Fingerprint Analysis Projects for Kids

Help your young child to explore the science of fingerprints.
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You don't need a degree in criminology to do fun-filled fingerprint analysis projects with your little learner. While your preschooler may have no clue as to what CSI is, she will enjoy using her investigative skills to explore fingerprints. Break out the paints, child-safe inks and help your kiddo to explore the science of her own identity.

1 Fingerprints Over Time

When your 4-year-old looks at his baby pictures, he may not even recognize the chubby cherub in the photo as himself. While his looks may change over time, his fingerprint doesn't. It will grow in size, as his fingers get bigger, but the shape and pattern will stay the same. Help your child to analyze his own fingerprints over time. Press your child's right index finger into a non-toxic ink pad. Firmly press his finger on a piece of white paper and label it with the date. Repeat the process every month for the next year. At the end of the year have him compare the prints to see how they have stayed the same.

2 Family Prints

Does your preschooler have the same colored eyes as her little sister or the same colored hair as big brother? Help her to explore the genetics of your family by comparing and contrasting fingerprints. While not every family set of fingerprints is exactly the same -- just like every family member doesn't look identical to one another -- sharing the same DNA may result in similar looking print patterns. Use a non-toxic ink pad to make prints of each finger on your child's right hand. Repeat this process with her siblings, yourself and dad. Use a magnifying glass to analyze the prints, looking to see if she can find similarities.

3 Dusting

Help your pint-sized crime solver find out who was at the scene. Take a tip from the professionals and help your preschooler learn how to dust for prints. Start with an oily skin surface to make the fingerprints more noticeable. Squeeze a dot of baby oil or a dab of light petroleum jelly on your little one's fingers. Have him press the tips of his fingers on a clear glass, glass table or similar surface. Dust the surface with powdered cocoa to reveal the print. Lightly brush off the excess powder with a fine paintbrush to see the print clearly. Repeat the cocoa powder dusting on a freshly cleaned surface to compare the print and non-printed areas.

4 Types of Prints

Just like every snowflake is unique, so is every fingerprint. Although each person's print is different from the next person's, there are some general shapes that prints share. Fingerprints can have a loop pattern, a circular whorl or an arch shape. Pour a thin pool of non-toxic tempera or finger paints onto a paper plate. Help your preschooler press her finger tips into the paint. Firmly press the paint-covered tips onto a light colored or white piece of construction paper. Enlist the help of friends or the neighborhood kids to provide extra sets of prints for comparison purposes. Have your child look at each set of prints with a magnifying glass and analyze the shapes that she sees. Ask her if the print is a curved-around loop, circle or flatter arch.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.