You look down at the sweet little face resting against your chest. Cradling the back of the neck with the crook of your elbow, you reach for that tiny little hand with your own. You place a finger on their tiny palm and their little fingers instinctively curl around yours.
You let them keep holding on to you because – let’s be honest – there really isn’t anywhere you’d rather be or anything better your hands could be doing. In your stillness, you look across at the homemade, heirloom blocks laying out on the living room table.
There they sit, covered with your sweet little one’s fingerprints. Black, teal, yellow, purple and white overlap crazily, telling the story of tiny hands that love to explore, love to create, and love to try new things.
Looking back at your hands held together on your chest, you can’t help but feel a sentimental pang at the idea of this sweet little baby growing up. But you know that that just means that you’ll be able to make even more memories together, get to know each other even more, be able to grow up together even more.
You love those tiny fingerprints now, but just think how much you’ll get to love them even more as you get to know the hands and heart behind them.
Fingerprint blocks are SO sweet, adorable, and filled with precious memories. They are easy to customize and become a treasured memento of the time your beloved little one was still very tiny. But, more than a memento, these blocks will also help to educate your baby, helping them to develop essential motor skills and conceive of early STEM concepts. How great is that!
Warning: You must test a small batch of your little ones’ sensitive skin at least 24 hours before this activity. Although dry paint is toy-safe, every child’s skin sensitivity to wet paint is different. DO NOT continue this activity if your little one has a reaction of any kind to the paint. Do not let them consume the wet paint. And note that this paint is very high quality. It will NOT wash out of clothes and linens. Instead, prepare and protect your work surface, keeping baby wipes and rags on hand to quickly wipe fingers and surfaces clean. With the proper, safe precautions, this can be a safe and fun activity with your little one.
Also, little children do not have a long, sustained attention spans. You might need to do this activity in spurts. We made our first fingerprint blocks when our little ones had just turned two years old. It took us four nights, doing one color at a time until the little ones couldn’t hold their wiggles in any longer. It was well worth it, but it did take more time than we initially expected. But, when that same little one was three years old, they were able and willing to sit for much longer to make these special toys!
This tutorial presumes that you are familiar with ‘The Basics of Toymaking.‘ If you haven’t already, check out these short tutorials to learn how to quickly and easily make beautiful toys.
For our example, we created toys that had Cozy Black, Baby Rose Pink, Mary Blue, Hazy Purple, Snowy White, and Butter Yellow. But you can choose your colors to create bespoke toys. You may have several sweet children with whom you want to make fingerprint blocks. Each child could have their color combination, so they can proudly say they helped make their special blocks. For instance, Rosy Red, Baby Rose, Butter Yellow, and Snowy White would make cute and sweet wooden toys. But Mary Blue, Meadow Green, Hazy Purple, Warm Grey, and Snowy White would also make darling toys! You get to choose!
How to Make Fingerprint Blocks
Test the Skin
At least 24 hours before crafting, test a small amount of paint on the sensitive skin underneath your little one’s wrist. If there is ANY reaction to the wet paint, do NOT continue this activity with them.
Prep Your Painting Surface
In our experience, crafting with little ones gets messy. And, because it is an adult craft and not a children’s craft, the paint was NOT designed for the messes that children make. This durable, toy-safe PAINT WILL NOT WASH OUT. Ensure that your painting surface is covered (parchment paper works well!) and that you and the little one wear appropriate painting clothes. Set out baby wipes or rags to quickly wipe down messes and sticky, painted fingers.
Prep the Blocks
Check each edge of the wooden toys. If there are any rough edges, sand them smooth and wipe them clean.
For detailed instructions and tips, see the “Prepping the Blocks” Tutorial.
Mix Your Paints
Our “Mixing Your Favorite Colors” Tutorial will teach you how to get the perfect shade.
We used the following colors in this example, but you are welcome to use YOUR favorite combinations!
- Combine Rosy Red and Butter Yellow to create Baby Rose Pink.
- Combine Mary Blue and Rosy Red to create Hazy Purple.
