Art-Making Activity: Salt Dough Sculpture

Unidentified maker, Ancestral Puebloan, New Mexico, Bowl (St. John’s Polychrome), 1175-1300AD, Red-slipped earthenware, black and white paint, 5 x 11 5/8 in (12.7 x 29.53 cm), Gift of S. Thomas Alexander, 93.359

All around the world, people make art and utilitarian objects out of clay. For this activity, we are going to make a salt dough that will behave a bit like clay. Salt dough is cheap and easy to make. When baked in the oven on very low heat, the dough becomes hard and can be painted. 

When artists make things, they have a lot of decisions to make. Once you have made your clay, you are going to make something of your choosing. But there is a twist! You will also make several changes to your work along the way!  


  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water 
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Parchment, wax paper, or paper plates

Make the Salt Dough

  1. Put the salt and flour into the mixing bowl and mix together. Pour in the water a little at a time and mix thoroughly 
  2. Stir until the mixture becomes stiff, then knead it with your hands to form a firm dough.  Make the dough into a ball. 
  3. Divide the dough between participating artists.


Create your Sculpture

  1. When each artist has their clay, they will have 5 minutes to make something out of it.  This can be anything that they wish to create.
  2. When time is up, ask the participants to change their work by adding something to it. Again, they will have 5 minutes to do this.
  3. When time is up, ask the participants to change their work by taking something away. Again, they will have 5 minutes to do this.
  4. Finally, each participant will have 5 minutes to create a final version of their sculpture.
  5. After the works are finalized, have a discussion about how it feels to change your work.
  6. Finally, display the finished sculptures on a white paper plates and take a gallery walk to look at each of the sculptures.  


Put finished sculptures on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.  When hard, turn the oven off but leave the salt dough sculptures inside to cool to help stop the salt dough from cracking.  Make sure not to have the oven too hot as salt dough will crack if the temperature is too high!

Add some color with water-based paints.

Give your work a title and write a museum label to describe it.