Uses for Salt: Children's Activities

Salt is an inexpensive ingredient for dozens of fun-filled arts and crafts projects for children of all ages. What's more, salt can be used in tricks that people have been studying for hundreds of years. This article features a handful of exciting children's activities or projects that are possible with salt. But please note that some of the projects will require adult supervision. Now let's get started with how to make a special dough that can be used for hours of creative play or as part of numerous projects.

Salt Dough

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One of the most common creative uses for salt is to make a dough that is similar to molding clay and some of the popular play clays. Best of all, salt dough is easy to make and economical! Give this recipe a try with your children on the next rainy day or during school break. Begin by collecting the following ingredients.

  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Medium bowl
  • 11/2 cups warm water
  • Rolling pin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil*

Salt PaintingThis cool art project will take your children a couple of days to complete, but the results will be well worth the wait! To get started, you will need the following materials:

  • Clear self-adhesive vinyl
  • Scissors
  • Salt
  • Watercolors
  • Paintbrush
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Coloring book (optional)
  1. Cut the self-adhesive vinyl into a size suitable for drawing a picture (8 × 10 inches is a good size). Peel backing from the vinyl, then sprinkle the entire sticky side with salt. Hold up the vinyl, and gently shake off any excess salt. Let it sit for 2 days.
  2. Place the sheet of vinyl, salty side up, on top of a coloring book picture to trace, or over a plain piece of paper to make an original drawing. Using a set of watercolors and a paintbrush, paint the salty side of vinyl to make the drawing. Paint lightly; too much pressure could ruin the paintbrush. Let it dry, then remove the paper from underneath the sheet of vinyl. Glue the painted salt paper to a background piece of paper to make it sturdy. You can glue it either the salty-side or smooth-side up.

Gift Bath SaltsSave money on gifts by making your own fragrant bath salts. This is a great activity to do with your kids, too! Before you begin, collect the following materials:

  • Large glass or metal mixing bowl
  • 2 cups Epsom salt
  • 1 cup sea salt, rock salt, or coarse salt
  • Food coloring
  • Metal spoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon glycerin
  • Essential oil for fragrance such as vanilla, citrus, or peppermint (optional)
  • Glass jars with screw-on metal lids or cork stoppers or clear gift bags

This project is best done on a day with low humidity because the salt will absorb moisture in the air. Combine the salts in the bowl and mix well. Add food coloring and stir with a metal spoon until well blended. (Food coloring will stain plastic or wooden spoons.) Add glycerin and about 4 to 5 drops of essential oil; stir again. Adjust the coloring if desired by adding more food coloring. Spoon the colored salts into decorative glass jars or gift bags. Add a gift tag with instructions to use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the salts in a bath.Older children can also discover hours of fun by working on creative projects involving salt. Let's check out some of those advanced projects in the next section.

Advanced Salt Projects

Salt is an inexpensive ingredient that can add some magic to more advanced projects, such as a bread basket to be used as a gift or centerpiece or a crystal garden decoration that can brighten any table. These projects are economical and offer hours of creative fun for older children. Let's begin with a project that involves using salt dough, which we learned to make in the previous section.

Salt Dough Bread Basket

Begin by collecting the following ingredients and materials:

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  • 7-inch glass bowl
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Aluminum foil
  • Flour
  • Knife
  • Ruler
  • Pastry brush
  • Water
  • Cookie sheet
  • 1 egg
  • Small bowl
  • Clear shellac or varnish
  1. Make one batch of Salt Dough (see previous section). Set the dough aside. Turn the glass bowl upside down, and spray its entire outside surface with nonstick spray. Cover the sprayed areas with aluminum foil. Smooth the foil and tuck the extra edges inside the bowl.
  2. Lightly flour a tabletop or breadboard, then roll the salt dough into a rectangular shape 14 inches long, 6 inches wide, and about 1/8 inch thick. Then cut 8 strips, each 3/4 inches wide by 14 inches long. Lay out 4 strips of dough horizontally on your work surface. Weave the remaining 4 strips vertically over and under horizontal strips, working very carefully. Don't leave any spaces between strips.
  3. Using a pastry brush, spread water over the points where the dough strips overlap. This will help bind them together. Slide the woven strip section to the edge of the tabletop, and hold the bowl at counter level. Carefully slide the strips onto the bottom of the bowl. Overlap strips around the edges of the bowl and over each other. Press down in areas where the strips bunch up.
  4. Cut the remaining dough into 3 strips, each 3/4 inch wide by 26 inches long. Roll each strip into a rope shape. When you've created 3 ropes, braid them together into 1 rope. Place the braided rope around the rim of the bowl on top of the woven strips. Overlap 1/2 inch where the two ends of the braid meet, and press these overlapped parts together. Trim off any excess dough. Moisten the braided rope and the lattice dough strips where they overlap, and gently press them together a little more. Place the dough-covered bowl on a cookie sheet, and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the basket from the oven and carefully remove the dough from the glass bowl. Keeping it upside down, place the dough basket back onto the cookie sheet. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl, then brush the egg mixture onto the dough basket. Return the basket to the oven and bake it another 15 minutes or until the basket is dry and golden brown. Remove the basket to a wire cooling rack and let it cool completely. Shellac or varnish the basket inside and out. Let the basket dry for 24 hours.

Grow a Crystal GardenWho said a garden was only made of flowers? This cool salt project is a sparkling alternative to decorate any table and it's educational, too! Let's begin by collecting the following materials:

  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons liquid bluing (a laundry whitening product)
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon ammonia
  • Medium bowl
  • Small rocks or rock pieces
  • Shallow bowl
  • Food coloring
  • Tray or breadboard (optional)

Mix the salt, bluing liquid, water, and ammonia in a medium-size bowl. Place the rocks in a shallow bowl and pour the mixture over them. Then drip the food coloring on top of the rocks. Crystals will grow in about 3 weeks. After that time, keep adding the water and they'll continue to grow. Place the bowl on a tray or breadboard if the crystals begin to grow over the edges of the bowl.The ideas presented in this article are only a handful of the many exciting children's activities and arts projects that are possible with salt. All children need is some free time, a creative imagination, and an ample supply of salt.©Publications International, Ltd.