Birthday Project: Hands and Feet

by: Kerri Young

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”  Psalm 77:11-12

In honor of my littlest man’s birthday a few weeks ago, I thought I would share one of the traditions we started with my oldest on her first birthday: Hand/Footprint Tablecloths. I liked this idea right away when I saw it because it seemed like the perfect, practical way to mark the years and be sure not to forget how much our kids have grown.  I honestly don’t even remember where I found this idea (this was before pinterest), so I can’t really give credit where it’s due, but this is one of my all-time favorite creative finds that I know we will cherish for years to come.

Each year about a week before their birthdays my husband and I (or my mom or whoever else is around to help) work together–because it takes a team with the little ones– to paint our kids’ feet and hands and make prints on their very own tablecloth. You have to do it at least 3-4 days before their birthday so the fabric paint has time to dry and then be washed before you use the tablecloth. We always use it at their birthday party, which means drinks and food get spilled and cause stains. But, I figure that just adds character.

For their first birthday, they either love getting their feet and hands all dirty or they hate it. The prints don’t turn out perfect, but that’s okay. Each year it gets a little easier as they learn to cooperate and understand what you’re doing. I figure we’ll probably be able to fit about 12-13 years of prints on each sheet, but I imagine much after that they might not want to do it anymore, anyway.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 sheet (for a family size rectangular table I use one twin-sized top sheet)
  • 1 paper plate
  • Paper to go underneath workspace (construction paper, newspaper, etc.)
  • 1 foam paintbrush
  • Fabric paint
  • Fabric marker

What to do:

  • Spread sheet out and decide where to start
  • Strip child down (if still at an age where he will make a mess)
  • Squeeze fabric paint onto paper plate & dip paintbrush into paint
  • Paint hands and feet and make prints
  • Write the date and age on top of or inside prints
  • Let sheet dry (follow instructions on fabric paint packaging)

After doing this ten times, we’ve learned a few things from trial and error. Here are my tips:

  • Don’t do it alone if you have 1-3 year olds. As I mentioned, babies are tricky.
  • For the little ones, paint one foot/hand at a time. My husband always holds the kiddo while I paint his/her foot/hand.
  • Cover each toe/finger with a good amount of paint, but not so much that it’s going to make a big, gloppy mess.
  • When it comes time to press the foot/hand down on the sheet, press down on each toe/finger for a second to make sure you get a good imprint of each on the cloth.
  • Have wipes or washcloths ready to wipe off the mess immediately for little ones; then start on the next foot/hand.
  • Put the sheet on the table you will be using so you can plan where you want to start and where the prints will be for photos.
  • This might seem like a no-brainer, but it wasn’t for us: Start at a corner of the table and work around clock-wise through the years. It just makes it easier.
  • Put paper underneath the tablecloth so the paint doesn’t bleed through onto your table or surface (it will bleed a little).
  • Pick a sheet color that will wear well. As mentioned, stains will happen. You don’t want it to be so dark that the paint doesn’t show, but white would be very hard to keep clean.

Here are some more pictures of our littlest man’s tablecloth (and the making of the tablecloth that my almost seven year old took) for you to see how it turns out.

As we think about getting rid of most of our belongings before we move across the world, I know our kids’ tablecloths will be making the journey with us. I’ve thought about giving them to them as wedding presents someday, but that’s hopefully a long time from now…and maybe I won’t want to let them go by then (the tablecloths…or the kids). Smile

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