Holiday Kids’ Craft Project: DIY Keepsake Hand Ornament

Written by: Cody McBurnett

small hands hanging a custom clay hand ornament on a Christmas tree

A yearly holiday tradition in our house is making an ornament of my son Waylon’s hand. We love crafting and this is a relatively easy and low-cost project that can be done in about 15 minutes (minus drying time).

Waylon loves unwrapping “his” ornaments and pressing his palm into hands of years past to show how much he’s grown, and then it’s his job to get them all on the tree. This is his ninth Christmas and it’s been a delight to watch the collection grow over the years. But honestly, it’s never too late to start and can make you smile even if you do it just this one year. (If you want to make multiples, these make really sweet gifts for grandparents as well.)

Unfortunately, year one I was fooled by crafty Pinterest posts into trying to do this project with salt dough. The ornament was cute for a short while, but hasn’t stood the test of time. I’ve heard from other grownups who have tried salt dough that theirs have broken and/or crumbled, so let me save you a bit of time and disappointment by avoiding my mistake and jumping right into one of my favorite crafting materials: air-dry clay.


supplies needed for making an air-dry clay Christmas ornament

DIY Keepsake Hand Ornament

Here’s what you’ll need:

hands cutting the ornament shape out of red paper with safety scissors

Rather than trying to cut around little hands pressed into damp clay, I start by tracing Waylon’s hand on thick paper or cardstock. (An added benefit to this is that you can then keep the templates in case an ornament ever breaks and you want to remake it—just be sure to mark the paper cut-out with the child’s name and the year.)


hands on a rolling paper rolling out clay between two sheets of parchment paper

Roll out your clay flat to about ¼” thickness between sheets of parchment or wax paper.


hands using a clay cutting tool to cut out the shape of the ornament from air-dry clay

Lay your paper template over the flat, smooth clay and use a clay tool (or disposable knife) to cut out the shape of the hand. You can use a paper straw to make the hole for hanging and a damp finger to smooth out any rough edges. (No tree? Skip the hole, bend the clay hand slightly on a rounded surface as it dries and it’s a decorative little dish!)


ornament on a plate with "Waylon 2022" carved into the wet clay

Using a toothpick or something similar, add the child’s name and the year to the ornament and allow it to dry for 24-48 hours (check your clay’s instructions) somewhere it won’t get handled by clumsy, curious hands while it hardens.

Want to get even craftier? Once it dries, feel free to paint it or let your kiddo get creative decorating it themselves. I have painted some white and I’ve left others the natural clay color—do what you have time and patience for!


Clay hand ornament hanging on a Christmas tree with other ornaments

Tie your ornament with a signature Danrie ribbon and—voilà!—hang proudly year after year.


Danrie DIY