How many colors can you think of?  How many colors are in your eyesight right now?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Millions?  What is your favorite color?  The world is full of beautiful colors as far as our eyes can see. For the young or the young at heart, crayons are just one instrument that help us express our interpretation of the world and tell our story.  Think also about the sensory aspects of crayons that bring us joy…the smell of a new box of crayons, how they feel, the aesthetics look, and the sound of putting a new crayon to paper!  What are your favorite memories of using crayons…or maybe you are using them right now?

National Crayon Day is March 31 and is a day to celebrate the invention of crayons along with the joys of creative expression.  Europe was the birthplace of the “modern” crayon, a man-made cylinder.  The first crayons were made of a mixture of charcoal and oil.  Later, powdered pigments of various hues replaced the charcoal in many early 19th century products.  It was then discovered that substituting wax for the oil in the mixture made the sticks sturdier and easier to handle. 

In 1903, cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith (the founders of Crayola) developed their own line of colorful drawing sticks for young artists by combining paraffin wax with non-toxic, kid-friendly pigments.  Binney & Smith then coined the company name Crayola by combining the French word for chalk, craie, with the first part of oleaginous, the oily paraffin wax used to make the crayon. Many other American companies have produced many varieties of crayons. 

The diversity of crayons is also like the diversity of people, personalities, character, color, and beauty.  The crayons, like people are amazing and unique.  Along with having their own WOW factor, crayons have distinct smells, colors, brightness, dullness, thickness and thinness.  They can be straight, or bent, or even round.  People- they have gifts and talents, ideas and dreams.  That diversity helps each one of us standout in a beautiful way.

We asked our Teachers what inspired them about crayons: 

  • A crayon itself is inspiring in its simple form and design and the sense of opportunity to create.  Something may emerge just by putting crayon to paper.
  • Use brilliant colors to mix them together to make another, new color.
  • I love the way crayons provide endless opportunities to discover shades of the same color. Light, dark and everything in between! Children learn to group colors and choose specific shades.
  • Their texture, array of colors / tones; various thicknesses for all ages and abilities.
  • Crayons are timeless. Even when broken, they continue their function of expressing imagination and telling the story of the artist.

Favorite stories and joyful moments (we call those moments “Goosebumps”) from our Teachers:

  • So many goosebumps. Putting just the right pressure on a crayon to create the first ever-random marks of self-expression as a young child. The action of a toddler matches the adventure of mark making with crayons as a perfect tool. The representations and expressions of preschool age children as they design and create intentionally.
  • A child came up to me with a crayon and said, “It’s like me”, pointing the crayon to her skin.
  • A toddler recently began layering colors and discovered that, similar to mixing paint, he could create a new color.
  • Their knowledge of various names of colors (printed on crayons); how they use crayons to create – sides of crayons, points, pressure for color variations/impressions.
  • The many moments a child has looked at me holding their drawing saying, “Look what I did!”

Fun facts about Crayons: 

  • The rarest Crayola crayon color is “C-Rex” from 2003.
  • The first Crayola boxes were sold door to door.
  • Each crayon has three languages on them and they are English, Spanish, and French.
  • The first eight pack of crayons was sold for five cents.
  • More than 200 distinctive colors have been produced in a wide variety of assortments.  There are the standard colors, and then specialty crayons such as fluorescent, metallic, silver swirls, magic scent, gem tones, glow in the dark, crayons with glitter, and the list goes on. Crayons have also been created to represent the wonderful diversity of skin tone.
  • Crayola produces around 12 million crayons per day.  How many do you have?

Activity Suggestions from Reibman Hall Children’s Center Teachers, focusing on the arts-integrated curriculum framework for young children called Art as a Way of Learning®

  • Make new crayon colors!  With the assistance of an adult, melt existing crayons, mix the colors together, and then pour them into a new form (old mini muffin tins or candy molds are great for this).  This is an excellent activity to repurpose broken crayons to make them perfectly useful again!
  • The art elements are very evident when children create with crayons. Line, shape, color, texture, form, space and value.  The attributes of crayons are limitless for exploration.
  • Create people and homes by taping crayons together, and then coloring with those shapes that are created.
  • Take the remaining wrapper off broken crayons and use the side of the crayons to design and create.
  • Crayons are a great way to assess and build fine motor skills with toddlers. Offering a variety of sizes and shapes means that children must alter grip and adjust the pressure they apply, they see and feel the differences.
  • Shades / use of color to define drawings and ideas.
  • Use skin tone colors and a mirror to create a self-portrait or a portrait of your family.
  • Collect leaves.  Tape the leaves underneath a blank piece of paper.  Let the children explore with a crayon (using the tip and/or the side) on the other side of the paper.  Crayon rubbings can also be done using additional objects in nature:  tree bark, blades of grass, etc.  Indoor objects can also be used for crayon rubbings such as sandpaper, bubble wrap, textured material, etc.
  • Sculptures with broken crayons and a mortar made from flour or sand and water and a bit of glue.
  • Inquiry:  Will crayons melt under a heat lamp?  For scientific observation change and record keeping, set up an aquarium for viewing.  Add more crayons each day while the heat lamps are on them.
  • Crayon Etching:  Using card stock or heavy paper, fill the paper with crayon shapes and patterns, making sure to press hard.  Using light colors is best.  Color over the entire paper with black crayon (Black tempera paint can also be used.  Wait to dry before the next step).  Think of a sketch or design and scratch into the black crayon layer with a Popsicle stick or paper clip.
  • Wrap different materials around the crayon.  This is a great sensory exploration.
  • Crush or shred crayons (i.e. a metal grater).  Put the small pieces on paper to rub with hands or feet.  What happens?
  • Crayon Resist:  Draw with white crayons on white paper.  Use watercolor paint to see the design you created.  This technique is very effective for landscape work or nighttime sky work. 
  • Crayon painting:  Color a design with white crayon on white paper and them paint over it with shaving cream paint (shaving cream mixed with tempera) / colored foam paint, or draw numbers and letters with the white crayon and then find and identify the numbers and letters by painting over them.
  • Shave crayons down and use the shavings as a coloring pigment in slime or oobleck.  You can use the shavings into a clear bottle with water to make a calming bottle.

Have Fun!