Fingerprints are unique to each individual.

How to Explain Fingerprints to Children

by Kim Blakesley

The concept of fingerprints -- what they mean and why fingerprinting is done -- is one a child is capable of understanding if it is presented with age-appropriate words and examples. Teach the lower primary grades the value of fingerprints by using a compare/contrast learning tool. It is important to teach that fingerprints are unique to each individual and that they help to identify who a person is in the case of criminal acts, lost children or missing persons.

Discuss what a fingerprint is, how each one is unique to the individual and how fingerprints are used. Show a picture of a large fingerprint. Provide the opportunity for the children to ask questions about fingerprints. Inform the children that they will be doing an experiment to help explain fingerprints by using four tree leaves.

Cover a flat work surface with newspaper. Place the four leaves from the same tree on the newspaper so the front side of the leaf is facing up.

Position the leaves on the newspaper so they are approximately 1 inch apart. Paint the surface of each leaf with tempera paint.

Center the piece of 100-pound craft paper above the painted leaves. Gently place the craft paper on top of the leaves.

Press down on the craft paper directly over the leaves to create a print.

Turn the paper over and peel the leaves from the surface. Place the paper in a safe location to dry.

Cut the leaf prints from the paper. Place the leaf prints side-by-side. Ask the children to compare the veins in each leaf. Inform them that each leaf is unique and that the print that it leaves tells which leaf left the print. This includes the shape of the leaf and the path of the veins.

Ask the children to look at the large fingerprint a second time. Point out the lines, curls and voids in the fingerprint.

Ask the children to press one of their fingers on an ink pad with washable ink. Instruct the children to press their inked fingers on a piece of paper.

Instruct the children to cut their fingerprints from the paper and write their names on the backs. Ask the children to then place their fingerprints together to compare the lines of each print.

Give the children a magnifying lens. Ask the children to compare their fingerprint to the other fingerprints looking specifically at the different lines, curls and voids in each print.

Answer any questions the children have.

Items you will need

  • 4 tree leaves from the same tree
  • Newspaper
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrush
  • 100-pound craft paper
  • Enlarged picture of a fingerprint
  • Ink pad with washable ink
  • Magnifying lens

About the Author

Kim Blakesley is a home remodeling business owner, former art/business teacher and school principal. She began her writing and photography career in 2008. Blakesley's education, fine arts, remodeling, green living, and arts and crafts articles have appeared on numerous websites, including DeWalt Tools, as well as in "Farm Journal" and "Pro Farmer."

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images