Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



hand prints tradition: an update

Ah, the beloved hand prints.

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(Yes, the acrylic paint wiped right off our office counter-tops.)

WHO | This is a family tradition we began over 9 years ago when Porter was a one-year-old, and we have carried on with this for each of our 3 children ever since.

WHEN | Every year – around the time of their birthday – the kids do a hand print on painted canvas. Their birthdays are in September and December. We just did our latest canvases a few weeks ago – in March. And guess what? It’s OKAY. Just because life got crazy and we got busy and we’re “late” doesn’t mean we throw in the towel on tradition. So what if their fingers are a millimeter longer than they were a few months ago? I’m over it, and I’m quite certain they will never care either.

BACKGROUND | About 5 years ago I shared more about this tradition in this blog post. Check it out for a little behind-the-canvas look at how I label the canvases (and other tips).

SUPPLIES  | I usually pick up the 8×8 canvas at Michaels. I dig through my stash of simple acrylic paint and use regular/cheap foam brushes. That’s it. I probably should spray a clear finish over all of the canvases but have not yet prioritized doing that. If someone has a suggestion, by all means – share with us!

PROCESS | We look at each child’s “so far” collection to help determine what the next color combination will be. It’s usually random, but I try to keep the overall collection looking nice together. Then we paint the canvas. It’s always 2-3 coats and if the kids are old enough, they can paint the canvas themselves (I still help my kids to get a nice, even background). Then I cover their right hand generously with paint and we carefully lower it onto the center of the canvas. I press around all over their hand for just a few seconds to be sure paint is having contact with the canvas in all the right places and then on the count of 3, we lift their hand straight up to avoid smudges or smearing.

BIG PICTURE | Right now I have Porter’s collection displayed in the play room. Claire’s is on display on a shelf in her bedroom. Crew only has a few and they’re sitting on a little table in the boys’ bedroom. But the vision I have with these is to hang each collection in grid format – on the wall – somewhere. When I get around to that, I’ll share the results. As for when I plan to stop doing their annual hand prints, I figure their hands will stop growing by the time they’re 18, right?

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handprints 2

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handprints 5

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Crew’s “so far” collection (ages 2, 3, 4). He must have been way wiggly at age one!


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Claire’s “so far” collection (ages 1 to 7).


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Porter’s “so far” collection (ages 4 to 10). Ages 1-3 are on odd-sized canvases in the cabinet to the right because A) we’re running out of room on this shelf in the play room and B) they’re not “uniform” with the other 8×8 canvas sizes. Which is not a big deal of course. The reason the first few are not on 8×8 canvases is because I did not begin this tradition with the end in mind. I just did hand prints and didn’t really think to have them all displayed together until I was a few years into it. And that’s okay.


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Tip of the day | Here’s the other thing I do when we do the annual hand prints. While their hand is already a mess, I add more paint and have them each do one more hand print on a piece of cardstock that is similar to the canvas background color we painted. I do this with the intention of including it in their scrapbooks of course.

For this recent go around, I jotted their name & date in the corner (as I do with every other paper or piece of art that we hang onto) and placed them in their their respective stashes so that when I carve out some time to do the catching-up I want to do in their Project Life albums, I won’t have to wonder when I did the hand print or how old they were, etc.

The hand print can be trimmed to size (in this case, my kids’ hands are still smaller than a 6×6) and preserved forever. This is the Design E Photo Pocket Page, which is currently available as part of the Big Variety Pack 1. The 12-packs of Design E will be in stock next month. I trimmed the cardstock to a 6″ square, slipped it in the pocket, and now I’ll fill the other pockets with art, handwriting samples, and photos.

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23 Responses

  1. Viki says:

    Love this idea and will use with my hopeful grandchildren some day! At what age will you stop the hand print tradition? Thanks for all your creative ideas…love them

    • Actually – that’s a great question. I added that into my post. Figure I’ll stop when they’re 18 but honestly, we might fizzle out years before that and it would still leave us with a very cool collection.

  2. Carrie says:

    We am currently doing this with my almost 4 year old and 19 month old. We are displaying them in our entry hallway with a picture from their birthday. Love the idea that I got from you several years ago and plan to continue until our hallway is full!

