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Sense-ational Christmas Ornaments

Let’s start with a premise:

The more senses you can involve in an activity/experience, the more meaningful – and memorable – that activity will be.

This is especially true for our seniors with dementia, who have a greater need for sensory experiences to circumvent the parts of their brains that no longer reliably deliver memories. Of course, those of us without cognitive impairments can love multi-sensory experiences, too.

Here’s a multi-sensory activity for this season, one that’s cheap and smells great:

Cinnamon Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments

This is a variation on the salt dough ornaments you might have made before. While regular salt dough ornaments are still an excellent option for this time of year, this variation adds the element of fragrance.

What you need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup cinnamon
  • 1 cup nutmeg (or another cup of cinnamon)
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • Small- to medium-sized cookie cutters
  • One straw
  • Ribbon
  • Glitter glue, markers, paint, or other supplies for decorating the ornaments
  • Clear polyurethane (optional)

What to do:

1. Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the water gradually, stirring until a dough ball begins to form. Knead by hand until the dough is all pulled together in a cohesive ball. (You may need some more water to form the dough ball, especially in dry environments.)

2. Roll the dough out on a floured surface. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Using the straw, poke a hole at the top of each ornament. (This is where the ribbon for hanging the ornament will go.)

3. Transfer the ornaments to cookie sheets. Bake at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours, until the ornaments are completely dry and firm. (You may also let the ornaments dry out at room temperature, although this will take at least 24 hours.)

4. Decorate. If you use markers and paint, you may want to apply a clear coat of polyurethane, but this may take away from the lovely cinnamon scent.

Depending on the size of your cookie cutters, you’ll get about 24 ornaments from this recipe.

There you go! This could be a fun group activity in a senior living community, or a small group experience in the family kitchen for those of you working in home care. It would also work well as an intergenerational activity.

And, if you wish to add a musical element to this multi-sensory experience, try one of the holiday stations at AccuRadio.com.

What do you think? If you’ve done this recipe before, or if you decide to try it out, I’d love to hear from you! Just add a comment below.

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