Valentine’s Day Shrinky Dinks

Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? I loved loved loved these as a child, but I wasn’t sure if my 2.5 year old would be ready for them yet. We happened to find ourselves at a Hanukah party in December where a bunch of craft tables were set up, and my child gravitated to the Shrinky Dink table. Why, I’m not sure, but the mountain of Sharpie markers may have had something to do with it. We had a really good conversation about how plastic melts with heat (in this case, in a hot toaster oven), and I’m impressed that my daughter can now articulate a wide range of melting things including snowmen, ice cream cones, and now shrinky dinks!


  • Shrinky Dink Refill kit – I ordered these from Amazon
  • Sharpies in a variety of colors. The Shrinky Dink company also recommends Prisma Color pencils or non-water based crayons. We used Crayola Twistables and Crayola washable markers for this project.
  • Oven or Toaster Oven
  • Hole Punch (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)

I cut one of the sheets in half, and my daughter drew all over them with Sharpies, markers, and crayons.

We’ve been revving up for Valentine’s Day, so when a request for a heart shape came in I was ready! I made a little heart template on green paper, traced the shape onto the plastic, and then cut it out. You can get a sense of the scale reduction in the picture above. I punched a hole near the top, so we could add these to a keyring or necklace later on.

Heat the oven to 325, then bake! The plastic curls as it heats up, and it’s really fun to watch. If there’s ever a time to use the oven light, this is it! This step takes less than 30 seconds, so watch it closely.

And there you have it…Shrinky Dinks just in time for Valentine’s Day.


  • The Shrinky Dink company put this handy little idea and cheat sheet together
  • Our friend Chelsea shares these instructions from Curbly for making your own shrinky plastic pictures from #6 plastic (polystyrene). It’s brilliant: resourceful, inexpensive, and recyclable! We will most definitely be trying this out.

How to Make Goop

Homemade Goop is one of the best things I’ve learned how to make as a parent, and today I’m going to share this big secret on how to make goop aka how to make oobleck.

It’s the easiest recipe, and full of so much fun for small children.

Have you tried it? The recipe is simple and children are riveted by the magic of this weird substance.

How to make Goop ::

Fun History of Goop

Goop, better known as Oobleck (named for a slime in Dr. Seuss’ book Bartholomew and the Oobleck ) is a fun material to play with: At one moment it’s a solid, and at the next it’s a liquid…it’s unbelievably silly to play with, and I’ve witnessed adults get lost in the strange sensation of its texture. For my science friends out there, this is a dilatant material, which is one that changes its properties in reaction to external stimuli. We don’t have the Dr. Seuss book (yet!), but I imagine it would be fun to read the book in conjunction with this activity.

How to get the most out of your Goop

To get the most bang for your buck, do what I did and set up this goop-making activity up as a 3-part activity to enable your child to experience the medium in multiple ways.

How to make Goop ::

Goop Ingredients

  • 16 oz. container of Cornstarch (this is corn flour in the U.K.)
  • Up to 1 cup of water
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring (optional)

Goop Supplies

  • Big tub for mixing — I used an under-the-bed storage container. Contains the mess well so my child can play unencumbered by my tidy concerns
  • Spoons, little bowls, toys for playing, scooping, and filling

How to Make Goop

  1. Set up a large container such as an under-bed tub
  2. There are two ingredients in this recipe: cornstarch and water. If you don’t have the same quantities as us, the ratio is one part water and two parts cornstarch.
  3. Pour one 16 oz. container of cornstarch into the tub
  4. Pour almost all of water on the cornstarch, around 3/4 cups. Mix the water and cornstarch together with your hands. Add the rest of the water to make the consistency more liquid. Play with the ratio.
  5. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors to make it colorful.

How to make Goop ::

How we did it…

How to Make Goop: Part 1

I placed the jar of corn starch in the tub, alongside a spoon and a couple small bowls. I expected my daughter to pour the whole tub of corn starch out, but she carefully scooped it from the container spoonful by spoonful. This took a while, as she was wholly invested in the process of measuring and then pouring. Once playing with dry corn starch ran its course…

How to make Goop ::

How to Make Goop: Part 2

We added water. I gave her just a bit at a time, so she could enjoy the process of mixing it in. Ultimately, the cornstarch:water ratio is about 2:1.  And as we went along, we chatted about what it felt like in our hands, if it was easy/hard to stir, and what we were doing. And once she seemed to have her fill of playing with this funny material…

How to make Goop ::

How to Make Goop: Part 3

We added a few drops of liquid watercolor to the Oobleck (food coloring would also work), which she swirled around and mixed up. She was really interested in dropping the color into the mixture, but stirring it up barely sustained her interest. After focused play with the Oobleck for the last 30 minutes, she seemed to have had enough…ready to move on to the next big thing.

If you try this (or already have it under your belt), I’d love to hear from you!

More Playdough and Sensory Activities

Rainbow Play Dough, the BEST playdough recipe EVER!

