What’s sweeter than a keepsake of your baby’s tiny handprint or footprint? It’s the perfect way to preserve the memory of those tiny toes and little fingers. We had both of our kids’ footprints inked when they were born which I keep in the baby books, but I wanted something I could display. When our first child, my daughter, made her 1 year I wanted to do something special and so I found a handprint clay plaque kit.
It was perfect because it had the mold for it, the letters and numbers for marking in the clay and a nice little easel to display it on. It also came in pink or blue. I had ordered it from one of those party supply catalogs they send us every year. To keep up with the tradition I had planned on doing the same thing for our son, but when the time came for his first birthday I couldn’t find one exactly like it. There were others kinds but not what I wanted so I made my own.
DIY Clay Handprint Plaque with Dough
This is a recipe that I found which I used to make my own clay plaque from scratch. It’s easy, non-toxic and really cheap to make. For this method you will need:
- 3/4 cups of flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup water
First mix the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly add your water while stirring the mixture. A wooden spoon works best if you have one but a regular spoon will serve just fine. Once all the water has been added and the mixture becomes really thick you can begin kneading the doughy mixture until is firm. *This is optional but I added blue food coloring to color my dough. If you choose to add a color this would be the point you would do so and then continue kneading until evenly blended. If the dough is sticky you can add a tablespoon of flour as needed or a tablespoon of water if it’s too dry and continue kneading until it is firm and the consistency of play dough.
Next roll out your dough onto a floured cutting board until it’s about 1 inch thick. A rolling pin is ideal if you have one but I just used my hands to flatten it out since I don’t own a rolling pin. Shape your dough into the desired shape for your plaque. I chose a square but you can do a circle, a heart, or any shape for that matter. Get creative!
*If you have any excess dough left over you can also give to your toddler to play with and make shapes. Play dough is a great sensory toy for toddlers to play with and this homemade version is safe if eaten (although you should still keep close supervision and discourage children from eating dough)
Press your baby’s hand (or foot if you’re wanting to make a footprint) with fingers splayed (or toes straight) firmly into the dough to make a good impression. Then use a pencil to write your baby’s name, date, or age into the dough (use the date if you’re doing it on a newborn). If you want to make a hanging plaque use the pencil to make a hole at the top making sure it goes completely through. If you’re doing a square shape I would recommend making two holes – one on each side at the top to pass your ribbon through.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the dough onto a cookie sheet. Use a paper towel to dab a little oil (I used olive oil but you could also use vegetable oil) and blot onto the dough all around and into the impression (careful not to make another impression) to moisturize the dough. This helps keep it from cracking while baking. Bake at 200 for 30 minutes then turn the oven off. Do NOT open the oven. Leave the plaque for an additional 2 hours.
Take out the plaque and place in a dry spot to allow to cool and dry completely, which may take up to 48 hours. Display on the shelf to show off to visitors or in baby’s nursery for added charm.
DIY Clay Handprint with Polymer Clay
For those who don’t care to get their hands dirty or mess with flour and dough, this is a neater way to make a clay handprint plaque. You will need a pack of polymer clay like Sculpey which you can find on Amazon or in a hobby/crafts store.
Break off a section of your polymer clay according to the size you want your plaque to be. Work it a little bit in your hands until it is soft and pliable. Once it’s soft, you can roll into a ball and place on a flat surface. Roll out the clay until it is about ½ inch thick then mold to desired shape (square, circle, heart, etc.)
Since the clay will be a little harder than the dough recipe you may need to hold your baby above the clay for best results when making the impression. Press the hand with fingers splayed (or the foot with toes straight for footprints) firmly into the clay and press down on fingers (or toes) to get a good impression. Same as above, use a pencil to write out words and the date and/or age. Remember to make a hole in the top if you will want to hang it.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully place the clay print onto a baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Place in a dry spot and allow to cool completely.
- Painting Your Plaque – after the dough or clay has cooled and dried, cover entire plaque with watered-down acrylic paint to get into the impressions. Paint sparingly over the writing so the letters don’t fill up with paint which may not dry completely. Blot the plaque with a paper towel and wipe away excess in the impressions and allow to dry.
- To add shimmer, spray a metallic paint instead of painting the handprint. Once it’s dry you can go over it with clear nail polish.
- For handprint ornaments- a circle shape works best. Roll the dough about ½ inch or if using polymer clay, ¼ inch thick to make it lighter for hanging.
- When writing into the dough or clay with your pencil, create a border around the plaque by making dots for a more finished look.
These handprint/footprint keepsakes make the perfect mementos of your little one’s babyhood. You can make them as plaques to place on photo easels or to hang on the wall, as ornaments and give as gifts. It’s also a fun project to do with toddlers as well.