The printing press and the advent of mass-produced literature were a revolution for mankind. The basic principles behind printing are easy to duplicate in the classroom. You can use simple printing activities to teach children the history behind printing. These lessons also will show children how to create their own prints they can use again and again.
One of the simplest ways to teach children about printing is to create a potato stamp. Potatoes are inexpensive and easy to carve with soft tools. Cut one potato in half to create two stamps. The children can carve designs into the potato using small plastic spoons. Demonstrate that the parts that are carved away will be the light sections of the stamp. After each child is finished, he can receive several sheets of paper and an inkblot. They can practice loading the stamp with ink and pressing it against the page to reveal the design. It can help if you encourage the children to make simple designs, as these will show up clearly on the page.
A styrofoam block stamp is a continuation of the principles behind the potato stamp. However, the styrofoam block stamp can be used with more complex designs and can be reused more times than the potato stamp. Children draw their design ahead of time on the styrofoam block using a pencil. This will allow them to create more complicated designs and have more control over their project. Basic carving tools from a pumpkin carving kit can be used to create the details on the styrofoam block. Once the block has been carved, students can use a small ink roller to roll ink over their block. This is similar to how some of the first printing presses had their blocks prepared. After the ink is loaded, students can press down on the paper to make their print.
Linoleum tile can be used to create a more complex version of a print. This activity works best for slightly older children who are confident in their drawing skills. The print can be drawn ahead on a sheet of paper. This can be transferred to the tile by placing a sheet of graphite paper in between the tile and the design and tracing the line work. This will push the graphite onto the tile, and the student will retain a copy of his original design. They use an Exacto razor to scrape away the linoleum to create the print. Highly detailed prints can be created with tiny repetitive strokes from the razor. Make sure the strokes the students are making are deep enough to separate the areas that will be loaded with ink from the black sections that should not. Ink can be brushed or rolled on. Once that's done, press the tile onto paper to create the image.