DIY Fingerprint Mold

Our Guest Blogger, Teresa Schoell, is a Certified Child Life Specialist working with pediatric patients and their families in the hospital. She will be sharing a creative way to provide therapeutic activities for families coping with the loss of a loved one.

Materials Needed:

· Model Magic, 1 oz package in white (single-patient use, makes about 5-10 charms, depending on size)

· Markers (I use kid’s washable markers, any brand)

· Small straw (I use a coffee-straw usually, but have made do with a pencil tip or 16 gauge needle)

· Medical gloves

· Portable hard surface (clipboard, back of a tissue box, etc.)


· This is very easy for siblings and kids to participate in – the materials are all kid-safe and easy to work with. I often find joining me for “a craft project” is a wonderful turning point for anxious little ones when their families bring them to the adult ICU to “say goodbye.” Crafts are so normalizing, familiar, and engaging.

· Wear gloves (this keeps your finger prints off the molds, and keeps you from getting marker on your fingers.)

· Roll out small balls (about grape sized, give or take), and gently flatten. Spheres flatten to circles. Tall mini-marshmallow shapes flatten to rounded rectangles (I use the side of a tissue box to straighten the sides a bit after flattening) Get creative with your shapes. I’ve done hearts, crosses, dolphins, and tic-tac-toe boards at patient and family request.

· To add color, I press the tip of the marker into the dough. For a smooth, even color you knead the dough until the color is evenly distributed. For a “swirled” look, just knead a couple times and then roll and flatten.


· You can also color on the patient’s fingertip with the marker, then press it into the white dough. That also looks spectacular! I’ve fallen out of the habit, as the nurses prefer I don’t ink the patient’s fingers. When doing fingers, I try to avoid red (as it may look like blood, especially in trauma cases), and I try to avoid blue (lest it get on the nail and be mistaken for a sign of cyanosis!)

· Place the shapes onto a clipboard, or other portable hard surface, and press the patient’s finger into the dough. If a family has asked for multiples, I’ll often shape them all and line them up, then press the finger into each, all on one go. This efficient process is especially helpful if the patient is very tired, and won’t have the endurance to offer up a finger every two minutes as each new shape is prepped. I also prefer this when doing them in the morgue with a patient who has already died – both because it’s faster and the morgue tends to be very chilly. If you have to work within the cooler, the dough can get stiff when cold, so I will set them all up on the clipboard outside the cooler, pop in and press the fingers, then back out to make the holes.


· After pressing the finger, use the coffee straw to make a small hole near the top (this is used to string the medallion on a necklace, if desired. (or key chain, or no hole for a pocket stone, etc.)

· The finished items air dry over the next 24 hours. I will often place them in a kidney basin for safe transport. If I’m doing a whole bunch, I’ll slid a piece of cardboard into a “sheet protector” sleeve, and place the patient’s ID sticker on the cardboard inside. Then line of up the finished medallions on top to dry. This way the family can carry the full bunch without them smooshing together. I learned the hard way – do NOT put them on paper to dry!!

· Really large pieces (like full hand prints) can warp a bit as they dry.

· Photos show one of my favorite combinations of shape and swirl color. Toddlers love to help by stabbing the dough with market tips. And then knead-twice-and-roll lets them press all the colors in without it combining to a greyish-brown.


· To start the dough feels like a cross between play dough and a marshmallow. Once dry it is light like Styrofoam, with a smooth surface.

Other questions that came up…

You can do these on adults, kids, babies. For peri-natal loss situations with super early babies that have not yet grown much in the way of skin . . . I’m not sure. I haven’t tried this. The dough is not “sticky” so I am hopeful that it would work. If someone tries it, please post back and let us all know!

For newborns and preemies, one packet would be more than enough to do a baby foot print. But remember that larger pieces can warp a bit while drying. I’ve had some (but not perfect success) flipping the piece over every couple hours while it dries, to reduce the warp.

No baking needed – they air dry.

I color it while making it. I have never tried coloring it afterward. Again, if someone tries it, please post back and share the info!

Creative child lifers, post your photos to the thread and share your ideas for styles, use of color, shapes, etc.

Teresa Schoell, MA, CCLS

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Legacy Building Research Study

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One of the most important roles as a child life specialist is to support children and families during the end of life stage. With developmentally appropriate language, creative arts, bibliotherapy and play, we help families during this grieving process. Therapeutic interventions like legacy building is often used. This is creating lasting memories for the families and fulfilling wishes of the child, such as ceramic hand molds, prints, photos and videos.

A child life colleague of mine, Korie Leigh is doing a research study on the use of legacy building with bereaved families. If you are interested in participating or know of a family that may like to volunteer, please forward the information to them. The information will help support the value of this service in our field.

Eligibility includes that the death of a child occurred within the past 5 years, that at least one member of the immediate family participated in the creation of legacy building items, and that there are siblings in the home aged (4-18) which either also participated in creating the legacy item OR have used the item in their bereavement process (eg as a transitional object or as a way to remember their sibling)

From Korie:

Dear Prospective Participant:

I am writing to introduce myself to you in hopes that you may be interested in a research study I am conducting for my doctoral dissertation.

I am a Certified Child Life Specialist and bereavement counselor with over 10 years of clinical experience working with children and families in hospital and healthcare settings. Most recently, I was the bereavement coordinator and child life specialist at the George Mark Children’s house ( a pediatric palliative care house) from 2011-2014 and am now a graduate professor of Child Life studies at Mills College. I am also a PhD student at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, CA.

I am conducting research for my dissertation, with bereaved parents and siblings on their experience of creating hand or footprints, taking photographs, or creating any keepsake items when your child was at the end of life. I am also interested in how those items may be currently used by you or members of your family. This study has passed the internal ethics review at CIIS and I am ready to move on to recruitment of research participants

This is an interview-based study where I would record and conduct an in-person interview at your home, with you and members of your family. Parent and adolescent interviews are expected to last between 60-90 minutes and young sibling interviews should last from 15-45 minutes. There may also be brief follow-up contact with each family, not to exceed 30 additional minutes, most likely by phone.

I would like to emphasize that this is a voluntary study. You or members of your family are under no pressure to enroll in the study. Also, if at any point if you choose to participate in the study, your entire family or an individual in your family would like to withdraw, you may do so.

If you are interested in the study or would like more information, please email or call (201) 841-6034.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Korie Leigh, MA, CCLS, CT

PhD Student, Primary Researcher

California Institute of Integral Studies

Related Posts:

Helping Kids Understand Death

ChiPPS Pediatric Palliative Care Newsletter

Legacy Building With My Family

Today is a bizarre day. I’m sitting on a plane heading across the country to see my family.

I’m flying solo without kids to entertain or a husband to talk with.

The flight was booked less than 48 hours ago and I packed one suitcase just for my belongings.

Yesterday, I scrambled to get my house in order, food shop and make sure that I spoke about my separation from the kids for a few days.

So, why an unexpected trip?

My grandpa’s health is rapidly declining and I want to be there for him and my family.

Instead of letting my emotions take over me, I have placed them in a safe place as I focus on thinking of ways to create lasting memories through legacy building activities. Yes, my child life hat is on tight as I talk openly to my kids and parents about what may happen.

I know that through my “work” with them, I am providing myself with a cathartic opportunity to connect to my grandpa and family on a deeper level. I am able to step into the shoes of families that I work with and see it from their point of view.

It puts it all into perspective.

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Legacy Building Activities with My Kids

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