decorated shapes cut from polystyrene sheets on top of aluminum foil.

Homemade Shrinky Dinks From Recycled Plastic

Beware- if you read this you will start compulsively checking plastic containers to see if they can be made into homemade shrinky dinks! You might remember making Shrinky Dinks as a kid, they seem kind of magical and when I discovered there are ways to make shrinky dinks at home using #6 plastic, I started keeping my eye out for possible containers.

When I found a cracker container with a number 6 on it (My first #6 find!),  I wondered- could I make homemade shrinky dinks with rippled plastic??

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How to make DIY Shrinky Dinks - recycled plastics

I started experimenting- sometimes it's worth it to spend a little time experimenting before getting the kids involved.  I rifled through my recycle bin and grabbed a few other containers just in case they would work.   Soon I had determined:

  • Number 1 plastic shrinks a little, but not much and also sometimes just turns white and curls – it's not a good material for DIY shrinky dinks.
  • I read that foam is #6 plastic so I gave this a try with craft foam- sure enough, it shrinks like mad too. It does not, however get stiff.
  • Meat trays from the deli, are number 6 as well – and they seem to be thick enough to make a shrinky dink.
  • The #6 plastic with the ridges has a pretty neat effect when made into a shrinky dink. I like that it adds a texture to the little beads.

Here's How We Made Homemade Shrinky Dinks:

Supplies:

We cut out squares and heart shapes from the plastic container to decorate.  Each piece we hole punched, and then colored with permanent marker before shrinking in the oven.

Recyled Plastic Shrinky Dinks - hearts

More Detailed Instructions:

  1. We cut pieces from plastic containers and punched holes in them so that we could use them as little charms on necklaces or earrings. You can see the plastic that I used which came from a cracker container.

Tips 1 homemade shrinky dinks image

2. We decorated our plastic pieces using colorful Sharpie markers.

Tips 2 homemade shrinky dinks image

3. We put our creations in the oven at about 350ºF. I put them on a baking tray on parchment paper, but you could make a tray out of tin foil too.

After about a minute- oh no! They're curling!

After about two minutes (maybe three?)- they uncurl, and that's it, they won't shrink any more.

I was worried about the fumes, and I did turn on the hood, but I didn't really smell bad. In fact I think I got more fumes from the permanent markers than from the plastic. Updated – I have since read a better idea in Jean Van't Hul's Artful Year: She takes this kind of activity outside and uses a tray on her gas grill to avoid any fumes. Another option to take it outside is to use a toaster oven.

recycled plastics - shrinking in the oven

 

creating homemade shrinky dinks image

It's definitely fun to try out recycling some plastic to make your own shrinky dinks. I've also discovered that it's not too expensive to just buy a kit or a pack of shrink plastic sheets.

Options for Buying Shrinky Dink Plastic:

Grab Some Inspiration for Making Homemade Shrinky Dinks:

Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk!: Make Stylish Shrink Plastic Jewelry

This book even includes a section on making recycled plastic shrinky dinks. The projects are cute and stylish. The Not-Your-Grandmother's Cameo Necklaces and the Unicorn Ring are my favorites.

Shrink Art 101 With Rubber Stamps

The strength of this book is that by using rubber stamps the author comes up with some very sophisticated shrink plastic jewelry. The techniques in it which use stamps may be best paired with purchased plastic sheets rather than recycled pieces of plastic, simply for ease of transferring the design.

The Shrinky Dinks Book

Great for kids (this would make a fun present for a 10 or 11 year old) this book from Klutz comes with 6 sheets of shrink plastic, pages with designs to trace and color and instructions for making key chains, necklaces, charms and more.

Ideas From Readers About Shrinky Dinks:

  • I was looking for a way to make shrinky dinks for my Girl Scout troop to add to their homemade snow globes. I found that you can buy 8?x10? #6 plastic sheets at Home Depot for $2 a sheet. I love this idea better and from now on we will be using recycled plastic. However, if you are in a bind and “need” it quickly, the sheets from Home Depot worked GREAT!! -Jamie
  • Styrofoam cups can be colored with permanent markers and shrunk to make Barbie size doll’s hats. You can also cut into creative shapes and color them before baking. – Patty
  • Ah I love this! I had a real plastic melting phase a while back where I made vinyl record bowls and bizarre things from those little green army men! – Charlotte