project gives you a chance to both explore and then transfer different leaf shapes, colors, and textures onto your personally-made salt dough! This activity can be used by anyone, but school aged participants will especially enjoy it! Your leaf impression masterpiece can be used as beautiful artwork for an ornament, coaster, or paperweight.
Large mixing bowl
Rolling pin (optional)
Leaf or leaves
Parchment paper (optional)
Oven & oven mitts
Colored pencils and/or crayons
Step 1: First, let’s make sure your workspace is ready to go with all of your salt dough-making materials! To begin, you will need a large bowl, flour, salt, measuring cups and water. It is a good idea to have a flat, hard surface like a cutting board for dough kneading later on. Tip: You may want to ask for help from an adult because this activity can be messy!
Step 2: Next, let’s take our main ingredients to mix the dough. First, measure 2 cups of flour and pour it into a large bowl. Next, pour 1 cup of table salt into the bowl. Then, add 1 cup of water. Mix all ingredients in the large bowl until it feels like very sticky playdough!
Step 3: Then, take mixed dough out of the bowl, roll into a ball shape, and lay on a flat surface. Lay a handful of flour on the surface so that the dough does not stick. Note: This dough recipe can be used to make about 10-12 leaf prints, depending on how big your leaves are! I pulled apart smaller pieces of dough and rolled them separately.
Step 4: Next, begin to knead, or fold, the dough many times. This will make it smoother and easier to work with. As you are kneading, add a pinch of flour every few folds to make it even softer! At the end of this step your dough should feel like normal playdough.
Step 5: Next, let’s flatten out the dough. For this step, you can use a rolling pin. Try to flatten out the dough to about a ⅛ inch. Tip: If you do not have a rolling pin, you can use a book to smash. If you do this, make sure there is parchment paper between the book and the dough, as to not get your book sticky! Your hands or fists will also work to flatten out the dough.
Step 6: Next, step away from your dough for a moment to go on a nature walk! Take a good look at the trees on your walk and choose a leaf that stands out to you. Observe and think about why each leaf is slightly different, why they change color, and even how seasons affect nature.
Step 7: Once you have chosen your leaf or leaves, come back inside to your workspace where your dough is. This may be a good time to start preheating your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to ask an adult to help you preheat!
Step 8: Next, take your leaf and place it on the flattened dough. Begin to push firmly, but not too hard that you break through the dough. This will make a leaf indentation on the surface of the dough. Option: You may transfer the flattened dough to the baking sheet prior to pressing the leaf into it. If you chose to do this, scan step 10 for directions on preparing the baking sheet, and return to this step for leaf indentation instructions.
Step 9: Next, very carefully, peel the leaf off from the dough. Take a look at what was transferred onto the dough! Do you see the leaf veins and markings? If you are using two different leaves, how do they compare to each other?
Step 10: Next, let’s prepare to bake these dough pieces. Take a baking sheet and cover it with a piece of parchment paper (optional). Carefully transfer your dough onto the baking sheet. When the oven reaches 250 degrees, place the baking sheet into the oven and set a timer for 2-3 hours. Be sure to ask an adult to help put the dough into the hot oven.
Step 11: When the timer goes off, and with the help of an adult, carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven using oven mitts! Set out to cool. Tip: I used a rack to cool more quickly, but leaving on the baking sheet to cool is also ok.
Step 12: Next, once the dough is completely dry, bring them to a flat surface for decorating. Time to be creative! Take your crayons or colored pencils and color the leaves. They can look like the leaf you brought inside, or you can be creative and make it your own!
Step 13: You’re finished! Take a look back at your beautiful leaf impressions. Tip: Add your name or initials on the back or in the dough so that you can always remember who made this beautiful piece of art!
Your Salt Dough Leaf Impression is finished! Be sure to show it off to your friends and family and share with them what you learned about fall leaves, nature, and the outdoors! I hope you share this new way to create fun crafty projects from scratch.
Alternatives to this activity could be to use the salt dough as a memory making project. Instead of leaf impressions, use your handprint or a baby’s footprint to remember special moments. Another idea could be to form the dough into different shapes for ornaments, or just to hang around your house. For this alternative, you can make a hole in the top of the flattened dough prior to baking to make room for a string! You can also use paint, for a different colorful look on the dough. Overall, keep this art technique in mind for the next time you want to create something special from scratch!