With Christmas fast approaching it's time for the family to indulge in an annual attempt to make something festive and decorative that doesn't look so awful that it could be mistaken for a remnant of Halloween. This is how we came to buy this art item called, I kid you not, "Willie the Wizard's Magic Shrinkles".
What on earth is a Shrinkle?
If you are old enough to remember the 70's, there was a craze of putting a crisp packet in the oven (don't try this at home), and then putting a safety pin on the back of it once it had shrunk to a tenth of its original size. Shrinkles are sort of like this, with colouring involved. You get plastic printed sheets to colour in, once coloured your bit of flexible plastic can be placed in the oven, and will shrink to a 7th of its size and be 7 times thicker than the start. Your item can then be used as a key ring, tag, brooch or mobile phone tag, amongst other things. Shrinkles are sold in lots of different designs and you can also buy the accessories, such as keyring bits that you will need to use the item you have created.
What's in this particular set?
This set contains 3 A4 sheets with 38 different line-drawn designs on them, 12 coloured "shrinkle pencils" - they look like normal pencils to me but have "Willie's Shrinkles" (tee hee) printed on them, and there is a good range of colours. The different designs have a dotted guide line around them so they can be cut out and made into a Christmassy tag or decoration. There are 38 bits of gold string provided for tying onto the finished Shrinkle. You will need scissors and a hole punch in addition to the items provided to make your Christmas tags.
Using the set:
We couldn't wait to Shrinkle so got right to it - the age guidelines say Age 5-99, but there was nothing too tricky for younger children, though some of the pictures are quite finely detailed. My five year old spent ages colouring in a rather nice Christmas tree (she could have chosen a range of the normal Christmassy suspects from reindeer to Santa via a random sledging hedgehog), and a visiting set of friends completed other pictures in the series with gusto. Once complete the sheet was easily cut through, and we used a hole punch to make a hole for the tag.
I followed the instructions, which were clear enough, and placed the tree on a piece of foil and put in a preheated oven - this part should really be done by an adult as the plastic has to get very hot in order to shrink. If you have any problems following the instructions, there is an faq page on the company's website to guide you through the rather disconcerting process - the item does curl and bubble and look like it is going to melt away, but then goes flat. At this point we took our items out of the oven with care, and, as instructed, pressed them under a flat chopping board to make sure they were completely flat. They soon cooled and were ready to have string attached.
We found the colours of our items became more vivid after they were shrunk, and the finished shrinkle is quite solid and robust. You can write on the back of them, so this set would make good gift tags, and we may hang some of the pictures on our tree, though possibly not the hedgehog!
All the children seemed to enjoy the Shrinkle experience, and I thought that for the price (under £7), there was quite a lot of enjoyment to be had. If I wanted to encourage more creativity I might buy some of the plain sheets that are available - in the box there was also a big poster with every single set that there is, they seem to be wide ranging and cover lots of different boy and girl obsessions - the make your own subeteo type set looks fun, as do the sets for making mobiles and the like.
The company is based in the UK, actually it turns out a couple of streets away from where I used to live in South West London, but I had never heard of them before. It's good to be able to buy a British product for once!
I think that Shrinkles are another fun craft activity to be added to our repetoire, and would recommend this set as being fun for children who enjoy colouring. It would have been nice if there had maybe been one more A4 sheet included, but the set is fair value overall. The actual baking of them is not as complicated as it seems, but a precut set might be better too. I'm not sure that the name "Shrinkle" is going to catch on - but this is an original and fun idea, and we will definitely be buying more sets in this range. Recommended.
http://www.wizardtoys.com/ for more details.