If you’re already tired of hearing the resounding chorus of “I’m bored!” from your kids on those long summer days, this salt dough nature mobile DIY is for you. A fun, easy, and family-friendly DIY, it’s a great opportunity to get everyone outdoors and allow them to sink their hands into a tactile, sensory activity.
This DIY project is a great opportunity to get your kids outdoors and allow them to sink their hands into a tactile, sensory activity. In fact, if you start the collection process in the morning, the entire project can be completed by dinner.
This mobile would look sweet in any part of the house, but it would also make a great addition to a nursery. Babies love gazing up at hanging items from the changing table or during feedings.
And this project can be tailored to your particular decor preferences; for instance, include only green botanicals for a more minimal aesthetic.
Nature mobile SUPPLIES
- 1 Cup Flour
- ½ Cup Salt
- 4-5 oz. Water
- Optional: 5 oz. White Acrylic Paint
- Mixing Bowl, medium-large
- Mixing Bowl, small
- Measuring Cup
- Wooden Spoon
- Parchment Paper
- Rolling Pin
- Cookie Cutters, in circle/heart shapes
- Cookie Sheet
- Bamboo Skewer Sticks, to create the holes
- Sturdy Branch, at least 14” long and ¾” in diameter
- Collected Leaves, Floral Bits (and any other natural items)
- String, Jute, or Twine, in white or natural colors
- Darning Needle
Nature mobile PROCESS
1. COLLECT THE NATURAL ELEMENTS
- With baskets, bags, or a wagon, head out into God’s green goodness and begin the search for your natural elements. You’ll want to find a small branch or large stick that will be sturdy enough to support the dried dough ornaments, so look for something almost an inch in diameter. If you find something that looks like the right thickness, keep in mind you can use pruning shears to clip it down to your desired length.
- In addition to the hanger, you’ll want to collect natural elements to act as accessories. This is where little helpers have the most fun. Let them pick weeds, flowers, or any other botanicals that will fit nicely on a cookie-cutter-sized ornament.
2. MAKE THE DOUGH
- In the larger mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt until well-blended.
- In the smaller bowl, mix together 5 oz. of white acrylic paint with 5 oz. of water. (If you would rather the salt dough ornaments remain natural in color, you can skip the paint and reduce the water to 4 oz.)
- Using the wooden spoon, slowly stir the water (or water-paint liquid) into the flour mixture. Set the spoon aside, and get your hands into it! Mix and knead until all of the ingredients form a smooth dough. If the dough seems a bit too sticky, sprinkle some flour in until it is easy to handle.
Note: the dough can be stored in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to five days.
3. CREATE THE ORNAMENTS
- The desired layout of your mobile will inform the ornament construction. Consider how many ornaments will hang on your wooden stick and how you will arrange them. Prepare a few extra ornaments so that you can choose the nicest looking ones for your mobile.
- From your collection of botanicals, select the most appealing pieces and snip them all to the desired size to fit well on your ornaments.
- Place a baking-sheet-sized piece of parchment paper on the counter.
- Sprinkle a little bit of flour on the parchment paper and roll out some of your dough as if you were making sugar cookies. The dough should be about ⅛” thick and rolled out as evenly as possible.
Press, Cut, and Bake
- To achieve the cleanest possible edges on the shapes, press the floral bits into the dough before you cut out the shapes. If some of the floral bits don’t seem like they are pressed in enough, gently roll over them with a rolling pin to sink them a little deeper.
- Take your cookie cutter and press it into the dough around the first floral bit. While the cookie cutter is still pressed in, poke a bamboo stick into the top of the ornament to create a hole for the string to go through. For the ornaments that will support another ornament below them, add a second hole in the bottom. Repeat these steps for all of the floral pieces.
- Gently pull the excess dough away from your ornament shapes, and slide a cookie sheet under the parchment paper with the cut-out shapes.
- On the lowest temperature your oven offers (most will be around 170 degrees), put the cookie sheet of shapes in to dry for at least three hours. They can remain in the oven when you turn it off for further cooling and drying. As an alternative to baking, you can allow your shapes to dry at room temperature on the parchment sheet for 2-3 days.
Note: Ensure that you wash your supplies immediately after making the ornaments, especially if white paint was used in the dough.
4. ASSEMBLE THE NATURE MOBILE
- Set out your dried shapes on a work surface in the arrangement they will eventually hang in the mobile.
- Each dough shape will be attached with its own piece of string. Thread your needle and create a knot on one end of the string large enough to hold your ornament in place.
- Start with the lowest hanging ornament, and pull the thread through the hole until it catches. Tie the top of the string to the bottom of the next ornament. Continue this process until you reach the top ornaments. The top ornaments should have several inches of string (8-12) above them. Using this excess, attach each string of ornaments to the wooden stick.
- Add one final length of string to each end of the stick to create the hanger for the wall hook.
- Be sure to hang your mobile somewhere the creators–young or old–can admire their beautiful display of God’s handiwork.
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