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Make Your Own Shrink Ray!

This cool STEM craft project for families is a surefire conversation starter and imagination stretcher. Watch out, you never know who'll get zapped next!

Amanda Kingloff

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What if you could hold your family’s car in the palm of your hand? Or put the real Statue of Liberty on your living room mantle? Or what if a jar of sprinkles was the biggest ball pit you’ve ever seen?

The shrink-ray shenanigans at Disney’s Mickey & Friends x CAMP: An Extra-Big Adventure got us thinking: What could happen if a shrink ray were a real possibility? Why not make one as a family — and imagine what life might be like as miniature versions of yourselves!

The best thing about designing a pretend shrink ray is that there are no rules! If you want it to be neon pink, go for it! If you want to cover the handle with gum wrappers, why not? Take a little field trip around the nooks and crannies of your house: inside junk drawers, between the couch cushions, and of course in the recycling bin, where you’ll find the best building blocks. You know all of those plastic party favors that end up at the bottom of the toy bin? Bring them out! A plastic kazoo would be perfect as a sight on the top of your device!

This is our version of a super-duper powerful Shrink Ray, but your family's will look totally different depending on what materials you have.

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Here are some general tips to help you get started:

  • Have as many adhesives on hand as you can. A glue-gun is pretty essential, plus tacky glue, rubber bands, and various tapes (duct, masking, washi, etc). We like to keep our glue-gun plugged in at a separate work space to avoid burns on little fingers.

  • There will likely be strong materials that will require adult-sized muscles to cut, puncture, or break. You may want to have some sharp objects like a nail or an awl on hand to punch holes in cardboard or plastic bottles.

  • Talk about what you are making while you work! Kids will feel the inspiration to get super creative with the functionality of their design when you have some conversation starters. We’ve made a printable worksheet to get you started — or just toss out some of the questions below as you invent:

How does your shrink ray work — and how will you use it?

  1. 1.

    What powers your shrink ray? Batteries? Electricity? Bee pollen? Something else?

  2. 2.

    What (or who!) is the first thing you would shrink?

  3. 3.

    Does your shrink ray make a noise when it operates? A beep? A buzz? A thud?

  4. 4.

    Do you think it would be hard to live life as a miniature? Why?

  5. 5.

    If you were the size of a mini figurine…

    What would you use as a pillow?

    What would you eat for dinner?

    How would you travel from one room to another?

    What would you use as a soccer ball?

    What would you use as a bathtub?

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Here are some materials that you can be on the lookout for:

  • Handle: small bottle, toilet paper tube, thin wooden block

    Main section: cardboard box, plastic bottle, oatmeal container.

    Trigger or switch: bubble wand, keyring, zip tie.

    Buttons and dials: bottle caps, beads, buttons, spools.

    Other embellishments: ink strainers, bouncy balls, sponges, springs, wire, pipe cleaners, bike reflectors, aluminum foil, marker caps, loose game pieces

How to Build a Shrink Ray

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1. Color or paint some skewers or chopsticks.

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This is an optional design decision; your shrink ray will function just the same if they were natural!

2. Poke holes in the top and bottom of whatever you're using as the main body of your shrink ray.

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We used a mouthwash bottle! Insert skewers through those holes. These become the stabilizing structure for the handle in step 3.

3. Attach your shrink ray's handle to the skewers

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Trim the ends of the skewers and insert a small plastic bottle in place as the handle. We used a small yogurt smoothie bottle! Secure in place with tape or glue.

4. Decorate another skewer for the shrink ray "beam"

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Our shrink ray beam makes waves, so we glued rick-rack to both sides of the skewer. You can also use ribbon, aluminum foil, or just leave it natural.

5. Glue a bead to one end of the skewer.

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6. Put hot glue on the bead and insert it into the bottle, holding it in place until it dries.

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This makes gluing a thin stick to the inside of the bottle much easier!

7. Make the first part of your shrink ray's "zapper"

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Press a styrofoam ball onto the opening of the bottle so that it makes an impression. Use the end of scissors or a popsicle stick to dig out the center of the styrofoam ball. Poke a hole in the opposite end.

8. Keep building that zapper!

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Glue a 3-inch long skewer into the end of the styrofoam ball, so you can keep extending your shrink ray's zapper to an extra-awesome length.

9. Give your shrink ray's zapper a sci-fi twist

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Slip sink strainers over the skewer; glue in place if needed to secure. If you don’t have these lying around, you can cut circles out of cardboard, craft foam, or any other sturdy material. 

10. Finish your zapper with a cool extra touch!

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Cap the end of the skewer with a bouncy ball. You could use a pom-pom, a ball of play-dough, or air dry clay, too!

11. Make your shrink ray's power trigger or switch!

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To make the power trigger, button, or switch, wrap the handle of a bubble wand around the neck of the bottle. Loop a pipe cleaner through the holes to secure it tightly. Your trigger can be a button, a pom-pom, or any circular ring.

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12. Add extra decorations to your shrink ray

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To cover the points of the skewers on the top of your shrink ray, cut shapes out of a sponge and glue it on top of the points. 

13. Add a fuel cell!

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Glue a toy dispenser capsule to the back: this holds the fuel to power the shrink ray!

14. Add extras, buttons, and switches galore until your shrink ray invention is complete!

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Download a printable shrink ray worksheet

Ready to design your very own shrink ray invention? This worksheet will get you started!

What happens when you combine Disney's Mickey Mouse, Goofy, a shrink ray, and YOU at CAMP? An extra big adventure!

A tiny goof from Goofy is the start of a MASSIVE adventure featuring Disney's Mickey & Friends at CAMP! Family tickets available now!