Hand and footprint art in the preschool classroom

As a parent, there is nothing more precious to me than hanging up a piece of art my child made out of her own hand or footprint. But as a teacher I sometimes observe hand and footprint art activities and simply wonder where the benefit is to the child.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that hand and footprint art is very cute and I think that parents love to have these types of art as keepsakes. But still, I wonder if there can or should be more….

As I observe teachers painting little feet, I like to watch the children. For some children, I notice that they love the feel of the paint. They giggle and watch intently as their foot is getting painted which means they are having fun with the experience of being painted…

After the foot or hand is placed down on a piece of paper, I start to wonder if there is something more that the child could do.

Could we throw a sheet of paper on the floor or table and let the child make lots more prints with his or her hands or feet? Or how about letting the child try to paint his or her own hand?

Often times, the handprint or the footprint is actually just the beginning step to the art process. So in that way, the child does ultimately participate in the process which is what I am looking for in the end…

I think my favorite hand and footprint activities are when the children draw around their own hands and feet…

Then begin to add other elements to their drawings…

But whether the hands are painted or drawn, ultimately I am always asking myself; “How can the children participate in the process?” or “How can I make this process a more meaningful experience for the child?”

I do like the idea of doing hand and footprint art so I don’t want to come across like I am dogging the idea of doing it.  I have no doubt that I will be sharing all kinds of hand and footprint art on this blog just because I see so much of it and in the end, I think it is so darn cute. But still, I want to take time to evaluate anything we do in the classroom. I want to encourage you to take time to evaluate what you do in your classroom.

When going for cute, also remember to build in opportunities for children to participate in the process. Look for ways to make the process meaningful to the child. Look for ways to make the process open ended and you will not only have cute but you will have created a worthwhile and creative process!

By |2010-10-15T03:59:25+00:00October 15th, 2010|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. V.Kerr October 15, 2010 at 4:19 am - Reply

    I like what you said!

  2. artsy_momma October 15, 2010 at 4:42 am - Reply

    My son loves to both paint his own hand (and mine too) and trace his hands & feet. I think at his age (toddler) it helps build imagination/creativity. Very good points and you don’t come across as dogging it 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart October 18, 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Good – because I hate dogging ideas – I just like to tweak them a bit;)

  3. Cheryl Golangco October 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    This is great! When we did our foot painting activity… we placed a basin of paint for the kids to walk into and then laid down some huge paper for the child to step on afterward. That way, it become more of just a walking on paint activity; a sensory game.

    • Deborah J. Stewart October 18, 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Now that is what I am talking about!! Well done!

  4. maryanne October 15, 2010 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I completely agree with your perspective on this – it’s so important to keep children involved and to make the process, not the product, the primary focus.

    • Deborah J. Stewart October 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you for confirming my perspective – it is always rewarding to communicate with others who feel the same way:)

  5. Km October 17, 2010 at 4:16 am - Reply

    What a lovely post! I love your advice—- to pause and think first about how we can make it more meaningful for the child. What a beautiful concept! I’ve never been successful at those darling painted hand and foot prints-never! I’m thankful my kiddos enjoy tracing.:)

  6. Misty Dolph October 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I struggle so hard with this in my own preschool classroom. So many of the other teachers do the “cute” art. You know the kind. Everything is cut out for the kids and looks like cookie cutter production line stuff. But, so many parents adore it. I prefer our art to be interactive and unique. I don’t want any two to look alike. So I let my kiddos paint purple pumpkins and green bats. We just finished up a paper tearing pumpkin project and ended up with not a single round one. We had triangle, rectangle and square pumpkins though and I loved them. Thanks so much for your post. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my quest of meaningful experiences for my class.

    • Deborah J. Stewart October 18, 2010 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      It is always a challenge to balance “cute” with “a meaningful experience” – especially for me because i really do like cute but I don’t like to see my students bored with the process either!! I love all the ideas you have and your quest for keeping the creative process meaningful – I am on the same quest:)

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