I grew up in the nineties as a latchkey kid
Every day after school, my little brother and I would ride home on the school bus, let ourselves into our house, and spend the afternoons doing whatever we wanted. I would make us a snack (usually a bowl of chocolate chips warmed in the microwave and eaten with a spoon), and we would sprawl out on the carpet in front of our TV, settling in to watch our after-school Nickelodeon favorites, like Hey Arnold or Clarissa Explains it All.
When we were bored of TV and hyped up on sugar, it was time for arts and crafts. My brother favored his Creepy Crawlers set while I was into more traditional activities like sewing, baking, and embroidery. However, one pastime we could both get excited about doing together was Shrinky Dinks.
Shrinky Dinks are a kitschy craft that gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. Made from a special plastic sheet called polystyrene, Shrinky Dinks shrink when heated yet preserve their original shape. The sheets can easily be cut with scissors and colored with markers or colored pencils. Once baked, the film shrinks to a ⅓ of its original size and becomes thick and rigid.
You can use baked Shrinky Dinks for many purposes, from lapel pins to earrings and ornaments. I’ll share how to make your Shrinky Dinks into an adorable keychain or lapel pin in this simple tutorial!
Gather Your Materials
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SHOP SHRINKY DINKS
Spend a few minutes planning out what you’d like to shrink. Then, make some sketches in your sketchbook and play around with a few different ideas. The polystyrene films are translucent- you can trace a sketch by laying the film on top of your drawing.
Sketch your drawing on the matte side of the sheet. I find that color pencils work exceptionally well for Shrinky Dinks- the colors become more saturated after the film shrinks.
Once baked, your Shrinky Dink will shrink to a ⅓ of its original size, that’s really small! A lot smaller than you’d realize! Consider warming up by making a few test Shrinky Dinks before committing to a final piece.
Cut Out Your Shape
Place your shape on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 1-3 minutes. Keep an eye on your piece, magic is about to happen!
Your piece will curl after about a minute. Don’t panic! The Shrinky Dink will roll up entirely but then lay flat. Once it is flat, allow it to cook for about 30 more seconds.
MAKE A KEYCHAIN
Your drawing is tiny! Grab your keychain pieces and open up the last link on the chain using pliers.
MAKE A PIN
There you have it! A quick craft perfect for kids and adults alike! Making Shrinky Dinks is a great way to spend a lazy summer afternoon and a fun activity for parties! I love creating Shrinky Dinks with groups- it’s very entertaining to see what everyone draws!
Have you tried making Shrinky Dinks? Share your projects in the comments!
Designer, entrepreneur, and lover of crafts! Boss Lady at Jenny Lemons in San Francisco