My kids love to watch different forms of light, and I have searching for a way to make an environmentally friendly sun catcher ornament that we can hang in our sunny playroom window. I didn’t want to use melted plastic beads due to concerns about the fumes from the melting plastic. So I set to work to create a more environmentally friendly version. I took my idea from some beautiful stained glass sugar cookies that a certain craft maven named Martha created. It all looked so easy!!! Her cookies were so beautiful! I figured if it worked in cookies, melted sugar could be used for the sun catchers too. Well, it took a lot of trial, and a lot of error to find a way to do this, but A., and I figured it out.
You will need:
Bake-able playdough – my favorite recipe follows
Fine colored sugar crystals – like what you would use to decorate sugar cookies (the large sugar crystals won’t melt very well.)
Cookie cutters of different sizes – One of the cutters needs to be small enough to cut a window in a larger shape.
A drinking straw
1. Make a batch of playdough. For these sun catchers I made trees, so I made the playdough green. I also added peppermint extract that covers up the homemade playdough smell for sensory sensitive kids.
2. Roll the playdough out to about ¼” thickness. You don’t want this too thick.
3. Cut shapes out of the playdough with large cookie cutters.
4. Cut windows out of the larger shapes with a smaller cookie cutter.
5. Use the drinking straw to make a hole in the top of the shape.
6. Preheat oven to 175 degrees F.
7. Put playdough cut-outs on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
8. Put cut-outs in the oven. Bake at 175 degrees for about 15 minutes. You don’t want them to get brown. Turn the oven off, and let it cool completely down. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to dry and harden the playdough.
9. Don’t let your kids, who think these are cookies, eat them (although it won’t hurt them – I learned this the hard way.
10. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
11. After the cut-outs are cool (make sure to do them on parchment paper – or you will have a terrible mess), put the colored sugar sprinkles in the cut-out window.
12. Put small strips of aluminum foil over the playdough areas to keep them from browning (skip this step if you plan to paint them anyway)
13. Place cut-outs in the oven.
14. This part is tricky!!!!***Turn the light on in the oven if possible. Watch them carefully. Wait for the sugar to start to melt, but you don’t want it to boil. If it boils you will have caramel (again – learned this the hard way). Remove from the oven the minute the sugar melts.
15. When the cutouts are completely cool, you can paint them (we used liquid watercolors and it was lovely). Then cover them front and back with Modge Podge so the sugar doesn’t stick to everything. I also added a touch of glitter, because, well, I love it!
16. Tie a ribbon through the hole, and hang your sun catcher anywhere you need a little sparkle!
We also tried it by baking the cut-out dough shapes to dry and harden, but left the sugar out. Then we used tracing paper and/or colored transparent plastic sheeting to cut out and glue to the back of the sun catcher. These had great results too!
Here is a great bake-able playdough recipe. A. loves the texture, but does not like the smell, so I add different extracts into it, and he loves it. His favorite are vanilla, lemon, and peppermint. The Littles love it too!
Bake-able Play Dough Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk until completely combined.
- Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for three or four minutes or until the mixture changes consistency, becomes thick, and loses its stickiness. Dump onto waxed or parchment paper.
- Knead the play dough for a few minutes or until smooth.
A and I learned a lot by working to refine our process. It was a great learning experience. I hope you like these as much as we do.