Salt Dough Castle (to go with Magic Tree House Book 2)

It turns out that my kids actually knew quite a lot about medieval castles before we even read the second Magic Tree House Book (Knight at Dawn)!

Click HERE to see all the activities we've been doing with the Magic Tree House Books! They're designed for kids about 6-9 years old, though my 12-year old and 3-year old have also joined us in all the activities so far--they're really easy to adapt to a variety of ages!

I was really excited to build a salt dough castle with my kids because I think you can learn a lot from models! I used to encourage my students in public schools to make several models every year and, as a homeschooling mom, I feel like it's a tool that we don't take advantage of as often as we could. Here are a few of the benefits that come from building models:

1- Strengthens problem-solving skills
2- Allows kids to create
3- Helps kids visualize facts and information
4- Encourages teamwork and communication skills (if they're building it together)
5- Allows for cross-curricular subject integration (like STEM) into any theme
6- Involves design, art, science, math, engineering, technology, and other subjects! I realize this is basically the same as #5, but I think it is so important that it's worth saying twice!
7- Building things improves math skills (link to awesome study about that)
8- Exercises fine motor skills

So to get this project started I put a big piece of posterboard in the middle of my kids and asked them what they knew about medieval castles! (Asking your kids what they know about a subject before you teach it is a great way to get them to invest in the lesson too!)

I was actually surprised by the details they already knew! As they told me about each item, we diagrammed it on the posterboard with a crayon.  They mentioned strong walls (so I drew the curtain walls), four towers or battlements, the keep, the drawbridge, arrow slits, cannon slits, and the moat

The bailey (courtyard around the keep) sort of appeared by default as other items were named. We talked about ways to defend the castle, how castles and land were given by a king to lords, and how there was a whole city inside the curtain walls. One of my kids started to diagram the houses and shops lining the inside of the wall, but then decided to just wait until we built it. We left the wall "diagram" as just a crayon line. ;) 

You could add more math into this planning stage by designing the castle to scale--there are more details about castles HERE, including the fact that The Citadel in Egypt had walls 30 feet long and 10 feet thick!

Next we mixed up a big batch of salt dough. I used about 3 cups salt, 3 cups water, 8 cups flour, and 1/2-3/4 cup of cornstarch. The cornstarch is optional, but I like how it makes the dough a little softer. If it is too dry, add a tiny bit of water, and if it is too wet, add more flour.

We all took handfuls of salt dough and started building our castle! As we built, some of the kids got distracted and made things like snowmen and giants too--it's hard to resist when you have a massive pile of play dough! My youngest kids even joined in and played with the dough...we ended up with quite a bit of leftovers...maybe if we made our castle more than four inches tall we would have had less left over!

We also toothpicks to build battlement spikes and the drawbridge. Nobody was in the mood to make a functioning drawbridge or portcullis, so we just used the salt dough and toothpicks for those too.

Finally, when we finished building everything, we started to paint it. We had a lot of fun painting it, but after a bit everyone needed a break. We decided to finish it the next day.  ;)  

As you know, we are learning about castles to go with Knight at Dawn (the 2nd Magic Tree House book). You can learn more about the book by clicking on the image (an Amazon affiliate link) below:

And if you love the Magic Tree House series, you will want to check out the other activities we are doing with each book! Learn more about our plans, get a FREE "passport" to use with the books, and see our activities HERE!

And if you make a castle, let me know! Tag me on social media (Teaching Without Chairs on Facebook or Preschool_Powol_Packets on Instagram), leave a comment, or send me an email!

And if you're looking for more homeschool unit studies, be sure to check out our growing collection here!

Happy Educating,
Carla & the kids who don't sit still!



  1. We love salt dough and I know a couple of kids that would love to make this. I wonder if we can make it based on our local castle!