I am always keen to get outside whatever the weather, and find some outdoor activities for the whole family. So this weekend I decided to take the kids on a footprint hunt, in the hope that we could make some nice plaster casts of any we found.
This is something I remember doing as a child, and I’ve been meaning to do it with the kids for ages. Oliver in particularly loves going on walks, or ‘adventures’ as he calls them. He always insists on taking his bug hunting kit with him, and is always armed with his binoculars and magnifying glass. I knew this was an activity that my free spirited son would enjoy. Isla loves all things crafty, so whilst she doesn’t like getting dirty, I knew she would enjoy the casting of the footprints.
So I set about getting all the bits and pieces that we needed together, and off we set on our footprint hunt! Ideally you want a dry day, and when the ground isn’t too boggy. Admittedly we had a nice dry day, but it’s been quite wet here recently so the ground was a little soft to say the least.
Just one piece of advice. If you are planning to do this and take 2 children and 1 crazy puppy with you down a muddy footpath, wear old clothes, and preferably have another adult with you! Typically on our walk just as I was mixing the plaster of Paris, along came loads of other dog walkers. Quickly I clipped the dogs lead back on, for her to pull suddenly, slopping the plaster all over myself and some on the kids!
If this is something you want to give a go, then here’s how you do it!
How To Make Plaster Casts of Animal Footprints
You Will Need
- Plaster of Paris
- Measuring cup
- Aluminium container- or other container
- Lolly sticks
- Plastic rings cut from plastic bottles
- Bags for rubbish and to bring back your casts
How You Make Plaster Casts of Animal Footprints
Firstly before you leave home, make sure you have everything you need. You need to make plastic rings to put around your footprints,. I cut rings from empty plastic water bottles of varying sizes. Ideally you want the ring to be not much bigger than the footprint so you don’t waste too much plaster, and about 1 inch thick. I used a 500ml bottle, and a 2L bottle to make rings of 2 different sizes.
Plaster of Paris is mixed up to the ratio of 2 parts plaster to 1 part water. You can measure out quantities in advance before you set off, or take a little measuring cup with you. Make sure you have means of a sealed bag to put any leftover plaster in to bring back home.
You will also need a container to mix up the plaster in. I used a disposable aluminium food tray, and a lolly stick, which you can then throw away. I found it easier to add the water to the tray first and then add the plaster, it made mixing a lot easier, and it was easier to add a little more plaster if needed.
Don’t forget to take a bag with you for your rubbish, and another to bring back your casts.
Then you need to go and find some good footprints!
We’re Going on a Footprint Hunt!
I knew there was a public footpath along a field near us where we had previously seen lots of footprints from horses, deer, dogs and even birds. Unfortunately as mentioned earlier, due to the recent wet weather it was quite muddy, and it was tricky to find a good footprint that was deep enough but not to squelchy. There were lots of deer footprints, but as the ground was so soft, it was impossible to find one on it’s own. We settled for double deer footprint, where one hoof print was superimposed over the other, and we also found a couple of dog footprints that were nice and deep and on there own.
Once we found our footprints, we placed the plastic rings around the footprints. You have to push them into the ground, so no plaster can escape. As you will later see Isla’s one had a little leak but we were able to stop it.
I mixed up the plaster as described before to a paste consistency. You then need to gently pour it into the footprint, and ideally about 1cm up the plastic ring (if you have enough plaster). Too thin and you risk breaking it, too thick and you’ll be there for a long time waiting for it to set.
It took about 15minutes for the plaster to set enough for us to remove them. You can tell when they’re ready by lightly touching the top. If your finger doesn’t make a mark then they are ready to be lifted.
As the ground was quite soft, when we lifted our casts they were still covered in earth. I just popped them in a bag for the journey home.
When we got home, I got the casts out of the bag and left them for a few hours to dry out completely. Once they were completely dry, I was able to cut off the plastic ring, remove the mud and rinse them under the tap.
When they are dry like this you can paint them if you wish, but we choose to leave ours with a more rustic feel.
I’m pleased with how they have turned out, and the kids loved hunting for the footprints and seeing the results. It’s also a really good excuse to get outdoors and closer to nature. Whilst looking for our footprints we talked about what sort of animals we expected to find footprints of. Sadly there were no dinosaur footprints for Oliver! Isla enjoyed the casting process as well, whilst Oliver preferred the nearby muddy puddle at that point. Regardless, they were outside, getting some fresh air and exercise and learning about nature and our countryside all at the same time.
This is a great outdoor activity that all the family can enjoy. Why don’t you pin it for later!
What do you think of our plaster casts of animal footprints? Have you done this before? Would love to hear what footprints you’ve found.
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