Open accessibilty tools

Etch-A-Sketch (1960s)

The Etch A Sketch was invented by a French electrician called André Cassagnes in the late 1950s. He called it L’Ecran Magique, the magic screen.

Talking about old toys

Use the questions below to talk with children about the Etch A Sketch. Talk about the image here, or use the questions to explore an Etch A Sketch you or the children may have brought in to your classroom or setting.

Try turning this into a game.

  1. The ‘Describer’ describes the Etch A Sketch to the rest of the group (who can’t see it).
  2. The group try and draw the Etch A Sketch to match the description.
  3. At the end of the description, they can each ask the Describer one question to help with their drawing.
  4. Show the Etch A Sketch to the whole group and talk about your drawings. What else could the Describer have said to make it clearer or easier to draw it?


The Etch A Sketch might remind you of a TV, a video game or an iPad.

This is a drawing toy, called an Etch A Sketch.

  • When you turn the white knob, it draws a thin line across the screen – a horizontal line.
  • When you turn the black knob it draws a thin line between the top and bottom of the screen – a vertical line.
  • If you turn both knobs together, you can make a diagonal line – this takes a bit of practice.
  • With even more practice, you can also make curved lines – but it’s quite tricky.
  • You can see how it works in this video.
  • These images show you a little more:


This toy is about 60 years old.

  • Your grannies and grandads might have played with this toy when they were children.
  • Your mums and dads might have played with it when they were children too.
  • Children still play with this toy today.
  • This Etch A Sketch now belongs to Kirkleatham Museum who take good care of it.

It’s made mainly from plastic.

A toy like this called ‘Etch’ appears in the famous Toy Story films. It can’t talk, so it uses pictures to show the other characters what it’s trying to say. What do you think this Etch A Sketch might have seen in its long life? What pictures might it draw to tell you about it?

Explore through play

Set up an area with rulers and lots of different mark-making materials: pencils, chalks, crayons, pens etc. Encourage children to practice drawing straight lines.

  • Are some mark-making materials easier to use?
  • What patterns and shapes can they make?

Explore straight lines in the playground or school hall. Children could try walking along the edge of a metre rule, a P.E. bench or lines marked out for a football pitch or hopscotch. Can they use metre rules to make their own shapes for their friends to follow?


Compare and contrast

Compare the Etch A Sketch with an iPad (or similar digital tablet).
What can children see that’s the same or different?

Try drawing with an iPad or tablet. How is this the same or different to drawing on an Etch A Sketch?

Straight line challenge

Try drawing or making patterns with a pencil and a ruler, using only straight lines (children might find this easier to do on squared paper).

  • What shapes can children make?
  • Can they make these shapes without taking their pencil off the paper?
  • Can they write the letter of their first name using only straight lines? Can they do it without taking their pencil off the paper?

Young historians

What questions do children have about this toy? Encourage them to think carefully about something they would really like to find out about the Etch A Sketch. They could take it in turns to hold a picture of a large question mark, and think of a question beginning with Who, Where, Why, What, When or How to share with the group or class.

Where could they find out the answers? They could: