Five-year-old Ben draws joyfully with his crayons on a large sheet of paper his mom has taped to the tabletop. This giant-size palette gives him plenty of room to explore all the different ways he can use crayons. Excitedly, Ben takes a handful of crayons and draws with them all at once and exclaims, "Mom, look! I made a rainbow!"
Ben has discovered the real pleasure of working with crayons: experimentation. He tests his own strength and dexterity by seeing how many crayons he can hold in his hand at one time. Then he explores the age-old question "What happens if ...?" to see if he can hold several crayons and draw at the same time.
Happily, Ben's mother has given him plenty of space and time for his crayon experiments. Instead of telling him there is a "right" way to draw or color, Ben's mom has encouraged him to create and solve problems in many different ways. This is how creative thinking develops. It's taking one element, such as crayons, and exploring all the ways it can be used. When he draws swirls or drops crayons onto paper from above, Ben explores cause and effect. Amazed, he discovers that when he drops the crayons onto the paper-covered table, they make really cool dots with little tails!
Crayons are a highly versatile medium. They go beyond drawing and coloring. The wax means crayons can be used on various surfaces, and melted. Even toddlers can start scribbling with chunky, oversize crayons. But working with crayons does take a bit more hand coordination and strength than markers do, because the lines do not flow as easily. This is a good thing! It's important to build these small-muscle skills because they are the ones your child will need as he learns to write letters. The following eight craft activities will inspire a new love for a classic favorite: crayons!
- Make a Magic Nighttime Painting. Drawing with a crayon and then painting over it with thinned tempera paint or watercolors is a traditional technique that works on the same principle as batik. The crayon's wax keeps the color from penetrating the picture. Suggest to your child that he press hard as he makes lines, shapes, or splotches of color. Then provide a dark colored-watercolor (black, navy, dark purple) or watery tempera to paint over the picture. Like magic, the picture will reappear out of the paint.
- Mix Up a Batch of Soap Crayons Here is one kind of crayon you and your child can make that is safe to use on the walls of your bathtub. Just mix together four to six drops of food coloring, one cup of gentle laundry-soap powder, and two to three teaspoons of water until the mixture has a pasty consistency. Spoon the mixture into an ice-cube tray and let dry for about four days in a sunny spot. Your child won't be able to wait for bathtime!
- Hang a Wax-Paper Sun Catcher. Use an old food grater or potato peeler to create crayon shavings for your child. Fold a large sheet of waxed paper in half and then open it again. Sprinkle the shredded crayon on the inside of the waxed paper and reclose. Set your iron to the lowest "dry" setting and press the paper between sheets of newspaper. The crayons will melt and blend into interesting patterns. Once dry, cut the paper into a variety of shapes. Punch a hole at the top of each one, string with yarn, and hang near a window.
- Create a Crayon-Scrap Candle. All you need is some paraffin from the grocery store, crayon pieces, some white string, and a pencil. You can use a clean, waxed milk or juice carton for the mold. Melt paraffin in a double boiler and add the crayon pieces. Make your wick: Cut a length of string twice as long as your container and dip the end a few times in the wax to make it stiff. Wrap the unwaxed end of the string around the middle of the pencil, allowing the waxed end to hang down. Place the pencil across the top of your container so that the waxed end hangs down to the bottom of the container. Carefully pour the melted paraffin into the container (with your child safely out of range of spills). Allow it to dry for a few hours before peeling off the container to expose your new crayon candle.
- Create Colored Textures. Because of their waxy nature, crayons are perfect for coloring on a variety of textured surfaces, such as fine sandpaper, wallpaper scraps, corrugated cardboard, or even fallen leaves. Your child will learn about textures and new techniques as he creates a beautiful and unusual piece of art.
- Make Homemade Crayons. Gather up old crayon stubs. You can make them into new crayons by melting these "leftovers" in a 200-degree oven in paper-lined muffin tins for just a few minutes. If you have a window in your oven, your child will enjoy watching the stubs melt and blend. Invite your child to mix crayons together to make a new color. You can make vibrant solid color "chubbies" or tie-dye-inspired block crayons with all the colors mixed together.
- Send a Crayon Greeting. Almost any of these artistic approaches to crayons can be adapted for making cards for family and friends. Just take a piece of printer paper and fold it in half lengthwise, then fold it again widthwise to make a card that opens. Cut your child's drawing to fit the card and use a glue stick to adhere it to the cover of the card. Help your child add a greeting and send.
- Think Outside the Crayon Box. Build a crayon log cabin, a bridge, a road, whatever! Ask your child to sort the crayons in different ways: She might sort by colors (reds, blues, greens), or she might sort according to whether the crayons are whole or broken. Measure with them. Estimate how long a line your crayons would make if you put them end to end. Then try it to see!