This fingerprinting science activity for kids is a great for a DIY spy and detective party, learning about the human body or at-home CSI idea!
My daughter is a HUGE fan of mysteries!
In fact, that's the topic of this week's book list: 15 Marvelous Mystery Books for Kids. She enjoys scouring the pages for clues and trying to come up with a solution before the book gives it to her.
In real life, she asks a lot of those "detective" questions -- How, Why, Who? -- the perfect opening to creative problem solving.
During one of our recent mystery reads, she was intrigued by the idea of fingerprints.
So I thought we would try to learn more about this since so many detective books refer to "finding their prints!" :)
Fingerprinting for Kids: Science Activities
I always remember thinking the idea of fingerprints was really interesting. If you grew up in the 1970's or 1980's, you might recall the super cool Ed Emberley Fingerprint Fun books where you could make animals using your fingerprints.
Fingerprint science is popular with kids who love spy & detective activities and a fun experiment that explores one area of the human body -- if you missed the Science of Sound Waves experiment, hop over and try that one too as kids get a big kick out of the different ways our body works!
Our first step was to get an up-close look at our fingerprints.
We'll outline a few techniques we used along with affiliate links for items that will help you to do the same at home.
Now most parents will tell you all you need to do is give a kids some chocolate and you'll find a messy set of prints all over the walls ;)
Or there's always the good old fashion FingerPrint Pad ink kits too.
But I thought we'd try a less messy approach :)
We used some Crayola Model Magic Clay and had each member of the family press one of their fingers into it to create a fingerprint.
Playdough didn't work so well for us so I would suggest something more firm. If you want to preserve the fingerprints, I would use a good oven bake clay so they are more permenant.
Once we had our prints, we grabbed our much-loved Kids Magnifying Glass.-- seriously, you need to have one of these around the house for the kids to use -- AMAZING science tool that is super cheap!
As we looked at the prints, we noticed a few really cool things!
Fingerprint Science Observations
• Not all of our fingerprints looked the same even though we are all related.
• Some of our prints have a swirl pattern to them while others looked liked 'mountains'.
• There were different numbers of lines in each of our fingerprints -- sometimes the lines are really close together and sometimes they are farther apart.
Even though the clay was pretty cool, we wanted a better detailed view of our prints.
So we pulled out the baby powder and put some on our fingers. (If you don't have any powder in the house, try flour or powdered sugar instead).
Then we placed a piece of Clear Packaging Tape over the powdered finger and Voila! instant fingerprint!
I know - pretty awesome isn't it?!
Hold the tape up to the light and you can really see all the lines and ridges plus a very clear view of the fingerprint pattern.
Fingerprints for Kids
But we still wanted to answer one more question -- where can we find fingerprints?
So we talked about places around the house that people were most likely to touch -- doorknobs, the handle on the fridge, glasses, etc.
And then we grabbed our baby powder and got to work.
We used a Makeup Brush to lightly tap baby powder onto the handles of the fridge. Be sure not to brush it on hard or you can brush away the prints - they're delicate little suckers.
And then we also tapped some powder onto our breakfast glasses to see if we could lift some prints off them with the tape too.
We used the clear packing tape to cover the powdered areas and then placed the tape onto a dark blue construction paper so we could see if there were any prints.
We could easily tell that some of the prints belonged to Mom or Dad just due to their size.
Then we used the prints we created in the pink clay as a comparison to our newly found ones.
The Science Behind Fingerprints
So what can you learn from collecting fingerprints?
Quite a few things!
The study of fingerprints is called dactyloscopy and is used by detectives (such as the police, FBI and those that investigate crime scenes) and also medical personnel.
First, everyone has different fingerprints -- no two are alike (kind of like snowflakes). And yes, even twins will have different prints.
Here's a great post from Livestrong about how fingerprints form in the womb .
Now even though we all have different fingerprints, there are really one three common types of prints: arches, loops and whorls.
After you create your own fingerprints at home, match them up to the prints in these photos to learn more about your individual fingerprint pattern.
Be sure to look at all the prints of family members -- do you all fall into the same pattern?
Doctors are researching how fingerprint patterns can tell us more about a person's health -- for example, they've found that those with ridges closer together are more likely to develop certain diseases later in life.
If you'd like to learn more about fingerprints, browse these affiliate links for great hands-on science kits -- they make great gifts for kids who love the idea of playing detective or those interested in forensic science:
You can also head over to Wonderopolis for more fingerprint fun.
Don't forget to check out the titles on our Be a Detective: 15 Marvelous Mystery Books for Kids!
MORE HANDS-ON SCIENCE FOR KIDS: