How Kids Can Study Fingerprints

By Susan Revermann
No one will ever have the same fingerprint as you.
No one will ever have the same fingerprint as you.

A baby in the womb forms fingerprints about 12 weeks after conception, and everyone has a set of unique prints. If your child wants to study fingerprints, teach him the basics first. This may be the new hobby that keeps him busy and entertained all afternoon.

Identifying Basic Patterns

To start off his study of fingerprints, your child needs to understand the basics patterns of fingerprints. Explain to him that there are three basic characteristics in fingerprints: loop, arch and whorl. If a fingerprint has a loop, the line comes in from one side, swoops up, loops around, goes back down and exits in the same direction it started. An arch comes in from one side, arches up and then down like a hill and continues toward the other side of the finger. A whorl fingerprint has almost concentric circles on it.

Examining Fingers

Now that he knows what to look for, hand him a magnifying glass so he can examine his own set of fingerprints. Have him take a look at his fingerprints and sketch the patterns on a piece of paper. Ask him to point out what characteristics he has on his print and any other characteristics that he notices.

Gathering Fingerprints

Let your child pretend to be a crime scene investigator with this activity. Have the members of your family press their fingers on a clean sliding glass door or window. To make the fingerprints clearer and easier to find, everyone should run their fingers across their forehead or scalp before touching the glass. Give your child a small bowl of sifted cocoa powder and let him use a little paint brush to brush the cocoa onto the glass. When he comes across a fingerprint, the cocoa powder will stick to the fingerprint. Have him gently blow on the fingerprint to blow away excess powder. Take a piece of scotch or packing tape and press it directly down on the fingerprint. Lift the tape up carefully and press it onto a piece of paper. Now he has collected fingerprints that he can examine. See if he can guess which fingerprint belongs to each family member.

Comparing Fingerprints

Even close relatives won’t have the same set of fingerprints. Pull out an inkpad and paper and have your child fingerprint everyone in the family like he is a police officer booking some “bad guys.” Once he has prints from everyone in the family, have him identify the characteristics of each. He can also compare each set to the others in the family.