Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Gift Idea: Pre-K Hand Print Calendar (Plus, Tips for Desensitizing Students with Special Needs to Finger Painting)

My last post on creative Christmas gift ideas was received so well, I thought I would follow up with one more homemade Christmas gift idea.  The idea is not new at all but our students' parents loved it as an end of the year gift last year. It would also be a great Christmas gift idea for your students' parents or your own children's gift to grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

A special thank you to Jessica Normandin and Good Beginnings Daycare for inspiring the idea as well as numerous internet and Pinterest finds along the way!

So without further ado, I give you the Buddy Bear's version of a Hand Print Calendar.

The Cover

January: A Beautiful Snowflake

February: A Handprint Valentine

March: A Silly Leprechaun

April: A Funny Bunny

May: A Pretty Tulip 

June: A Fun Fish

July: A Patriotic Flag

August:  Cool Crayons for Back-to-School

September: A Delicious Apple

 (Note: This was a prototype my boys made as a sample. The students' middle finger
was not painted all the way to the tip so the stem was shorter on the actual gifts.)

October: A Black Spider 
(Inspired by: Conscious Discipline's
 I Love You Rituals:  Little Miss Muffet

November: A Colorful Turkey

December: A Slender Santa 
(Note: Again, this was a prototype on the real ones 
we painted the tip of the thumb peach to make a flesh colored face.) 

There you have it "The Buddy Bear Hand Print Calendar!"  You might ask how did we ever get this twelve month calendar accomplished with our little special needs Buddy Bears. Well, it was not without the loving patience and creativity of Miss Karlie, one of our master art table paras.  Each day the kids painted one page of the their calendar and then had a turn with the art choices of the day.  (For more info on art center, visit this previous post.)  

You might also ask how we accomplished this task with sensory sensitive kiddos.  There are always a few students in a special education classroom that resist getting their hands dirty and/or hate to paint! We are always honest with the kids and tell them what we are doing. We show them a sample of the page we are going to paint and the plate of paint. 

Then if they are up for it, we paint their hand.  Here is a video clip of just that. Given it is with my son, who is not sensitive to paint, but you get the idea that we keep it fun, and make it quick with all of our materials ready and a washcloth to clean up ASAP!

For kids who aren't quite ready for this quick fun painting, we take baby steps.  For some, we desensitize them by tracing their hand and just helping them color the hand print.  (Note: In our experience coloring with crayons is less invasive to students that are resistive to painting as marker has the potential to get on their hands. However, we will use whatever the child is interested in.)

For others, we trace their hand and help them paint the inside of the hand with a paint brush. . . getting them a little closer to painting their hand.   

For others, we paint a cut out of a hand print on a sponge and simply have them push the sponge down on the paper...getting them even closer to painting their own hand.  (TIP: if you do this method remember it is a mirrored image so plan accordingly unlike me who has a backward image.)  

Although painting is not a necessity for kids, it is something that they encounter on occasion so we try our best to desensitize them to the experience in a non-threatening way.  By experiencing 12 hand print paintings in a row, some of our students did make a little progress with painting.  One would go to the table without protest to watch her peers paint another painted most of the pages with her actual hand!! Remember it's baby steps! :)

You might ask what is the point?  If they hate it, why make them do it? Well, my thought is that it is something kids will experience in preschool and early elementary years so exposure in a friendly structured environment can be helpful and these little paintings mean the world to parents who know that their little one's hands will not be little forever.

Best wishes with your little painters!!   


  1. These are all really cute Ideas to do with young children. I would like to put my son in preschool. I hope i can find a place that has creative and fun ideas like these.