DIY shrinky dinks are so easy to make for free with supplies you already have around the house!
Shrinky dinks are made with plastic you draw on and then shrink in the oven. You can use plastic takeout containers to make homemade shrinky dinks that are just like the ones you buy at the craft store. It’s environmentally friendly to use something you already have around the house instead of throwing it into the landfill.
I always loved making Shrinky Dinks when I was a kid. I remember standing by the toaster oven with my sister watching the little plastic sheets curl up and melt. Such a fun craft to make. It seemed magical to me.
These DIY shrinky dinks work just the same way. Let’s see what you need to get started.
Shrinky Dinks Plastic
Clear plastic takeout containers are usually not recyclable. Here where I live, we can only recycle number one and two plastic. Check the little recycle triangle symbol on your plastic containers. You can use number 5 plastic for shrinky dinks or number 6 plastic.
I don’t get take out often but several people bring me their containers to use with the kids for crafts.
The next thing you need to decide is what kind of medium you will use to decorate them. Sharpies work great, but who wants to let their kids loose with sharpies? If that’s you, go for it! But for me, I need a less permanent option.
For our homemade shrinky dinks, we used three options to show you.
Example number one is sharpie.
Then example number two is colored pencil.
Example number three is roll up crayons.
Once they shrink down, they all look great as you can see.
I stink at freehand cutting, but if you are creative with that or have some large punches, you can cut out your own shapes as I did here.
I love the idea of letting kids do open-ended art, but I find that parents like product art much better than process art, so I try to show the kids both. With open-ended art, kids can be free to be their own kind of creative. But there is good learning in process art, too, such as how to follow instructions.
I just let a child have a piece of plastic and a few roll-up crayons and go after it. Then I attempted to cut it into a heart shape. You could lay the sheet on a coloring book page or some of our free printable patterns and first draw a heart onto the sheet. Then when you cut it, it would turn out better than my freehanded one.
Let the kids make any designs they wish and then cut them into shapes for them after. This makes a wonderful product but they still get to be creative. If your kids are older, let them cut them out themselves. That would really be unique and creative.
How to Make Homemade Shrinky Dinks
Once you have selected your shrinky dink plastic and medium, follow these shrinky dink instructions.
Step 1. Cut the flat parts of the plastic out of your container (or grab your sheet of store-bought plastic).
Step 2. Take fine sandpaper and lightly scratch the entire surface of the plastic so it’s rough and will hold the color of your medium.
Step 3. Wipe the plastic lightly and choose your design.
Step 4. Decorate your plastic on the rough side.
Step 5. Cut out your design.
Step 6. Punch a hole in the top of the design.
Step 7. Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes or until your items are flat. You may want to line your baking tray with parchment or aluminum foil. You may also want to take a toaster oven outside to avoid fumes inside, or preheat the grill and shrink them in there. We didn’t smell any fumes when we made them but better safe than sorry!
Step 8. Let cool.
Step 9. Attach string, thread, ribbon, a keyring, or whatever you want to make your homemade shrinky dinks into necklaces, key chains, luggage tags, charms, bookmarks, even guitar picks, or whatever you had in mind.
Printable Shrinky Dink Templates
Here are some free Valentine shrinky dinks printables templates! Just print them out and lay them under your plastic to trace onto your shrink art.
There are two sizes of each design of shrinky dink patterns available. The small ones shrink down to about half an inch and the larger size shrink down to about an inch. If you want larger items, you can print the images out and blow them up on a copier, then trace them.
You could make larger ones and use them for Valentines for classmates. What a fun way to make a card! You can also make necklaces or other jewelry for a gift.
Would you like to make some gorgeous garden shrinky dinks? Check out these free printable Garden shrinky dinks templates.
We’ve also got some fun shrinky dink Christmas ornament templates!
Remember to make sure you punch a hole in your item BEFORE you shrink it if you want it to have a hole in the end. I used to forget that as a kid. I’m sure you could drill a hole, but punching before is far simpler.
I hope you and your kids have fun with all these DIY shrinky dink ideas!
Don’t forget to Pin for later!