Fingerprinting was originally used for signatures during business deals centuries before, but it wasn’t until the 1880s that fingerprinting began to kick off as a method of official identification – particularly in catching criminals. Fingerprints were first used in English courts in 1902. Create your own mystery criminals, and then see who can solve the case!

What You’ll Need

  • Ink Pad or pen (clay can also substitute)
  • Paper
  • Magnifying glass
  • Pencil
  • Clean up wipes


  1. Have each participant record their fingerprints. This can be done by pressing each finger into ink, then gently pressing their fingers to paper to record the whirls of their prints. If using clay, simply roll the fingers into it. Do this for one hand of each participant, and then label.
  2. Repeat this process to have a “crime scene” copy
  3. Have a parent or “detective” choose one of the crime scene fingerprints at random, hiding the label to keep the identity secret.
  4. Using the magnifying glass, have the investigators compare the crime scene prints to the other samples. Look for key identifying features, such as Tented Arches, Whorls and Loops. A reference sheet can be found here.
  5. Have they identified the criminal? If there are multiple participants, put it to a vote. Are they correct? Why or why not?

Want to learn more?

My First Lab has been a leader in developing STEM equipment for the past 30 years. With products ranging from microscopes and bundles to prepared slides and accessories, we are sure to have any product for the junior investigator, hobbyist or educational leader. Learn how to create some hands-on experiments through our Maximum Launch, enjoy our blog or browse our award-winning products.