    Thanks for this and all your wonderful ideas :)

  3. Enid says:

    Great idea, Becky! I’m few years behind but who care if I start now, right? The important thing is to start. :-)

  4. CJ says:

    Wow, they are fantastic Becky, what a great idea. They will make a lovely display when they are all put together. I have a couple of hands and feet prints from when mine were small, but I think I need to do some more now they are a little bit bigger. And I am sure it is something they will love to do. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Debbie says:

    Your boys will grow until 21!!! Maybe stop at 18 then get a final one when their first child is born! A daddy print! (I am going to be a gramma twice this year.) time flys!

  6. Judy Robinson says:

    For the three of Porter’s that are not the same size, you could remove them from their current block and cover a new 8×8 canvas. As usual, another awesome idea.

  7. Denise says:

    Wonderful idea! and I went back to look at your “old” blog post… and Crew’s 1 year old hand print is in that post! You do have that canvas too (somewhere)!

  8. Sandy B says:

    I adore the heart that frequently reveals itself in the palm of Porter’s handprints. Giving God credit for good design work there!

  9. J3SS1C4 says:

    These are such a cute idea! I love how they turn out… These would look awesome hung along the wall or along a shelf in their bedrooms too :-)

  10. eva scott says:

    I love this idea! Even if just for PL!

  11. Brooke says:

    I’m so happy I found you doing this at the right time for me. We have 5 prints displayed in our home (4 for our 4yr old and 1 for the 1yr old). I have certainly found that as a Mum you get better with dealing with the 1 year old prints. My first ended up eating some Jo Sonjas that very first year!! Would love info on a clear coating too.

  12. Kia W. says:

    I did this with my son when he was about 6 months old, then again at a little over a year, and will continue to do each year. On the 6 months and 1 year I did his sweet little foot too since at that time they would both fit on the canvas. I love those little baby feet! :)

  13. Jennifer says:

    What a wonderful tradition. Do you think I could start this late? My oldest is 42 and my youngest is 41 (there are only 2 of them). :)

  14. Heather Raye says:

    I was going to suggest what someone else already said, to take the 3 odd sized prints and either put them on an 8×8 block or cut it out and glue on to an 8×8 canvas.
    Also – based on my 13 year old son’s hands, you may need to go up a size at that age!

  15. Melissa C says:

    One of your first posts on this project inspired me and I’m proud to say I’ve actually been doing it! I have two years for each of my two kids, going into our third year. They were 5 and 3 when we started. My only regret is not using 2″ thick canvas. I would really recommend that. I’ve used 1″ and they do not stand up on their own so I’ve been hanging them or using an easel to prop them up. I thought I’d just keep using 1″ to keep them uniform, but you’ve made me feel ok about switching to 2″ and not worrying about them matching :) thanks for all your great ideas and inspiration, and cheerleading the little accomplishments!! ;)

  16. Nicole says:

    Love them! So cute! You’ll have quite the collection someday! :) I had a question about your cabinets in your office, actually. Are they cabinets that are for scrapbooking rooms or did you just use kitchen cabinets? I was just curious of the measurements of them. I’m looking to create a room of my own and wasn’t crazy about everything being visible and your solution is perfect. Thanks so much!

  17. Cheryl P says:

    I didn’t do this for my son but always wanted to. Now that my baby girl just turned 1 (my son is 6), I am going to start this tradition. Like you said, who cares if I’m late to the party. I already bought the canvases at Michaels – I bought a smaller one for her tiny hand but you are so smart by saying you have to begin with the end in mind and now I will return the small one so that they are all the same size. Thank you for the inspiration!

  18. Such a great and wonderful ideas. This is a good example and perfect entertainment for kids. Such a useful ideas for moms out there. Looking forward for more updates.

  19. Melissa says:

    I too loved this idea, but my kids were already grade school age when I saw it. I improvised by scanning in their 1 year old handprints off of art projects, printed them on clear labels (was even able to change the color of the handprint before printing!), cut out around the paint, and adhered to painted canvases. No one knows the difference and they look great on the shelf! You could also scan in the handprint, and order it printed onto canvas through an online source to play ‘catch up’ if needed.

  20. […] saw this idea on Becky Higgins’ blog.  The idea is that you have a handprint for every year of your child’s life. […]

  21. Nicole B says:

    I can’t access the old post where Becky talks about how she labeled the handprint – Is that still available?