Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



handprints: the tradition


If you have been a long-time follower of my blog, you may have seen me share a little on this whole handprints idea in the past. So why am I bringing it up again?

  1. I am aware of – and grateful for – the influx of new friends / customers / readers lately … and many of them have not seen this. This is one of our family’s favorite traditions and such a fun thing to share.
  2. I have never shared details of the actual process – and I’m hoping that it is helpful and inspiring to many of you.
  3. This is an annual tradition that we do around the kids’ birthdays which all fall in September and December. Right now it’s March. And I haven’t done them for their birthdays from last year. So I figured that if I made a point to blog about it, that would for sure push it up on my to-do list.  *wink*


Quick history

When Porter was a baby (11 years ago) I thought to preserve his little handprint on a little canvas. Super tricky with a baby, so I waited until he was a year old. Still not super easy, but definitely easier than a newborn who keeps their fist clinched so much. So I bought a little canvas, painted it, then painted his hand, did the handprint … done. I loved it. It was a symbol of this beautiful gift in our life – our very own child.

I thought at age two it would be fun to do it again. So we did. And again at age three. For some reason that third year I thought, Why not both handprints? So I got a larger canvas and did both of his hands. I think it was about this time that the idea came to me of continuing this tradition every year and ultimately having a whole collection of Porter’s handprint canvases.

Claire was born a few years after Porter, so by then I had a vision for this tradition and what it would “be” and how the canvases could ultimately be displayed. It all “clicked” for me and so I made a point to keep all of the canvas sizes the same (8″ squares) from the very beginning.

Below you’ll see from left to right: Claire’s collection (she’s 8), then Crew’s collection (he’s 5), and Porter’s (he’s 11). See those few on the top of Porter’s stack? Those are the ones I just talked about, and that explains why they’re different sizes than the rest – because I didn’t necessarily begin with the end in mind.


Begin with the end in mind.

That’s my #1 piece of advice if you’re interested in doing a project like this. I didn’t have the long-term vision when I first started with Porter’s and that’s okay. But I’m also really glad that I started the other two collections with an idea of what they’d all look like when grouped and displayed together. And when I think really, really long term, I do imagine that our children will enjoy having these to display in their own homes one day. If not, I will gladly keep them in our home.

Getting started.

I’ll walk you through my process and how I carry on this tradition year after year after year. First of all, I should mention that because our kids’ birthdays are pretty close together, we do enjoy doing them all together at the same time. After all, there’s not really much hand growth in a couple months’ time.



I pick up my 8″ plain white canvases at the local craft retailer or on Amazon. They’re not hard to find. I always have foam brushes on hand for general painty fun. And the craft paint (acrylic) – I have bins full of that stuff from years ago, and many colors. I’m not sure I’ll need to purchase new paint for a while. Again – craft stores will have this stuff.



Specifically, I like to look at all the canvases for each child all lined up. Because I go for random colors each year, it’s helpful seeing them all lined up so I can review what’s been done and choose the next colors in the line-up accordingly. I involve the kids in helping to choose the colors so they can feel some “ownership” in the artistic process.


This is Claire’s collection and I don’t have a real explanation for the purple and blue combination. It’s just something that Claire and I felt was a good fit for the next canvas.




We’ve done this in the kitchen. We’ve done it in the home office. Just pick a place that is fine to get a little messy. We don’t usually put newspaper down because the paint cleans off the countertops we have pretty easily. I bring the kids, the canvases, the paints, brushes, and plates into one place.




Pretty descriptive. We squirt some paint onto the plates so the kids and I have a place to dip our foam brushes.



(We were laughing because Crew was acting incapable of having a natural smile while Kara snapped pictures.)




Just as simple as it sounds, this is the part my kids love. It’s not always easy to get nice, even brush strokes so I usually step in and help.







With the entire canvas coated, I place it on a sturdy disposable plate so none of the painted sides stick to the countertop. We let it dry a few minutes and add a second coat for a nice opaque color.

NOTE: Porter is not shown working on his canvas in these particular photos (a fun opportunity with a friend came up), so I painted his grey canvas for him and chose yellow for the handprint that we did the next day.




Literally. I just squirt some paint on their hands and use the foam brush (a different one so as to not mix colors) to spread it around nice and thick. Be sure to get every crack and crevice and edge and finger tip. Caution: It tickles and sometimes causes giggles.





Together we slowly place the hand on the canvas, carefully spacing the fingers and taking our time to position it on the canvas. Once their hand makes contact, the kids know not to move their hand at all and that I will do all of the pressing. I press each part of their hand and every one of their fingers firmly on the canvas to get as much contact as possible.



Then we count 1-2-3 and … lift off! Their hand comes off the canvas.





Oh, you thought we were done? Nope. Not quite. While their hand is already messy, I grab a sheet of cardstock in the same-ish color as the canvas background and we repeat what we just did … but we get it on cardstock as well. You know … for the scrapbook, of course.





