How to Make Plaster Handprints of Your Child

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Unfurl a baby's fingers to create the strongest handprint mold.
Unfurl a baby's fingers to create the strongest handprint mold. (Image: Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Children’s handprints are only tiny for a short time, so capture them—and the memories— in plaster. There are two different ways to create a mold for a child's handprint: by creating the mold in sand and then casting it or by pushing the hands directly into the mold and letting the remaining print dry. Either way leaves a lasting print that will be treasured.

Things You'll Need

To make a sand cast mold, you'll need:

  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Damp sand
  • Bucket or large bowl
  • Cake pan or tin
  • Paint stick or large wooden spoon
  • Baby oil or cooking spray

For a plaque molding, you'll need:

  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 4 cups flour
  • Large pot (or Plaster of Paris and water)
  • Bucket or large bowl
  • Cake pan or tin
  • Paint stick or large wooden spoon
  • Baby oil or cooking spray
  • Acrylic sealer (optional)
  • Paint and paintbrush (optional)

Making the Plaster

For Homemade Plaster

  1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a pot and add 2 cups of salt. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.

  2. Measure 4 cups of flour into a bowl and add the salt water to it, mixing with the paint stick or spoon until mixed well. Let it cool until you can handle it easily.

  3. Knead the mixture inside the bowl by pushing your knuckles into the dough. Move your knuckles and palm forward to stretch the fibers. Turn the dough over and repeat the process until the it is smooth.

For Plaster of Paris:

  1. Combine the Plaster of Paris and water in a ratio of 2 cups powder to 1 cup water. For an average child's handprint, use about 6 cups powder and 3 cups water. The mixture should be thinner than pancake batter, so use more powder or water as needed.

  2. Gently stir the components in a large bucket or bowl with the wooden spoon or paint stick, making sure not to whip the mixture. Whipping the plaster will create air bubbles.

Creating a Sand Cast Mold

  1. Place the damp sand into a tin or container such as a pie tin or cake pan. Old plastic containers and deep bowls work well for this. Even the bottom of a cardboard box can be used as long as the sand is deep enough to hold a handprint.

  2. Spray your child's hand with cooking spray or baby oil. Press your child’s flat hand into the damp sand until a firm print is formed but doesn't reach the bottom of the tin.

  3. Remove your child’s hand and then fill the empty space with the Plaster of Paris mixture, taking care not to overfill the print.

  4. Wait until the mixture dries. Plaster of Paris sets in about 20 to 30 minutes but should be left for the maximum amount of time necessary to dry completely. This may take up to a few hours.

  5. Remove the plaster from the sand once hardened.

  6. Paint the handprint with acrylic paint and seal with clear acrylic paint if desired.

Making an Imprint Mold

  1. Place the chosen plaster mixture into the desired mold. Pie tins and cake pans make perfect circles, but if you want the mold smaller or a different shape, a smaller surface can be used like a washed out plastic container. Other items such as the bottom of a milk carton or a ceramic bowl can be used as molds, but they need to dry naturally instead of in the oven to prevent melting.

  2. Sprinkle your child's hand with oil or cooking spray. Press your child’s hand firmly into the plaster mixture. The hand should be flat to create the best print and should not be pushed more than halfway into the dough.

  3. Pull your child’s hand out. At this time, any other engravings can be added, like the date or the name of the child. Make any necessary holes now in order to hang it, if desired.

  4. Allow the plaster to dry for at least 48 hours if using homemade dough, or bake in an oven-safe dish at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or until dry. If using Plaster of Paris, the wait time should be about an hour but the mixture sets better if left longer.

  5. Once dry, the mold can be painted with acrylic paint and then sealed with clear sealer, if desired.

Tips for Molding

  • If the Plaster of Paris mold won't hold a handprint, jiggle the mixture and let it set for a few minutes before trying the print again.

  • Do not place plastic or cardboard molds in the oven to dry; instead, let them air dry for 24 hours.

  • Homemade plaster dough can be molded into different shapes without the need of a tin. Use cookie cutters or mold by hand to create your unique shape.

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