DIY Toddler Keepsake Key Chains

I was inspired by the many pins on Pinterest for shrinky dink crafts! I couldn’t believe how cheap and easy it is to immortalize your toddler’s artwork! I knew I wanted to make jewelry out of one of the pieces but I wanted to make it into something more functional that can be used everyday. That’s when I came up with making a key chain! The keys to this craft project (pun intended) is a very thin #6 (polystyrene) piece of plastic and permanent markers. This would be a great project for a Brownie or Girl Scout troop! Teach an older child about recycling and what the numbers mean! You can find information on recycling plastics here.

Our youngest, Spencer, hung out with his great-grandma Friday afternoon while I helped serve lunch to the GMHS football team before the team’s big canoe adventure. Our oldest son, Steve, is on the football team. It was lots of fun watching the kids attempt to canoe and it was evident it was the first time for many of them, lol. I felt a little guilty that our oldest was having such a fun Friday that when we returned home, Spencer and I spent the early evening making his DIY Toddler Keepsake Key Chains!

When I was researching this craft project a couple of months ago I found that many websites say you can find #6 plastic from carry-out containers. These recycling numbers are imprinted on the plastic directly; usually on the corner or the bottom. Sometimes they are printed really small but they are on every piece of plastic made. I was super excited when I read that and looked in the fridge hoping to find the plastic. Turns out everything I had was #5 (polypropylene), bummer. It is important that it is #6 because the other plastics will not shrink correctly (per several websites). So I kept my eye out for #6 plastic. The symbol looks like the one below (it usually won’t have “PS” under it though).

One day a couple of weeks ago I was at GFS (Gordon Food Service) strolling down the container aisle looking at the foil pans. Lo and behold, the plastic lids for the foil pans were made of #6 plastic! So I bought a plastic lid for less than $2.00 for this craft project. The more colors you have in permanent markers, the better! I didn’t really have a stash of colorful permanent markers…but ask any teenage girl and I can bet she will have it! So thanks to our nephew’s girlfriend, Hannah, I was able to borrow her stash of colorful permanent markers a few weeks ago as well! I had been saving this special craft project for a rainy day. It didn’t rain Friday but it was still a great day to do crafts with Spencer!

 Because they are permanent markers, I removed the caps and handed each color to our 3-year-old one by one, lol. I was trying to avoid a rainbow-colored toddler! He took the marker and doodled away making large loops, scratches and what he claims to be triangles and squares, lol (I put some blank copy paper under the lid so that you could see his amazing artwork in process). It is best to use lighter colored permanent markers for this project because during the baking process, the colors will darken.

Did you notice something? Spencer turns out to be left-handed, so here goes extra $ to buy all left-handed sports equipment in the future, lol! Once your Picasso has finished with his doodling, it’s time to cut the plastic up. First, remove the shaped edges to create one flat piece.

 

I really had no idea how much it would “shrink” up and cut the flat piece into three strips that were approximately 3 inches wide. In hindsight, I would cut it only in half creating 2 large strips.

 

Then I cut about 1 1/2 inch pieces out of each of the strips. Again, in hindsight, I would make it at least 2 to maybe 2 1/2 inch pieces. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t cut a straight line if my life depended on it! So my pieces weren’t perfectly rectangular-shaped but who cares? Be sure to round out all corners or points on your plastic pieces or they will be really sharp once they shrink! They thicken up when they shrink and it would be really hard to cut it afterward. Also, just for fun I cut out a funky triangle piece in one of the corners.

 

Then I took a regular-sized hole puncher and punched one side (for the key ring). I took a black permanent marker and wrote Spencer’s name on each piece along with the year so we will always remember it was Spencer’s work of art when he was 3 years old.

 

Place all the cut and hole-punched pieces on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 250 degrees (ok, I’ll be honest, I cranked it up to 300 because I was too impatient, imagine that!).

 

You will see the pieces begin to shrink and curl up. I kept the oven light on so Spencer could see the “magic” taking place!

