At some point in elementary school, my son had a detective kit which allowed him to dust for fingerprints. He happily went around lifting prints off every possible surface, until he ran out of materials and potential criminals. He took his detective role very seriously, and loved learning about whorls, arches and loops. The fascinating world of fingerprints is definitely a fun subject to explore with children.
- black ink pad
- card stock
- access to photocopy machine
- pencil and eraser
- tracing paper
- masking tape
- white glue
- very fine paint brush
- fine glitter
1. Every fingerprint is unique, so no two can be alike. The tips of our fingers have raised ridges of skin that form patterns, and these patterns are referred to as either whorls, arches or loops. Each finger has its own pattern, which remains unchanged throughout life, although you might find the odd line/scar from injuries. Have a look at this chart, which shows the different types of fingerprints we have, and this site which provides a more in depth look at the history and characteristics of fingerprints.
2. Now comes the fun part where each child can see what kind of patterns they have. Have them press a finger on an ink pad, making sure to get ink on the sides as well. Now have them press the finger onto a piece of paper. Repeat with all fingers and thumbs, and refer back to the chart to determine what they have.
3. The next part involves enlarging a print and covering it in glitter. Select a really good, clear fingerprint to photocopy/enlarge. The one we used was enlarged 300 times. It won’t be perfect, and there will be slight smudges, but it will be good enough to work from.
4. Tape a piece of tracing paper on top of the photocopy, and with a sharp pencil, trace the lines. Write “front” somewhere in a corner so you don’t confuse the sides. Turn the paper over, and trace over the lines. Make sure you place it on top of a scrap paper while doing this. Turn tracing paper over to the front side and place it on top of the card stock you will be using as your final surface. Tape it in place and gently rub a coin on top of the entire drawing in several directions. Lift up a corner to make sure you transferred the image properly. Remove tracing paper.
5. Pour some white glue in a shallow container, and using a very fine paint brush, apply the glue to the lines on the drawing. I did try using a glue pencil thinking it would be easier, but the tip just wasn’t fine enough, and the lines were too thick. If there is more space between the lines, it would probably work well, but the image would have to be very large.
Add some fine glitter on top, and shake off the excess on a piece of paper, which will make it easy to return to the bottle later. Do small sections at a time, or the glue will dry. It’s not important to cover every single line, but as much as you can to get the general pattern.
This project was inspired by a cool magazine add for Cartier: