Crayons for Toddlers

crayons for toddlers

One question therapists get all the time is about the best crayons for toddlers and specifically which crayons are best to support development. During the toddler years (preschool stage as well), there is a lot of motor and cognitive development happening, making it a great stage to introduce crayons. Let’s talk about the best types of crayons for the toddler years and beyond!

crayons for toddlers
Crayons for toddlers

Crayons for Toddlers

There are many benefits to coloring with crayons and for many toddlers, it is natural to want to color, making it a win-win in building sensory motor skills.

There is a plethora of  information floating around the web about correct crayons and writing utensils for young people. There are a lot of choices, some great, others not so good.

When thinking about crayons for toddlers, there is more to it than simply placing a crayon in the palm! Some things to consider include:

  • Coloring with a crayon both develops and requires a grip on the crayon. Forcing coloring too early can promote an immature grasp on the crayon when used in small hands.
  • Coloring offers resistive feedback through the hands by marking the paper. This is a great strengthening activity, but for babies and young toddlers, this can strengthen and add feedback to immature grasps.
  • Likewise, coloring at the toddler stage can be developmentally great when offering the “just right” strengthening and sensory motor feedback needed to move through grasp patterns.

If you’re thinking about shopping around for the best crayons for toddlers, you’re already in the right frame of mind, because coloring is a tool for creativity that kids need at such a young age.

Coloring with toddlers is all about the unique shape of the crayons out there on the market that are designed to fit small hands: Think rock crayons, egg crayons, and even something called honeysticks.  

Do these options surprise you? 

Then consider the other options out there to worry about:

  • Jumbo crayons vs. Triangular crayons
  • Thick crayons vs. regular sized crayons
  • 96 pack of crayons vs. 8 crayon pack
  • Brands like Crayola crayons vs. Melissa & Doug crayons
  • Washable crayons vs. paraffin wax crayons
  • Pure beeswax crayons vs. crayons with vibrant colors 
  • Non-toxic crayons vs. natural ingredients crayons
  • Large crayons vs. choking hazard sixed crayons
  • Food-grade pigments vs. non-toxic natural wax

With all of these considerations, how do you choose crayons that make THE very best crayons for toddlers??

crayons for kids
Crayons for kids based on development

Best Crayons for Toddlers

Before deciding which crayons are best for toddlers, understanding the “why and when” is most important. To do so, we need to run through the developmental stages leading up to toddlers coloring with crayons. This is important because you may see some of the earlier considerations in place when a child is not developmentally ready to color. In those situations, is a good idea to back up and build on skills from a developmental standpoint.

Birth to one year: This article from Parents magazine highlights the hand development of babies from birth to one year.  In the article it does not mention crayons at all.  

Why? Because babies’ hands are not ready for crayons of any kind. Crayons for babies exist out there on the market…but it’s just not developmentally appropriate. The hands of babies do not have the muscle control for handling objects like crayons until about 11 months. 

To prepare toddlers to use crayons to support development, the preparation is a must. Spend the time before the toddler years working on overall fine motor development through picking up objects, self feeding, exploring the environment, cause and effect toys, and dumping objects out of containers. This resource on baby play has a lot of great ideas.

If crayons are introduced too early, maladaptive grasping patterns will develop.  

From 12-18 months, the toddler stage, little ones begin to refine their hand development. You’ll see in our resource on fine motor milestones, that there is a lot happening during the toddler years. 

Around 12 months, children may find it challenging to manipulate small objects with dexterity. At this stage, they are picking up small objects like food pieces with their thumb and pointer finger in a pincer grasp. However, it is difficult for children this age to use dexterity in the fingers of the hand or by isolating fingers or hand separation.

In six months time, by around 18 months of age, manipulating objects such as toys, utensils, and household objects becomes more coordinated.

Is it time for crayons yet?  Yes and no. 

Making marks on paper, and starting to make strokes, but not with pencils or traditional crayons quite yet. 

Remember, those hand muscles are still very primitive at this point, thus the tools need to be also. Think about how large the knobs on toddler puzzles are, or how chunky beginner spoons are. Writing tools need to be designed the same for little hands.  

Here are some fine motor and coordination activities to support use of crayons for toddlers:

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

  • Writing and creating lines with fingers in shaving cream or pudding
  • Finger painting
  • Egg shaped chalk (Amazon affiliate link) like these Egg shaped pieces of chalk fit the whole hand without forcing the fingers to grasp the writing tool
  • Egg shaped crayons like these also offer resistance when coloring or marking using the whole hand to grasp rather than force a grasp using the fingers which are not ready for that stage yet.
  • Make your own crayons by melting crayons into muffin trays.
  • While there are several iPad apps for writing using finger pointing, research shows children under age 2 should have no exposure to electronics.  Stick with the basics.

Some coordination activities for 12-18 months can be used to promote eye-hand coordination, proprioceptive input, shoulder stability, and motor coordination. These activities include:

Children ages 2-3: At this stage of toddlerhood, hand development is starting to become more defined. 

This is the stage when the young child begins to develop more muscle control needed for precision and dexterity of motor skills in the hand.

You’ll begin to notice finger isolation, hand separation, and arch development. You’ll also see more refined movements with the thumb in finger opposition. This is where precision in fine motor skills is seen.

This is also a stage of visual motor growth. Children will begin to integrate the visual input with motor output needed to copy a straight line. A word of caution: at this stage, don’t be concerned with tracing letters or shapes, or copying shapes. Focus is on the simplest of lines: horizontal, vertical lines, circles, and a cross. Read here about pre-writing lines development.

Is it time for regular crayons yet? 

Again, yes and no.

Those tiny hands, while that can certainly hold a regular or chunky crayon, are not ready to do so correctly. The grasp starts out as a gross grasp, then to a pronated grasp, finally ending with a tripod grasp around age 4.

Children often get stuck in one of these primitive grasping patterns when given crayons too early. A gross grasp is an appropriate stage of hand development, as is a pronated grasp, however the grasping pattern is supposed to continue to develop to a mature tripod grasp over time.

It often fails when tiny weak hands are holding onto small pencils, crayons, or pens. 

Coloring can happen, but it’s at the child’s interest, and shouldn’t be forced.

 Here are some crayons for toddlers and preschoolers using this information:

  • Continue to use the large egg shaped crayons and chalk, as well as finger paints
  • These unusual looking rocket type crayons have a large bulb for palmer grasping that support development but also don’t force young children into holding utensils with an underdeveloped grasp.
  • I also love these crayon rocks for toddlers and preschoolers:
  • Dot markers, while fun and entertaining, also promote the gross and pronated grasps appropriate for this age.
  • Bath finger paints are a great alternative to using crayons.

Ages 4-5 the preschool age.  Is it time for crayons yet?  Yes!  However, not all children are ready for traditional crayons. 

One-two inch crayons are the best for children through elementary school.  It is almost physically impossible to get a fist around a one inch crayon. This promotes a tripod grasping pattern.

During each stage described in this blog post, but especially during the 4-5 age range, don’t feel rushed to put a pencil in the hands of a preschooler. It is common for preschool teachers to think tracing lines, doing simple “prewriting” mazes, tracing their name, and even letter writing activities (including sensory writing trays) is appropriate. Developmentally, it is not. More important at this stage and each stage before, is the PLAY. Play builds the motor, cognitive, sensory, and emotional skills needed for pre-writing.

If you have children do not like the idea of broken crayons, there are ready-made flip crayons.

What about the chunky crayons? 

You have probably seen the jumbo sized crayons out there. They are commonly offered to the kindergarten age range. You may have even seen these large, chunky sized option in a triangular shape. 

However, when it comes to oversized crayons, one size does not fit all. This goes for crayons too. The problem with handing out boxes of large, over-sized crayons to the entire kindergarten class is that, the children that are receiving these boxes of crayons have small fingers, hands, and wrists. 

In fact, some hands are much too small for chunky crayons, thus leading to more of a gross grasping pattern, or all fingers around the crayon. 

Other children are able to use a tripod grasp but need a larger size to form this grasp properly. 

The one benefit to using triangular crayons is that in the classroom setting, they don’t roll across the desk or table and fall on the floor. This is a huge benefit to using the triangular shape because at the kindergarten and first grade age, managing materials as well as body awareness can be a challenge for some kids.

What about traditional crayons? 

These can be used if your child has an appropriate grasping pattern such as a tripod, or alternate tripod with two fingers on top.

The thumb wrap grasp, underwrap, and too many fingers on the writing tool are signs your child is not ready for traditional crayons yet.

Understanding the why and when behind hand development and tool use, is critical to selecting the correct tools for each stage of development.

Important note about the ages and stages listed above: Do not rely strictly on the ages above, as children will develop at different ages. These are ballpark ranges for hand development. 

While it is going to be impossible to convince “the powers that be” to slow down preschool and kindergarten curriculum, being armed with tools and resources will help children be ready to face this onslaught of demands. 

The OT Toolbox is a great resource for articles, worksheets, printables, crafts, and thousands of ideas and products to work on development.

*The term, “child” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages, etc. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

Occupational Therapy Coloring Pages

occupational therapy coloring pages

In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month, we’ve got a series of free OT PDFs and these occupational therapy coloring pages will get you started with the OT fun. April is Occupational Therapy Month!  Not only is it a month to celebrate the occupational therapists in your life, but to advocate for our profession.  Raise your hand if you have been asked, “what the heck is occupational therapy?”  This question comes from adults as much as children. This spring, in celebration of OT month, the OT Toolbox will be offering a series of resources to help educate young learners about the role of occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy coloring pages for therapy skills

Today’s resource is occupational therapy coloring pages to start the journey towards advocacy and education. 

What is Occupational Therapy?

It is important for people to know who we are and what we do, so they can ask for help when needed, and see that what we do matters. A persons’ occupation is their job.  Also known as functional skills, occupations are the day to day tasks we do all day long. Occupations go beyond the workplace. 

A child’s occupation is to learn to care for themselves, go to school, play, and develop social skills.  An adult’s occupation entails self care skills, social function, caring for others, instrumental activities of daily living (cooking, cleaning, laundry, fixing the car, etc.) along with any work functions they have.

Occupational therapy (OT) helps bridge the gap between where the learner currently is functioning, and independence. For children we might say we bridge the gap between functional and chronological age. 

OT might be restorative, or teach new skills. OTs can be found in schools, hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, daycares, home therapy and many other places.

Click HERE to find out ten fun facts about occupational therapists you can share with your staff.  Add these occupational therapy coloring pages to your OT month awareness packet!

Occupational Therapy Coloring Pages

OTs use some fun toys!

Younger learners, especially in schools, have seen many tools therapists use to help their students. These range from fidgets, swings, trampolines, alternative seating, slant boards, pencil grips, and more.

Some often wonder why our learner gets to play with the OT, and get fidget toys to use in class.

Using these occupational therapy coloring pages will help start the conversation about what these tools are, and how they are used. Share these OT coloring pages both with the learners on your caseload, as well as the other students in the school.

While it is true we use some fun toys in therapy, these are tools for the learners who need them. Occupational Therapy for young learners is play based

This is  because the role of the young learner is to play. You will notice that the learner who NEEDS the fidget or other adaptations will use it appropriately as a tool to help them get organized, while the neurotypical student tends to use it as a toy.

Use these occupational therapy coloring pages to talk about what each piece of therapy equipment does for the learner. 

Beyond educating others about our amazing profession, great skills are being addressed with these coloring worksheets:

  • Hand strength and dexterity – coloring inside the lines builds hand muscles and develops muscle control. 
  • Visual motor skills –Combining what is seen visually and what is written motorically.  It takes coordination to be able to translate information from visual input to motor output. Coloring, drawing, counting, cutting, and tracing are some visual motor skills.
  • Visual Perception – Developing figure ground to see where one item starts and finishes, scanning to find all items to color, and recognizing the border lines while coloring. 
  • Proprioception – pressure on paper, grip on pencil
  • Social/Executive Function – Following directions, turn taking, task completion, orienting to details, neatness, multi-tasking, attending to task, and impulse control can be addressed using these occupational therapy coloring pages PDF.
  • Fine motor strengthening, hand development, and grasping pattern
  • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while writing.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
  • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and writing tasks.

April is also Disability Awareness month.  This is a great opportunity to talk about different disabilities, while addressing the tools used to help people. How can you incorporate both of these important awareness months into a teachable moment?

While pediatric occupational therapists do have a lot of fun at our jobs, we are also providing an amazing service to the people we work with. Advocacy for our profession is so important.

With the push to integrate young people with special needs into the mainstream classroom, teachers are finding it more difficult to educate everyone at the same time. Our role as an occupational therapist is to help learners become more independent, provide tools and suggestions to classroom teachers to make their job easier, and help them identify which learners might be struggling.

The OT Toolbox is full of amazing resources for therapists, teachers, parents, and learners of all ages. This post shares what occupational therapy is all about and what tools are needed to make life easier.  Stay tuned for more occupational therapy month activities during April.

Free OT Coloring Pages

Want to add these resources to your occupational therapy toolbox? Enter your email address below to grab these printable PDF coloring sheets. These materials are also available in the OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

Level one members will have the opportunity to sign up for and download five different occupational therapy month activities.  Level two members will have access to all of these plus the larger collection of OT themed materials.  

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

Join the Member’s Club today!

Free Occupational Therapy Coloring Pages

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    Occupational therapy materials bundle

    NEW RESOURCE: Occupational Therapy Bundle!

    The Occupational Therapy Materials Bundle includes:

    • I Spy OT Dynamic Duos- School Based OT
    • I Spy OT Dynamic Duos- Outpatient OT
    • OT Coloring Pages
    • OT Writing Prompts
    • OT Copy the Words
    • OT Fine Motor Copy Kit
    • OT Fine Motor Game
    • OT Homework Bingo
    • OT Materials Toothpick Art
    • OT Supplies Match It Game
    • OT Supplies-What’s Missing
    • OT Visual Schedule Cards
    • OT Word Search
    • 8 OT articles on professional development

    Grab The Occupational Therapy Materials Bundle during OT Month to grab this 21 resource bundle for just $8!

    RAINBOW TEMPLATE PRINTABLE

    Rainbow template printable

    Coming up is the Rainbow Template Printable! This March activity is perfect for a St. Patrick’s Day theme or a rainbow theme in occupational therapy sessions. Whether you are working on pencil control, scissor skills, eye-hand coordination, or direction-following, this rainbow template can be used to address any skill area.

    This free rainbow template printable is a resource that can be used to work on pencil control, eye-hand coordination, letter formation, scissor skills, and more.

    free rainbow template printable

    What is so enticing about rainbows?  Could it be the pot of gold at the end?  Or the promise of sunshine? I think rainbows don’t make you choose.  You can have all of the colors at once.  For a lot of people, especially those with anxiety, choosing one or two of anything is difficult.  It seems so final and limiting.  Not so with rainbows, you can have it all!

    When I was a child we sang The Rainbow Song, “red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.”  Is indigo the new pink?  Maybe it is because we learned this in Australia.  Do rainbows look different there?

    Do you remember the mnemonic for the colors of the rainbow? ROY.G.BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). 

    However your learner decides to design their rainbow in this Rainbow Template Printable activity, there are a dozen ways to make this activity fun and functional. 

    Add the printable rainbow activity to our rainbow breathing exercise for more rainbow fun in therapy sessions (or the classroom or home!)

    What ways can you think of to design this rainbow  printable? 

    • Draw vertical lines in each section with the desired color, making sure the lines stay between the top and bottom borders
    • Make small circles in each section, controlling the pencil to stay between the lines
    • Write the first letter of the color,like RRRRRR, across each section
    • If your learner is more of a beginner, simply coloring each section will help develop fine motor skills in this pencil control activity
    • Copy a pattern like wavy, zigzag, or swirl lines in each section
    • Add glitter!  There is never a wrong time to add glitter

    All of the OT Toolbox resources, including this rainbow printable template, can be modified to meet the needs of all of your learners.  There are several posts related to Pencil Control and Rainbows on the OT Toolbox. Here is a post on Rainbow Activities to make lesson planning easier.

    Ways to adapt and modify this rainbow template printable task:

    • Laminate the page for using markers and wipes. This can be useful for reusability, as well as the enjoyment learners have using dry erase markers. Note: not all learners like reusable items, some prefer to take their work home.
    • Printing this rainbow template or some of our other great pencil control worksheets on different colored paper may make it more or less challenging for your learner
    • Enlarging the font may be necessary for beginning learners who need bigger space to write.
    • Have students cut out each section of the rainbow and paste in order on another page – this adds a cutting and gluing element
    • Make changes to the type of writing utensil, paper used, or level of difficulty
    • Have students write on a slant board, lying prone on the floor with the page in front to build shoulder stability, or supine with the page taped under the table
    • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in larger form.
    • More or less prompting may be needed during this activity depending on the level of the task and that of your learners
    • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
    • The OT Toolbox has a great Color Handwriting Kit incorporating fine motor skills, colors, and handwriting
    • A classic book, (Amazon affiliate link) the Rainbow Fish, would be a great addition to this rainbow fine motor worksheet, or lesson plan.  Plus it has GLITTER!  

    What skills are you addressing when using this rainbow template printable

    There are no wrong or right answers to this question.  Your focus can vary from learner to learner, or follow a common theme. 

    • Pencil control
    • Fine motor skills
    • Pre-writing skills

    The three above are the obvious, and more common skills to be measured during this task.  In addition, it is possible to shift the focus and attend to different aspects of the task:

    • Following directions
    • Task avoidance/compliance
    • Frustration tolerance
    • Behavioral reactions
    • Attention, focus, impulse control
    • Ability to complete a task
    • Level of independence
    • Social skills – sharing, turn taking, waiting

    there are no right or wrong answers

    Again there are no right or wrong answers.  The focus might be entirely on developing fine motor pencil control without regard to behaviors, social function, or executive function. 

    Conversely, the data you gather might not include how their fine motor skills look at all.  Of course you can combine all of the above.

    document, document, document

    Be sure to clearly document what you are observing and measuring.  Data collection is what’s required now.  Use percentages, number of trials, number of verbal or physical prompts, or minutes of focus.

    Gone are the days of writing, “learner completed task with min assist.” Min assist can look different to five different observers.  The only clinical phrases that are somewhat accurate are “independent” and “dependent”, meaning 100% or 0%.

    After all of this activity, maybe your learners need to slow down and take a breather with Rainbow Breathing Exercises. However you choose to create your treatment plan, find ways for it to be motivating and meaningful.

    Free Rainbow Template

    Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

    This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

    Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

    Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

    Join the Member’s Club today!

    Free Rainbow Template Printable

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
      • Note: the term, “learner” is used throughout this post for consistency, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, school aged kids/children of all ages and stages, or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

      Victoria Wood

      Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.