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When etch-a-sketches go bad

When etch-a-sketches go bad

May 21, 2007

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you decided to take your etch-a-sketch outside and smash it open with a rock?

No? Me neither. I was always content to turn the little dials and try in vain to make something other than a staircase. I did not need to understand the mysterious inner workings of the etch-a-sketch.

But my sons did.

And so a couple of them smashed one open and then proceeded to smear the silver dust all over each other, the swingset, and the yard. Oh what fun! What joy! What merriment!

Until I snapped them out of their revelry with my spastic yelling.

I sent them inside to wash up, stomping loudly behind them, with explicit instructions not to touch anything, which whoa boy is so funny. “How can we turn on the water if we can’t touch anything? ” Har har har. Not funny.

There was much snickering at the kitchen sink. I made a valiant effort to maintain my angry facade while looking at my silver coated children. I would have been successful too had Rob not come into the kitchen to see what was going on.

“Look! Just look!” I said, gesturing wildly to the children solemnly standing at the kitchen sink. Solemn now that Daddy was in the room.

“Just look at this one! He looks like the godforsaken TIN MAN!” I said as I spun my 8yr old around to face him.

ever wonder what would happen...

Rob started laughing.

The children started laughing.

And in spite of myself, I was laughing too.

I grabbed my camera off the counter and snapped a few pictures for the ‘One day this will be funny’ category.

Though I doubt it will be any funnier than it was today. Unless they reenact me running through the backyard with my arms flailing around, yelling like a crazy person, while they ran away from me.

Oh wait, they have already done this. Twice.

Posted by Chris @ 12:35 am  

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  1. CaliforniaGrammy says:

    I so enjoy your stories involving your boys. Having raised two nearly perfect daughters, I’ve never had the adventure you’re having. However those two adorable daughters have blessed us with four grandsons(one is 9, one is 7 and two are 6) plus one granddaughter (12). So I’ve learned so much about boys through you and my own grandsons experiences. There is certainly a difference in so many ways!

  2. Patricia says:

    So, wait — how DOES an etch-a-sketch work? Please tell me that with all that mess they actually learned the answer and now will enlighten me — as I go hide my son’s far, far away from ALL rocks.

  3. The Lazy Organizer says:

    So that’s who my kids have been imitating. You! I have never been able to figure it out until now.

  4. Anna says:


  5. Carolynn from Western Australia says:

    Hopefully there were no ill effecets from all this. How does an Etch a Asketch work anyway, any answers?


  6. amy says:

    I have never heard of anyone doing this!!!
    thanks for posting the pic!

  7. diana says:

    I was one of those kids too!! Although I didn’t smear it all over myself. lol!!

  8. JanB says:

    Maybe it’s just the old mom in me, but be careful, that’s aluminum on his skin. http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/A2712.htm

  9. Salsaqueen says:

    And here I thought I was the Academy Award winner for “Best Etch-A-Sketch Stairbuilder!” It was the only thing I could ever build with the silly thing.

  10. Nicki says:

    The great thing about your blog is that I know what NOT to buy my kids!! I truly wish I could have been there to see the entire episode. It had to have been better in person. Loved it!!!

  11. Sara says:

    My brothers had one of those stretchy wrestling guys (think ’70s toy–Stretch Armstrong, I believe). Poor fella didn’t live too long with all his appendages because they had to figure out what made him so stretchy. Turns out it was goo. Who knew?

    I’m with Carolynn. How does it work? (And the mean mom in me sees “Science Report” written all over this “experiment”. :)

  12. Brigitte says:

    Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, you get no respect!

  13. Heather says:

    Your son’s just did what my cousins and I always longed to do with ours! :) Now that 25 years have gone by and I still have no clue, please tell. :)

  14. CathyC says:

    We actually did this when we were kids, but only after my sister dropped it and a corner cracked. Therefore she started it.
    Your 8 yr old looks just like you!

  15. Jess says:

    Boys are so much fun aren’t they? BTW maybe if you run out into the backyard screaming and yelling like you described, while a bear is back there. It might scare them off totally for them to never return again.

  16. Lisa says:

    Oh my, I love having a giggle first thing in the morning!! The tin man! The flailing arms! The drama! I love it!

  17. Karen (familybriefs.com) says:

    What is it about some kids that they have to figure out how everything works? My youngest son (now 4) has broken more toys than my other 3 children put together! He just wants to see if the toy will do something other than what it was designed to do. Usually it doesn’t and there are often tears to go along with that discovery! Even though it is frustrating (and often insanity-inducing), I do love his curious nature. What ever happens to that as we grow into adults? I mean, you probably never thought about what was inside the Etch-A-Sketch and didn’t care (at least not until it was smeared all over your children :)).

  18. peepnroosmom says:

    Well, how does it work? Your son looks maybe just a tiny bit sorry for causing you trouble.
    I’m with Sara, when I was little my friend and I took her brother’s Stretch ArmStrong and cut him open to see what was inside. Then we left him under his bed for him to find later.

  19. fidget says:

    oh yeah, never get those boys a Stretch Armstrong doll, no matter how much the beg. My brother, too, had to discover the secret to his stretch. it involved goo, buckets worth of goo and my mom’s new carpet. I dont think it ever made it to her “some day this will be funny” memories.

