The Evolution of My Favorite Art Idea for Children: Fish Prints!

IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE FISH PRINTS WITH CHILDREN, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE MISSING! This art idea always turns out just beautiful and the children have a printing experience that is really fun.

4 yr old with his "Fish Print"

Fish Printing can be found in Art History as far back as the 1800's in Japan. Here's a link for more info on this:

This beautiful Art, called "Gyotaku" (Japanese translation: "fish" "rubbing") is believed to have originated with fishermen as a way of recording their catch! However, it quickly evolved into an amazing form of Art.

Even the actual printing process became a beautiful form of "Nature Art." This one pictured below is a woodblock print.

I always like to introduce Fish Printing to young children in the Montessori classroom when our Cultural Studies take us to Asia, and Japan!

In my first years of fish printing with young children, I would bring in an actual fish to print! I would go to the fish market and ask the vendor if there were any not-so fresh whole fish left that he would give to me since "I am a Preschool teacher..."
This worked every time, and over the years,  I continued to provide a not-so-fresh whole fish for the children to print. 

There is a down side, of course and that is that the fish only lasts for a day and becomes quite dilapidated from all that printing! (starts to get more smelly, too!)

When I discovered sturdy polymer fish models (for study) in a biological supply catalogue, I was very happy. Even though they are expensive, they can be washed after each printing and mine have lasted for over 15 years now!
Here's a place to buy them:

These replicas are very detailed and they are also flat on one side, so much easier to make prints!

The children first paint the "fish", then they place a large piece of art paper over the painted fish and rub gently to create a print on the art paper.

With the older children, I had them wash the "fish" after they were done with their printing so the work was ready for the next person. 

Then, there is the wonderful "reading & writing" extension that we Montessorians love to explore for every lesson we offer in our classroom...this one is "Parts of the Fish" 3 part cards (and booklet-making, too).

You can read more about Montessori Nomenclature cards & activities at this link:

I'm hoping you get a chance to offer this beautiful Art activity to the children in your group sometime soon! And, please add your ideas in the comment section below. I'd love to hear from you!

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