How to make Flubbery Gak (aka Slime)

Playing with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Experiments with Flour and Water

Explore Flour and Chalk

Art With Everyday Things

I stumbled upon Tsh Oxenreider’s blog,, and its words of clean and simple living wisdom have been a huge inspiration to this pile-making, book-loving, overstuffed home-making, can’t-throw-away-art-supplies-from-college kind of gal. I was so drawn in that I purchased her book, Organized Simplicity, and I’m finding myself on a new path toward simplifying my home and life.

Related to all of this, my home has fallen under The Great Purge, and odds and ends like never used triangular make-up sponges are mostly finding their way into the trash. Or in this case, because I still have the art material hoarding sickness…the art table. Although the whole point of this journey is for me to get rid of things, I had a feeling that my little art explorer would enjoy tinkering with them.

And she did! After sponging to her heart’s content, N reached for the paint squeeze bottles. Mixed media painting begins here! When she was younger I waxed poetic about limiting art supplies in any given project to avoid overwhelming a child with options. I’m still formulating my thoughts on this as she gets older, but it’s becoming more and more clear that she enjoys having access to a wide variety of materials in one sitting. In another recent session, she used pom-poms, glitter glue, and watercolor paint…all of her own design.

And then she picked up a grease pencil, or china marker, for some additional mark-making. These pencils not only make beautiful bright marks, but they’re fun for kids to peel open.

While the triangle sponges were saved from the dump this time around, it’s a whole other story for the old blender, maternity clothes, and set of rarely used hot cocoa mugs. Although, on second thought, that dying blender may find a second life as a paper pulper. Or not.

I’d love to know…what everyday objects you or your kids like to tinker with?

Teaching at the

In my life outside of TinkerLab, I work with museum teachers to learn and practice skills for engaging museum visitors (both children and adults) in meaningful discussions about works of art. One of the strategies I most enjoy using and teaching is called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). And today I had the great pleasure of facilitating a VTS session at Stanford’s in a class called Creative Gym: A Design Thinking Skills Workshop. Don’t you just love the name of this course? The class, an experimental studio focused on honing design intuition and creative confidence, was founded by Grace Hawthorne and Charlotte Burgess-Auburn. Charlotte is Director of Community at the and Grace is cofounder of Ready Made magazine. If you’ve ever read Ready Made, you’ll understand why I knew I would adore Grace before ever meeting her.

VTS is a research-based teaching method for looking at art “that improves critical thinking and language skills through discussions of visual images.” I guided the students through two looking activities, followed by a short discussion about how they could apply this strategy to other areas of their lives.  They came up with all sorts of interesting interpretations including how this approach of looking carefully at an artwork can help one suspend judgment, become more keenly aware of stereotypes, and become open to multiple points of view. Several museums such as the MFA Boston and DeYoung Museum have trained their floor staff and volunteers in VTS, and if you have the opportunity to participate in one of these lively discussions it’s definitely worth your time!  While this post isn’t specifically about children, I include it because it’s important to remember that if we expect our children to become creative and critical thinkers, we should remember to nourish and support our own creative spirit as well. Watch this video for a taste of what this conversation could look like.

As much fun as it was to lead this workshop, I am in love with the concept of this course and wish I had the time to take it myself!

Glittery Pine Cones

Beautiful, right? These gorgeous old redwoods shade our neighborhood park and make me fall in love with that park time and time again. After our ritual slide run and swing toss we like to set up snack or lunch in the shade of these trees, practice “climbing” them (which is really just climbing thought the gap between their close-growing bases), and occasionally harvest their little 1″ pine cones for mysterious who-knows-whats.

While my husband and I busied ourselves with countless chores this morning, my daughter called out, “I’m ready for an art project! I’m sitting at my table and NEED an art project!!” So demanding! Forget that she’s got a sweet little self-service area all set up where she can access paper, markers, scissors (yes, that’s right…scissors…lucky kid!), glue, and glitter glue. But she wants MORE! So, my brain starts cranking a little faster, and I hustle to pull this pine cone glitter bonanza together for her.

N chose the paint colors, brushes, and glitter colors, and we spent a good deal of time mixing up a batch of “magenta” paint with red, purple, and white. It didn’t really turn out looking like magenta in the end, but at least we could name the strange, emerging color something other than red, which it was clearly not.

And this was not just for my daughter…my husband and I jumped in the fun, too. (Thanks, Susie, for the gorgeous bronzy glitter. Scott made some good looking pine cones way sparkly with it today!).

Excess glitter found its way into this baggie, and my husband showed N how she could cover a glue+paint coated pine cone with glitter by dropping it in and shaking it about.

A tray full of mini pine cones. Isn’t it surprising that the world’s largest tree should bear such a tiny cone?

We really can’t seem to get enough of the sparkly stuff. Anyone else have a child who’s nutso for glitter?

Extension ideas

  • You don’t have mini pinecones to paint? Try big pine cones, leaves, sweetgum balls, rocks, or sticks.
  • Bring a basket on a neighborhood walk and provoke your child with a question like, “Let’s collect items to paint/glitter/decorate/etc. What could we collect?”
  • Add glue to your paint mixture to ensure that the glitter sticks to the pine cones

Happy New Year!!!