This is the spray I recently picked up at the craft supply store as a finishing touch and protective layer to the canvases. I have not been doing this all along and it dawned on me that I really should be protecting the canvases from handprints, cleaners, who-knows-what. So I’ve actually now “gone back” and sprayed all 24 canvases – 2 coats per canvas. And all with just one can (barely).

NOTE: Be sure you do this kind of spraying outside and take care to protect the surface so you’re not coating your sidewalk, grass, etc.



Every bit of mess is worth it.



Display Ideas

So the next natural question you may have is … what next? The handprint canvases are fun, but then what? How and where are they displayed once you have a collection? I am happy to share the 3 ways I have displayed these 3 collections, and that’s coming tomorrow on the blog, so check back.


At Home with Becky

This post is part of a weekly blog series called At Home with Becky. Each Wednesday, I share a little something from home – routines, organization, traditions, decor, etc. Coming up … my absolute favorite gift wrap, a tour through some of my “old” scrapbooks, some healthy snack ideas, and more. If ever you are interested in seeing all of these posts in one place, just click on that turquoise button at the top of my blog that says At Home with Becky.


16 Responses

  1. Nadz says:

    I did this a few days ago with my 7 months old son. It was really hard indeed. Because he cant seem to stop moving his hands. Haha. Will try again when he reaches the big 1.

  2. Kay Curlee says:

    What a wonderful idea !!!
    Becky, thanks for sharing with us! We can “see” so much of you on you blog… just like good friends do.

  3. Jenny says:

    When my oldest was in nursery and I was the nursery leader, we did handprint cut-out wreaths at Christmastime. My son’s hand was so long….all the other kids had nice little hands. Flash forward, he is almost 17 and there is NO WAY his hand would fit on a 8″ square. incredible! It would have been an interesting thing to see his hands compared to everyone else’s through the years.

  4. Katherine :) says:

    Love this blog post! The photos are a wonderful moment of the process! Thank you so much for sharing! <3

  5. Davean says:

    I have been doing this with my son (he is only 2) when I saw the idea on your blog awhile back. I did his little feet when he was just a few weeks old but did handprints at 1 and 2. I plan to continue the tradition. LOVE this idea!!

  6. Sheryl Pyle says:

    I love this idea….Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas.

  7. Alanna N says:

    So you went back to just one hand in the end? I love this idea and hope to do it with my own kids one day. I assume you pickded 8″ because it was a reasonable size that fit your adult hand for example so you knew it would last? Thanks for sharing your process Becky.

  8. Jamia says:

    My kids are way to old for this, but my sisters kiddos are not! And this is perfect for their new home!

  9. Carrie Leavitt says:

    I started this tradition 4 years ago with my daughter thanks to Becky. I had no plan but loved the idea. About two years ago, right after my son was born, we moved and I had the a vision and a plan! Our entry way is a nice, long hall with lots of wall space. We have hung each canvas above the other with a picture of them on there birthday. Lots of random colored frames and canvases. I love it and it grows each year. Thanks Becky.

  10. Brooke says:

    Thanks for sharing Becky. I found this post useful even though I started copying your idea back in 2009. My end goal was to go for only primary and secondary colours but I don’t like them as much as I do yours. I always write the date, child’s name and age (including months) on the back.

    I do more on cardboard too. I was so super happy when I found out the ones I did fit into some PL pages perfectly!! They are my 2013 end page.

    I don’t know what age to stop this tradition!! When the wall is full?!

  11. Mary says:

    I absolutely love this idea. I will be doing this for our great-granddaughter Grace who has just turned 2. I will be involving my granddaughter in the process so that she will be able to continue with this wonderful tradition that you have created. Thank you for sharing…… I love the blue and purple together. :)

    Mary from NH

  12. Amber Tyler says:

    I love this idea! My daughter is nine and perhaps a bit too old to start now… but I would love to begin a tradition like this with her. Any creative suggestions for starting at a later age???

  13. Cathi says:

    I do this with my daughter every year. Thanks for the inspiration! I saw a post with yours when I was pregnant and knew it was something I had to do. I get so many compliments on them. She gets to pick the color, I paint the canvas ahead of time, and the handprint is always white. We do it first thing on the birthday morning. Love it!

  14. Priya says:

    Thank you so much for this awesome idea! I am going to start this with my 10 month old on her 1 year birthday. I’m just sad I didn’t do this with my 3 year old. Do you have any suggestions for how to fill in the gaps for the years missed? Thank you!

  15. Sarah says:

    Thank you for sharing this precious idea. I remember reading this on your blog many years ago after the birth of my first daughter. She’s now 6 and my other daughter is 2 and they both have little stacks of canvases. (Sadly, we had a big move last spring and I missed my older daughter’s 5 year old handprint. But my mom said, Don’t stop! Just keep going. You love it! So we just did our canvases for year 6 and year 2!) I’m so glad you posted an update because I’ve been trying to figure out how to display these. They make me smile. :o)

  16. Lori M says:

    Instead of the spray finish…do you think I could use mod podge? I’ve only used mod podge on painted rocks and not sure how it would work on a canvas.