 

After they curl, they flatten back out and that’s when you know the plastic is done shrinking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan. The cooling down happens considerably fast, within a minute or two. It is amazing how sturdy and thick the once flimsy pieces of plastic have become! The permanent ink is also baked in place and shouldn’t in any way “wipe” off. Another hindsight finding…when I wrote Spencer’s name on the pieces, I didn’t realize I had them turned over on a few of them. When the plastic shrinks up, the artwork will remain only on the side it was originally drawn on. I found the side with the ink is prettier but like I said, I wrote his name on the wrong side for a few of the pieces. It’s still looked okay but it definitely was prettier on the pieces where I wrote his name on the same side his scribbles were on. I guess I should warn you about the possible harmful smell from heated plastic, blah, blah, blah. I had the range fan on and the window open just in case. But since it was a small amount of plastic and it took literally like 5 minutes to shrink, I wasn’t really concerned. I’m sure we are exposed to much worse on a daily basis. If you are going to do a lot of pieces, it probably would be wise to take an extension cord and use your toaster oven outside.

Let your toddler check out his handy work. Spencer was mighty proud of his! They just turned out so darn cute!

 

I immediately put the DIY Toddler Keepsake Key Chain on my ring of keys. Like I said, in hindsight, I wish the pieces were cut bigger to make a bigger key chain. I would estimate that your original cut out piece shrinks to approximately 2/3 of its original size. The plus side is that I have a dozen or so key chains to pass out to our family and friends! Now every time I start my car, there is a reminder right there on my key chain of why I need to wear my seatbelt; our little baby boy needs his momma!

 

Wondering what I am going to do with the funky triangle piece? Well, it is going to be made into a necklace! I will attach an O-ring to the triangle piece and string it onto some cool fabric cord. I loved this craft project and can’t wait to do more shrinky dink work with Spencer! I foresee personalized Christmas tree ornaments for our family to put on their wrapped gifts 🙂

UPDATE:

Super bad news! The permanent marker didn’t bake into the plastic as suggested on several websites…it rubbed off in different areas when the hubby had his keys in his pocket at work last night! Super bummed but the hubby said he will help me figure out how to prevent this…possibly acrylic spray paint or Mod Podge over the inked sides? I will let you know when we figure out what works best! This is still one of my favorite craft projects with Spencer so we will figure out a solution! 🙂

Update #2:

Clear, acrylic spray paint worked! Now Spencer’s artwork is protected on our key chains! Spray a light layer and allow to dry completely. We applied a second layer and also allowed that to dry completely before putting his key chains back on our key rings. So get crafting, this shrinky dink project has a happy ending! 🙂

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23 thoughts on “DIY Toddler Keepsake Key Chains

  1. Instead of using acrylic paint or modge podge, do you think it would work to use extra plastic over it before baking so that the ink is baked inside of the plastic? Or do you think the plastic will turn out too opaque to see the ink well?

    • I don’t know? It would be worth experimenting with 🙂 Next time I’m at GFS, I’m going to have to get another plastic food tray lid and give that idea a try 🙂 I’ll let you know how it turns out when I do it!

  2. I tried this and my keychains came out extremely small, I cut the plastic in half like you suggested and they still came out so small. Not sure if I had them in there to long or what, but I will definitely be trying again tomorrow

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m looking for memorable but inexpensive projects for our VBS and I think this is a keeper. We will probably bake the projects after the kids go home and then surprise them the next day.

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  6. Hey thanks for the tips.. when u sealed it u used the acrylic spray paint, did u try using modge podge? I want to try this now, a lot impatient also.. thank u for sharing..

  7. I am so interested in trying this project. I’m thinking I could use a pattern underneath the plastic to make a drawing of an owl or a cat face since the plastic is transparent. I will just have to remember they do shrink a lot.

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  9. Just tried this craft and it turned out awesome! My oven must run hot because I had it on 275 and they were done in 3-4 minutes! I wasn’t paying attention to what side was on the parchment paper (colored on vs. non-colored) and a few pieces were “face down” and so their artwork was a little smudged but not bad…so make sure to leave them “face up” when putting into oven to ensure the color stays on the plastic! Thank you so much for this!

  10. Thanks for the great idea! My kids enjoyed doing this. Ours shrunk up a lot more than yours! They are only about 1/4 or 1/3 as big as they were before baking them. But now we know for next time. Ours are too small for keychains, but they are nice sizes for earrings, necklaces, charms for bracelets, etc.
    Anyway, fun stuff! Thank you!

  11. i had my granddaughter color with red and green markers on white cardstock, so they looked very similar to your project. i punched out tag shapes, threaded them with red pearl cotton and tied them on all of our Christmas gifts. She loves to craft, so we will try these for Father’s day.

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