Sweet Pea is 39 months old.
- Washable ink pad.
- About 10 Note cards or pieces of sturdy paper.
- Damp towel for wiping ink off fingers, hands, arms and everywhere else.
- Fine point black marker.
- A pencil with an eraser.
- A book of fingerprint drawings for inspiration, such as Ed Emberley’s Complete Funprint Drawing Book, Klutz The Most Amazing Thumb Doodles Book in the History of the Civilized World or Klutz Draw Thumbprint Animals Book (optional).
- Glitter glue and confetti for embellishments (optional).
- Smock or bib for your tot. (optional).
- Mark the location where you want your tot to make a fingerprint by very lightly drawing a small oval about 1/2 inch from the edge on each of the cards.
- Gather your materials and sit next to your tot.
- Take out a note card and point to the oval you have drawn. Demonstrate gently pressing your thumb to the top of the ink pad. Press your inked thumb onto of the oval and then lift it straight back up. Set your note card aside to dry.
- Take out a new note card and (if she will let you) hold your tot’s hand as you teach her how to press down on the pad to get her thumb inky. Next help her press down on top of the oval to make a print.
- Let her try on her own.
- Continue making fingerprints until you run out of cards. Use a damp towel to wipe the extra ink off your tot’s fingers between cards if necessary.
- Let all of the cards dry.
- If you can see the oval under the ink, gently use the eraser to remove it.
- Use a fine point black marker to create animals out of the fingerprints by drawing body parts on them. For example, add whiskers, ears and a tail for a mouse or draw a nose, legs and curly tail for a pig. An older child could do this themselves, but Sweet Pea loved watching me draw these.
- Although it is easy to make simple animals, Ed Emberley’s Complete Funprint Drawing Book has very clear instructions for slightly more complicated versions. Here is an example of how to draw a frog, which I mostly recreated from Ed Emberley’s book:
- Optionally let your tot add glitter glue and other embellishments to the animals.
Observations: This is one of Sweet Pea’s favorite activities. She always wants to make more thumbprint animals. At first, she had a really difficult time making a single fingerprint, but she has had lots of practice and has the hang of it now.
This is a very fun activity for an older tot and the finished note cards are great for writing quick notes to grandparents. If you make enough of them, you could give an entire blank set as a gift too.
Notes from the Trenches: This activity is very messy and your tot will probably get ink everywhere. You need washable ink. Do not attempt this with a regular ink pad.
I had a lot of trouble fighting down my perfectionism while we were making the fingerprints. Sweet Pea’s fingerprints were smudgy and sloppy and I wanted to hold her hand while she made the prints so they would come out exactly right. Actually, I was about to melt down and put everything away, but had the revelation that a perfect finished note card was not the point of the activity. I pulled myself together and was able to let Sweet Pea start making her prints however she wanted. The odd shaped fingerprints, with smudges and all, ended up working out just fine for a variety of different animals. To borrow a subtitle from a Mary Ann Kohl book, “It is the process, not the product.”
Rating: 1 Stars * (Fun)