I’m a perfectionist. I love to see everything in order, especially in their original order. I never liked it when crayons are broken, it annoys me when my kids or even myself accidentally break them. So it means a lot that for the first time ever, I took out a brand spanking new box of crayons, and instead of displaying them proudly in a beautiful cup, I broke those crayons. Intentionally.
Here’s why. My 2.5 year old toddler, Z, is still working on his pencil grip, which is a fine motor skill. I know it’s because his hand and finger muscles are still weak, and we need lots of whole hand and pincer grip work.
While we do lots of work with clothespins, play dough, magnetic clips and tongs, I noticed that he was shying away from writing/drawing work because he couldn’t use the long pencils/crayons/markers properly. I didn’t want that for him, so I had to figure out a way to motivate him. Broken crayons are a great way for toddlers to perfect their pincer grip.
This quote from Mama OT sums it up perfectly:
[A broken crayon] naturally encourages them to “pinch” the crayon between their thumb and index finger, moving them into a more mature and skilled grasp pattern. The reason is simple — it’s hard to use a cylindrical or digital pronate grasp on a short crayon.
The brand new broken crayons were an instant hit for Z. He wanted to work on them right away. You can see the concentration when he’s using these broken crayons. I tell him to press harder against the paper and he can see the colors pop.
Also, because it’s hard to tell the colors of the crayons when their “sleeves” are off, he has an incentive to keep trying to find the right colors
by testing them out on paper. Besides giving him an incentive to color more, it also has a side benefit of refining his visual sense — he can now tell the colors apart mostly accurately just by looking at the crayons, as long as there’s good natural light.
I tried breaking some crayons in half, and others into 1/3. I find that the 1/3-length crayons help him focus more on pincer gripping correctly, just because they are sooooo short. So I ended up breaking everything up into 1/3 lengths.
By the way, I just took a glance to see what he’s up to, and guess what? He’s using those crayons.
I’ve never felt this great about breaking something before. We might have to do more of this!