A bevy of crayons

“I am going to work,” said Mister Thumb.
Hold up thumb.
“Now who will go with me?”
Said Mister Pointer, “I will go.
Hold up pointer finger.
You need my help, you see.”
And so they worked together
As happy as could be.
They made a lovely apple
In a big tall apple tree.
They made a little bluebird.
They made a sun for me.
Mister Pointer said, “I like to work.”
Mister Thumb said, “I agree!”

Coloring with crayons is a traditional early childhood activity, and that is well-loved here at our house. Not only is a great creative outlet, but holding crayons helps children cultivate the small motor skills that will later help them have a functional pencil grip.

The typical box of Crayola stick crayons can be fun in their variety for older kids, but are often frustrating for the little ones. They’re thin and break easily, and I’ve noticed my own wee ones seem a little more interested in peeling off the paper than in coloring with them. They seem less substantial, especially after using a block crayon or homemade muffin crayon, and just seem ill-suited for small hands in general.

For small children still using a fisted grip, block crayons and other chunky crayons such as homemade muffin crayons (see our handmade football crayons in the photo above) give them control they can’t necessarily get with a stick crayon. Additionally, the broad strokes a child can make with a block crayon encourage a different style of drawing, one that is more focused on archetypal drawing and organic forms, and less focused on details and outlining. Personally, I think there is value in both, and my children have access to both types of crayons. Another advantage to the block crayon is that when a child is filling in a sky or a grassy landscape, it’s a lot easier to do with the broad, flat side of a block crayon.

It is worth noting that block crayons, when first created, were never meant to be used by small children. They were created by two German art teachers for a very specific type of drawing technique used with children in fifth grade and beyond. Some Waldorf teachers have also made the argument that block crayons teach a child an immature and improper grip that later gets in the way of a functional pencil grip.

Crayon rocks are new on the coloring scene. They’re made from soybeans and natural mineral colors, and according the website, they’re designed to strengthen tripod muscles (thumb, first, and second fingers) and help prepare a child’s fingers and hands for writing. They do crush and crumble easily, though, so beware of that.

Some other ideas to make coloring more enjoyable:
~ Make coloring an intentional experience. Say a little rhyme or verse before beginning– there’s one at the start of this entry– and tell a little story or poem to set the scene. Color together sometimes, although beware of your child comparing their coloring to yours. It’s great for children to have free access to art materials, but it’s also great to set time aside to make it special. At our house, Thursday is coloring day, and has been for ten years!

~Make a coloring board. At the Waldorf school where we took our parent-child classes, the
children used a strong piece of cardboard covered with brown paper on which to color. Not only does this allow each child to have his or her own workspace and helps to keep crayon off the table, but it also serves as a perfectly smooth surface so that no dirt or imperfections on the table. A quick and easy substitute would be an old cookie sheet.

~Have a special place for your crayons. We keep ours in a Longaberger basket that was a wedding gift.

~ Round off the corners of the paper. This gives it a more organic and natural feel.

I’d love to hear how you make coloring a special experience!

4 thoughts on “A bevy of crayons”

  1. Do you mean round off the corners of the paper to be colored on? Interesting.

    I suspect most PTs would agree about the immature grip thing. But I think there has to a balance between frustration and functionality.

  2. Yep, round off the corners of the paper. I actually use a Creative Memories corner rounder and it works great.

    I agree about the functionality vs. frustration comment. Both my boys have had small motor issues, and one thing I am working on accepting is that it's not so much a question of having a proper or correct pencil grip as it is of having a functional one.

  3. We have a colouring verse (and picture inspired by it) up above our art area. It's taken from A Child's Seasonal Treasury and goes like this:

    There is a golden castle,
    As golden as the day,
    But only with our crayons
    Can we find the way, for,
    Red in the King,
    Blue is the Queen,
    Snow White their baby,
    The hunter is green,
    Purple the mountains
    Where the Seven Dwarves dwell,
    Orange-gold the treasure
    They dig and delve.

  4. I love that verse!One thing I like to do with their watercolor paintings is to write verses on them and strategically place them around the house.

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