When my first daughter was born, a friend gave us a really cool gift — a “Precious Hands” plaster molding kit that was to permanently capture an imprint of our daughter’s hand in a heart-shaped mold. Kind of like the ones many of us made as youngsters in preschool or kindergarten, only instead of being indented, the imprint is “outdented;” protruding in 3-D fashion.
This project turned into a tradition. Each of our five children, at age 3.5, went through the ritual of having their handprint made permanent through this molding craft activity. There’s a reason for that age. I actually tried it on my daughter at around age 18 months. At the time, her brother was 3.5. Well, the deal is, the youngster whose hand is to be molded has to hold his or her hand still for about a minute. Yes, a whole minute. And they have to put it halfway into a strange-looking, strange-feeling glob of gel-like “stuff,” about halfway down, trying NOT to touch the bottom of their hand to the bottom of the plastic mold.
Everything about this project is incredibly cool — except that one minute of stillness. Needless to say, the 18-month-old was not able to pull it off, and we both ended the session in tears. But once I recovered from the disappointment of a ruined attempt, I summoned the courage to try again because I really loved the concept. So I tried it again, this time on my 3.5-year-old, and it worked. Through trial and error, I’ve sort of figured out the tricks of how to time it all out, not to mention how to bribe said child into keeping his or her hand still.
Well, setting a precedent can become a little bit of a nightmare for a mother. What fourth child hasn’t complained that the only photos of his childhood were confined to a checkbook box, while his siblings had ten shoeboxes and four photo albums dedicated to their early lives? I am among those mothers who just couldn’t keep up with my own expectations with children 4 and 5 that I set with children 1 and 2. Things started falling apart at child 3, and the rest is history — much of it unrecorded history! The tidy journals and photo albums of “your first five years” I kept for the first couple of children: complete. The same for the third: partly done. Fourth and fifth: you kidding me?
But this particular project, despite the consternation it’s caused in moments through trying to get it right (I’ve made numerous trips to the craft store for a second round of Plaster of Paris or molding gel) has such a beautiful result, and I love them so much (well, I love the children that made them and the molds represent them) that I have kept up with it.
Still, for obvious reasons I kept putting off this craft for child number five, but it had to happen sooner rather than later. Nick will turn 4 next week. And I HAD to do the mold while he was still 3.5 if I was going to stick with tradition and be consistent. Since I couldn’t keep up with the other precedents, give me this one at least! But I was nervous, and it took some major bribing and the right pieces to fall into place for it to happen. Despite my worries I might be too out of practice for it to work the first attempt, Nick did awesome holding his hand still for 60 seconds (such a long time for a little guy) and didn’t squish his little fingers down too far to the bottom. And as with the others, I love, love, love the result. I treasure these moldings of my preschoolers’ hands. I’ve done all five of them now and used food-coloring to make them different colors. As long as they stay intact, I know that I will treasure these for a very long time.
Here’s the result of today’s session (the dot in the middle of his hand is a flaw of the plaster, perhaps a lumpy spot, not a wart):
My only problem now is trying to figure out a way to protect them so that I can display them without fear they are going to get bumped and crash to the floor and break. This is one craft that cannot be redone at a later date.Any ideas?
My final analysis of the project: it is stressful, so if you want to try it, be forewarned. Everything has to work in harmony for it to happen. But to me, that ten minutes of stress is totally worth it in the end. The handprints of each of my children (and anyone’s) are unique, precious and unrepeatable.