Items Needed* Clay that can be baked (color optional; amount depends on the size of the hand) - note alternate materials below
* Baking pan
* Tin foil
* Clay knife or similar utensil
* Rolling pin for clay
* Depending on your child's age, an additional adult can be helpful
* Ribbon if you want it to be an ornament
* Access to an oven
It's not terribly expensive to buy a hand print ornament kit (the average price is $10), but you can do it for a fraction of the cost on your own, especially if you want to make more than one. In addition to making a hand print ornament as a gift for the grandparents (great for your baby's first Christmas) you can make your own hand print keepsakes inexpensively as your child grows.
Knead the clay and then roll it out onto your pan. I've done this several times so I actually have an old baking pan I use specifically for baking clay items. If you don't have a pan like that, then line it with tin foil and place your clay to be baked on top of that.
Roll the clay out to about 1/4 inch thick or so. You can make it a little thicker if in doubt. Roll out enough to have space around your child's hand. Sometimes if you flip it over the underside is smoother looking. Then have your child place - or help them place - their hand roughly in the center of the clay and push down. If the child is 3 or younger, you'll want to try and hold their hand down for a few seconds and gently push each digit into the clay just to be sure you get a full impression (of course your child's age, squirm factor and general attitude will play a large part). Then try to pull your child's hand straight out (note some younger kids will instinctively curl their fingers so pulling the hand back quickly helps avoid this).
If you don't like the impression, pull it off the pan, roll it into a ball and re-roll it for another try. If you do like it, then cut away any excess clay with the knife to make it a circular or oval shape. You can also use a clay tool or even a push pin to carve your child's name and/or the year. Also use the knife or clay tool to cut a small hole in the top for your ribbon later.
Cook it in your oven to the temp and time frame recommended on the clay package. Once it's cooled, tie your ribbon.
For an extra creative boost, wrap your gift in hand print paper.
Other tips and ideas:
* If you want to have keepsakes of your child's growth, buy the air-dry or baking clay in different colors and you can do their hand and foot prints at different milestones - 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and so on. At the two-year mark, I did my daughter's hand impression for that milestone, 2 1/2 and 3 years and then switched to paint hand prints as they're easier to store.
* If you use the air-dry or baking clay in colors instead of plain white, then buy at least two packs per color. I liked using a different color for each milestone (ie blue for 3 months, then green for 6 months) and as your child grows, you will need at least 2 packets (if that's how you buy the clay) for one hand or foot. You can buy white in a big box but be sure to put the excess in a zip lock bag or it could dry out before you're ready to use it again.
* You can get a shadow box to display the prints or just keep them in a nice decorative box. You can also mount them on a wall or place on a decorative shelf.
We found a neat idea for making clay crafts from Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A to Z Guide with Instructions and Endless Inspiration. Her website (and the book) have tips on how to make striped and spiraled creations. There is another article on making clay crafts. My 3-year-old and I used the articles for inspiration and spent more than an hour playing with the clay. I tried Martha's technique for making striped hearts and my daughter enjoyed mashing different colors together to make very interesting hearts and stars using cookie cutters. We punched holes in them with a toothpick before baking and used silver and gold cords.
Sandra K. Lee is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom with a 8-year-old princess & a 4-year-old superhero in Middlesex County, New Jersey.