Plaster Baby Footprints
Plaster is a tried-and-true method of preserving baby footprints and handprints, and for good reason.
As a material, plaster is affordable and most definitely permanent. Another benefit of plaster is that it takes paint readily, in case you want to color your baby print pink or blue, or paint on the name, date and age rather than “scratch” it in. (You can also choose to put that information on the back of the plaster piece rather than the front, if you’d like.)
Plaster is not without its pitfalls, however. Some brands dry fast—too fast, in fact—while others seem to take forever to set.
I found this out the hard way when I used a super-cheap kit to cast my son’s handprints. The instructions said to mix the compound, pour it into a mold, and wait a designated amount of time. It took much longer to set than the instruction said, and by that time my baby wasn’t having any of it. As I was trying to calm him down, the plaster got too hard and I had to throw the whole thing away. From this I learned that when you’re working with plaster, plan the process out ahead of time. Make sure Baby’s hands or feet are clean and dry. Lay out all your supplies (including baby wipes or a washcloth for cleanup), keep a close eye on the setting process, and—perhaps with the help of a second adult—impress baby’s hand or foot quickly yet carefully. Kit instructions should indicate how hard you need to press, and most advise keeping the hand or foot as still as possible, and pressing straight down and up rather than “wiggling” it around in the plaster. It might be a good idea to have extra plaster on hand, or practice with a more compliant older child before attempting with a baby or toddler. (Oh, and here’s another tip: I later learned that I could have salvaged my “ruined” plaster by letting it dry completely, flipping it out of its mold, and using it as a “base” for baby footprints using paint.)
There are many products on the market that come complete with plaster mix, mold and even scratching tools and other “extras.”
Be aware that there are cartons or boxes of Plaster of Paris sold in stores that should NOT come in contact with anyone’s skin, much less a baby’s. They’re intended for use in casting objects and not people parts!