Little Hands and Faces

Eliza Clark
June 7, 2013

Before children learn how to draw figures, they love to fingerpaint, and especially to make handprints. If you let them, they'll spend hours slapping their paint covered hands down onto paper, filling pages and pages with smeary imprints of themselves. They never seem to tire of making their own mark.

And once they get the hang of drawing faces, many of these little artists move into their self-portrait period. The inevitable grown-up question "Who are you drawing?" almost always elicits "Me!" Of course. Did we need to ask? But if the drawings are always of "Me," it's a me that is always changing. As we wrote last month, being creative is how young children create and understand their own growing selves. So it's worth paying attention to these images. 

For instance, we know one four-year-old who is smack dab in the middle of this self-portraiture phase. She's got bobbed hair, but always draws herself with long multi-colored locks. And there's usually a rainbow in the picture too. But we figured out just how revealing these pictures could be after a none-too-happy visit to the dentist. (The jaw clenched, lips sealed no matter how many bribes, entreaties, and videos you throw my way kind of visit.) Since then her self-portraits have always included teeth. Very very pointy teeth. Fangs, really. In other words: stay away from my mouth, Dr. Dentist, or you'll be sorry. Got it. 

And by the way: sometimes an activity that's all about your preschooler can also yield a lovely gift for someone who thinks that preschooler is the best thing ever. Namely, Dad. Or, for that matter, Grandad. Because, don't you know, it's Father's Day next Sunday. (Ack!) But there's no need to panic. Because if you don't have the perfect thing already picked out, all you've got to do is pop one of these handprints or self-portraits into a cheerful frame, tie it up with a bow, and there you have it. And for more Father's Day inspiration, check out our list of favorite children's books about Dad.

Handprint Art

Annual Self-Portrait

Life Size Paper Doll

Face Collage

Originally published in 2008.

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    My son just recently celebrated his birthday - at school they did a body tracing of him and had the kids in his class all say something about him which the teacher wrote on the cut-out. I'm going to do one at home of him and give it to his dad with my son coloring his self portrait.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    The self portrait idea is a wonderful one. We have been helping our (3 year old) daughter make a photo album of loved ones she takes with the v-tech camera (got that recommendation from you as well)! It's not exactly a self-portrait, but is too in a way...

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    One of the best gifts we've made for grandparent s(granddads) has been a color-me-mine mug with a little handprint. They are adorable.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 4

    One of the fun and interesting things my son has done is make a picture of himself of what he will look like when he is 100. I love it! He has white cotton balls all over his head, glasses and crazy looking eyes!

    over a year ago


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