Connect with Your Little One
- Have your little one sit next to you or on your lap. One of the best parts of this activity is asking your little one which colors they want to do! They will love being a part of making the toys.
- Ask them, “Which color do you want to do first?”. Because the colors will overlap, it does not matter which color they choose first; they will be delighted to help decide.
Applying the Fingerprints
Carefully help the little one dip their finger into the paint color of their choice. You do not need a lot.
Fingerprint on the Long Grain
- Place the fingerprints on the four long grain sides of the wooden blocks.
- Do not place any fingerprints on the end grain of the block.
Counting the Fingerprints
- One of the best ways to get a consistent look AND to spend time educating your little one is to count out loud the number of fingerprints on each side of the block.
- For instance, in our example blocks, we have three Baby Rose Pink dots on each side of the wooden block. If you want to follow our color combination, here is how many fingerprints of each color we put on each side of the toy block.
- Baby Rose Pink = Three Fingerprints
- Butter Yellow = Two Fingerprints
- Snowy White = Three Fingerprints
- Cozy Black = Two Fingerprints
- Hazy Purple = Three Fingerprints
- Mary Blue = One Fingerprint
- Place on an unpainted side to dry.
Wipe the Finger Clean
Once you have finished putting the fingerprint blocks on each of the four sides of the toys, wipe the little ones’ fingers clean.
Choose a New Color and Repeat
- Choose a new toy-safe paint color and repeat.
- Try to have the little one scatter the fingerprints around the side of the toy. Challenge them to find an ’empty spot’ for each new fingerprint.
- It is ok if some of the fingerprints overlap! These are not supposed to be ‘perfect,’ and the squishy, abstract fingerprints will look adorable if overlapped.
- Continue until you have finished with all of your chosen paint colors and each of the toys.
- Let dry.
Say Thank You!
The little ones’ part is done! Give them a snuggle and a kiss on the forehead, telling them they did a fantastic job. They might want to watch you finish making the toys, but we recommend that the adults continue the rest of the project by themselves.
Here begins the adult’s finishing work.
- Take your sandpaper and, using the technique from the ‘Basics of Toymaking‘ tutorial, sand the end grain of the wooden block, making a crisp edge.
- You might also look carefully at the sides of the wooden toy. If there are big, bubbly fingerprints, you can lightly sand them smooth. But do so carefully. You don’t want to remove those cute smudges!
- Wipe clean.
Seal the Four Sides
- With your foam applicator or perfect brush, seal the four fingerprint sides with two thin coats of toy-safe sealer.
- Set a finger-width apart from the other toys on an unpainted side to dry.
- If desired, set them on a plastic gallon freezer bag. This can help prevent them from accidentally getting ‘glued’ to the drying surface.
Specific instructions for sealing your blocks can be found here.
Apply the BridgeWood Star
- Cut out and center the star stencil on the end grain of the fingerprint blocks.
- In our example, we used a white star. You can use whatever color you desire.
- Using the ‘Toymaking Basics techniques,’ gently scrape the toy-safe paint over the star. Peel to reveal, and you have your perfect image!
- Flip to the other side and repeat.
- Set on a sealed and dry ‘fingerprint’ side to dry.
- Continue with the rest of the set.
Seal the Stars
- With your foam applicator or perfect brush, seal the two star sides with two thin coats of toy-safe sealer.
- Set on a sealed and dry ‘fingerprint’ side to dry.
- Continue with the rest of the set.
- Cure for 72 Hours.
- Although the sealer will be dry to the touch very quickly, the underlayers still need to cure and dry.
- Store the toys a finger-width apart and on a gallon plastic freezer bag to avoid ‘gluing’ them to each other or the drying surface.
- Turn daily to ensure even curing on all sides of the wooden toys.
- We bet your little one is just WILD to play with the special toys they made with you! There is something special about playing with toys you made; your little one will forever associate those toys with the special memory of the time they had you all to themselves.
- Take some time to play with them, getting down to build towers, knock them down and create magical playscapes with your memorable toys.