Look What We Made: Hand Print Santa Ornaments

liam hand print santa ornamentWe got crafty and made some homemade ornaments for family this year! Now that I have a little one, every little thing seems like a memory I must preserve somehow. What better way to save Liam’s hand print than to make an ornament out of it for the tree? I bet most kids are on winter break now, too, so here’s a great project you can do together.

UPDATE Dec 2012: Thanks for all the love on this post! This year we made a Hand Print Star Tree Topper for our Christmas tree … be sure to check that out, too, for another fun DIY holiday craft idea.

I saw a picture of a hand print Santa floating around Pinterest recently but there was no how-to, so I decided to replicate the idea and turn it into a special gift to celebrate Liam’s first Christmas. We even made the clay together, too! The best part? This project was “free” for me to make since I already had all the materials at home, and I bet you do, too! Here’s how we did it:

First you’re going to need some clay. Teaching 4th grade and making salt dough maps of Indiana in the classroom paid off; here’s the recipe I used to make the perfect salt dough clay:

Perfect Salt Dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water

making hand print santa ornamentsMix the flour and salt thoroughly in a large mixing bowl, and add the water. Use your hands to combine it all really well and begin forming “dough.” Knead, knead, and knead some more until you get the right consistency. I found that if it was a tad too dry to form the perfect ball of dough that all I needed to do was wet my hands a little and get back to kneading.  You want a nice soft, smooth ball of dough to work with. Not too grainy or dry, and not too sticky.

Sprinkle flour on your work surface and grab a rolling pin. It’s kind of like making holiday sugar cookies now; roll your dough out to form an even, flat disc of dough. I didn’t grab a ruler or anything so I can’t tell you exactly how thick or thin we rolled our dough out to, but remember that you need it to be thick enough so that when the hand is pressed into the dough that the indention doesn’t make the ornament too thin in places, and thus super fragile.

making hand print santa ornamentsMaking the hand prints with a 5.5 month old took two sets of hands. (Not including Liam’s hands!) Lucas held Liam and I pressed his hand into the dough. With his hand down, I made sure to give a little extra (gentle) press of each finger and the heel of his hand to ensure a good impression. Then I just rotated the dough and we repeated the process until I had eight little hand prints. If the dough is a little sticky, rub some flour on your kiddo’s palm before pressing. It helps!

When the hard part was done, I used a sharp knife and cut out around the edge of each hand print, leaving a thin edge around the whole hand. Don’t forget to punch a small hole near the heel of each dough hand print so that you can add a ribbon for hanging later! Remember that the hand is going to hang on the tree with its fingers down, since the fingers form Santa’s beard.

Now let the hand prints dry for about 4 days. Just like cut-out sugar cookies, we used a spatula to transfer the little hand print cut-outs onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Don’t bake them, though! Just set the cookie sheet in a safe place and let the hand prints dry out. In 2 days, turn each hand over so that the back side can also be exposed to the air and the ornaments can dry out all the way through. The waiting is actually the hardest part!

making hand print santa ornamentsNow that you have perfectly hardened little hand prints, it’s time to paint! I like to spray each with clear acrylic spray sealer first, just to give me a good, smooth base for painting. For painting, I didn’t use anything fancy, just acrylic craft paints in red, white, black, and flesh tone.

I painted our Santas in layers, that is, that I went through and painted the swipe of skin tone on all of the ornaments first, then went back and painted the white pom pom in the thumb and made the white fur trim of the Santa hat next, and then did the red hat. By the time I had finished painting the same layer on all eight ornaments, the first one was dry enough to continue to the next paint layer. Then I went back with white and painted the length of each finger and had them meet up with the face to form the beard; I also did a quick set of “bumps” in white that overlapped the face a bit to create a mustache at the top of the beard. Then I gave all of my Santas a red dot nose. Once noses were done, I went back with a little pink that I made from mixing my leftover red and white on the palette to add dots for blushing cheeks, and a dot for the mouth just below the nose. I let everything dry for about 10 more minutes, and then I used black and a super fine paintbrush to add in details like outlining the mustache area, adding eyes, and outlining a bit on each finger of the beard and the pom pom to make those parts of Santa really stand out.

making hand print santa ornamentsLet the paint dry thoroughly and then get out your Mod Podge. I gave the fronts two coats of Mod Podge each, allowing for ample time to dry between coats. (Until the white of the Mod Podge had gone completely clear.) Then I flipped the Santas over and got out my black paint and super fine paintbrush so that I could put Liam’s name and the year on the back. Once the black paint dried, I then gave the backs two coats of Mod Podge, too.

I gave both the front and back of each ornament a final quick spray with clear acrylic sealer just to add a finish to the entire project. This gave each ornament a little extra protection and a slightly glossy sheen. I also feel like it helps keep the ornaments from having a bit of a tacky, sticky feel from the Mod Podge.

liam hand print santa ornamentFor the finishing touch, I strung up each ornament with festive red and green ribbon so that they could be hung on the Christmas tree. If the holes you made in the dough initially for this purpose are a bit clogged from all of the Mod Podge and spray sealer layers, grab something like the tip of a pen to punch through and clean out the opening so you can get your ribbon through.

And voila! Your child’s hand print is forever preserved as an ornament for the tree, and these ornaments make great gifts for grandparents and other family members. Don’t want to do Santa? No problem – just follow the steps to create the ornaments and when it comes time for painting, paint the whole thing a single color or decorate them another way. No matter how you paint, you’ve got the memory of your child’s hand print to keep.


liam hand print santa ornament liam hand print santa ornament liam hand print santa ornament liam hand print santa ornament

I’m thinking of making these Santa hand print ornaments every year so that we can compare how Liam’s hand grows as he gets older, what do you think?

UPDATE Dec 2012: Thanks for all the love on this post! This year we made a Hand Print Star Tree Topper for our Christmas tree … be sure to check that out, too, for another fun DIY holiday craft idea.

Happy holiday crafting with your kids!