  20. Sadie says:

    As mom to a now 12 y/o son (and several other beings), I’ve so been there with all the taking stuff apart to see how it works stuff. I can’t even begin to add up how many hundreds of dollars of RC cars were sacrificed. With that said, one of his favorite websites is now How Stuff Works. A much neater and cheaper alternative to actual demolition:


  21. katrine says:

    And now we know what’s in the etcha sketch! Thanks boys!

  22. Polly says:

    My friend that has 9 children gave me excellent advice before I had children. She said “you know how you always say, ‘we’ll laugh about this one day?’ Well, why not laugh about it today?” Point taken. So now I take myself a little less seriously and everyone is happier. Especially my son and husband.

  23. brit says:

    I have two boys, under three. And everytime my husband talks about his childhood I break out in a cold sweat. I’m in a lot of trouble here.

  24. Fold My Laundry Please says:

    I always wondered what was in those things. I asked my dad when I was little and, though I don’t remember his answer and I’m pretty sure he made it up on the spot anyway, my curiosity was satisfied because of course Dad would know, he knows everything! I just hope he isn’t still making up answers to questions I ask him now!

  25. Beckie says:

    I am SO glad you took a picture. I have ALWAYS wondered what was inside of an etch-a-sketch. I’m not kidding - I have.

  26. Mary W says:

    Did you know you can’t tell if you drop it from the second story window onto the patio below? It breaks too fast.

    Did you know moms can scream really loud and when the vein on the side of her head starts throbbing it means she’s really angry?

    Did you know cats like that silver stuff?

    I didn’t either.

    My eight year old decided to break his brother’s etch a sketch last year that way - for the very same reasons.

    I made him clean the mess up and then made him buy a new etch a sketch for his brotther with his birthday money.

  27. Kerry says:

    This is why they should be watching more TV. We just saw a show where they disasembled an etch-a-sketch. They did say it was just fine sand, but it does look a little toxic to me!

    FWIW, I always considered taking things apart a sign of intelligence…but you knew that already! :)

  28. Carla says:

    I love your stories about your boys! I have three of them myself. My oldest is almost 15, so I am now learning how stupid they can sometimes get :-) Curiosity is a good thing, I guess, though it does get one into a few messes!

  29. qtpies7 says:

    My boys would do this, too. Therefore we don’t own one.
    I, too, worry about what is in it causing damage. Aluminum is not all that safe, good thing they had to wash right away! I’d watch for any out of the ordinary symptoms, though. Or maybe call the doctor and let him know, just in case.

  30. Kasey says:

    Goodness, even when your kids are covered in etch-a-sketch dust they’re cute!!

  31. Chuck says:

    They are filled with Aluminum powder.. very fine but also with some granuals.

    It works by a simple stylus (2) that scrapes the dust away as you move it past.
    Really simple, like a plotter printer.

  32. Amy says:

    Two words–future engineers. Not a bad thing.

  33. Danielle says:

    I love to take stuff apart. I can tell that I definitly do not have a penis because it would never enter my mind to rub the stuff on my face. Take it apart? Yes! War paint? Huh??? That’s just silly.

    The number of people that do/did not know how this works only proves (again) how much of a freak I am.

    This is another reason I am scared of my children getting older.

  34. Traci says:

    The picture absolutely made my day!! My sons haven’t yet done anything like this…though I must admit my husband has. Ummm yeah, I married that guy. LOL

  35. Lillian says:

    I did this as a kid, too. I remember the tub ring that wouldn’t go away afterward, too.

  36. theotherbear says:

    Yes! Yes, I HAVE always wanted to do that. I wish you had taken more photos of the silver stuff from inside. Sounds fascinating (How can silver stuff make etch a sketches work!!!!)

  37. Lynette says:

    I only have one child, a 7 year boy, all boy.
    Countless times this weekend I have said to him, “don’t make mother go spastic & flap her arms!”

  38. Celine says:

    LOL–an etch-a-sketch was the first thing I remember taking apart. I used a screwdriver though. Boy, did I get into trouble!
    I went on to become a mechanical engineer, and now a WAHM of 4. Curiosity is a good thing!

  39. Chandra says:

    Lol. I get a kick out of these stories and the memories they bring back. I’m one of eleven and when I think back it’s a wonder my mom is still sane. Enjoy the moments!! Your kids will remember them for the rest of their life. I love your sense of humor :)

  40. Gloria says:

    Now THAT is entertainment! I only have one son, but he has many friends, and most of them older and more mischevious.. at least, that is what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.

  41. liz says:

    Be careful, this comes next!


    (safe to click on, it’s a mug shot of a paint huffer)

  42. Shauna says:

    I love your blog! I feel perfectly normal when I read it. (I hope you don’t mind me adding you to my blogroll.)


  43. etcha says:

    funny to read others experiences with the etch powder……. as an Etch A Sketch artist, I’m constantly dealing with the powder…. my kitchen usually has at least a couple items in it that are silver at any given time.
    Check out my work, the site is just getting up and running, and I’ll have new stuff soon.

  44. etcha says:

    one more thing…… anybody can feel free to add me to their blogs, their sites, or where ever…….and post my art as well. but please: credit me and post my site: http://www.etcha.net