Raised from Scratch

growing up outside the box: alternatives to processed food and television

Easy Peasy Clay Ornaments December 21, 2012

food dye coloring before drying

heart clay ornament

assorted homemade clay ornaments

We’ve been making these ornaments for weeks now – all from one batch of clay. Apparently the clay mixture will stay malleable so long as it is refrigerated. I haven’t tested this to the full extent and don’t know at what point you’d have to throw it out, but we’ve had some clay for over two weeks that we can still pull out of the refrigerator any time we feel like making an ornament or two. It definitely makes a good project to keep on hand for kids over the holiday break, and it’s one in which even toddlers can participate.

To color these ornaments I experimented with food dye (which I never use in food) and tempera paint. The food dye was fun to work with and use as a watercolor paint, but the colors fade a lot after the clay dries, so ultimately I recommend using real paints in place of, or in addition to food dye. Glitter glue worked quite nicely to jazz up some of the plain ornaments, and we got creative using wires, string and beads to make hangers.

multicolored paint swirl ornament

cooking christmas clay ornaments 1

To make clay, combine in a medium saucepan:

2 cups baking soda (1 box)

1 cup cornstarch

1  1/2 cups water


  • Stir frequently with a wooden spoon while cooking over medium heat about 10 minutes, then stir constantly another 5 minutes until dough is too thick to stir with a spoon. Remove from heat.
  • Once cool enough to touch, knead dough by hand until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. If you want dyed clay, add food coloring while kneading. Keep wrapped in plastic until ready to use. Store any clay intended for future use tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.

cooking christmas clay ornaments 2

flourless clay after kneading

Above: What clay should look like after kneading

Below: Ella mixes green food coloring into her clay

making green flourless clay

  • To cut ornaments: gather cookie cutters, a rolling pin, some extra cornstarch to dust cutting surface, something to poke a hole in your ornament (toothpick or chopstick work well), and a cookie sheet to place ornaments to dry. You can roll your clay directly on the plastic wrap you kept it moist in, or a cutting board works well.
  • Generously dust work surface with cornstarch. Roll out clay to desired thickness (no thinner than 1/4 inch and I’d recommend erring on the thick side because we broke a few of ours), cut with cookie cutters, re-roll extra clay and repeat as many times as necessary. Use cornstarch to keep cookie cutters and rolling pin from sticking to the clay. After forming ornaments, poke a hole in each before allowing to dry.
  • Ornaments will take between 1 and 2 days to fully dry if left at room temperature! Or you can bake them at 250 F for about 1 hour. 

cutting ornaments

cut ornaments left to dry

Above: poking holes in ornaments left to dry on cookie sheet
Below: Ella uses food coloring to “paint” her ornaments before allowing them to dry (color will fade after drying)

painting with food dye

painting with tempera

Above: Ella uses tempera paints for dried snowflakes

assorted clay ornaments heart stamps

Above and below: what painting with food coloring looks like while clay is still damp

Ella's ornaments dyed with food coloring

yellow and red circle ornaments snowflake cutouts

glitter glue ornaments

Above: ornaments were decorated with silver glitter glue after allowing painted ornaments to dry completely

2012 snowflake ornament on tree

Above and below: stamps can be used to imprint ornaments while clay is still damp. I wrapped green ribbon around an empty ribbon spool and used crafting wire to hang this ornament.

2012 snowflake ornament

Below: assorted ornaments with wire hangers and decorative beads

line of snowflake ornaments


Original inspiration for clay ornaments from: Busy Bee Kids Crafts