About those crayons…what parents should know

Why you should chuck your Jumbo crayons and Chalk…

“Just say NO to jumbo crayons and chalk!”

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Toddlers use their whole arm to color, it’s natural! Laying on their belly helps them to start using their fingers, instead of their shoulder.

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Do you remember when your child first started coloring?

Babies and toddlers use their whole arm to scribble. You may remember the very large crayons and pencils from when you first learned how to color or write your name. It may be surprising to learn that handwriting experts and occupational therapists actually recommend using small golf pencils and tiny broken crayons for your child as they begin to write and color more often.   Jumbo crayons and pencils are actually age appropriate for toddlers to use!


Notice how the package says 12+ months. These crayons are perfect for babies who are just learning to scribble. Not for preschool or school age children.


Crayola 8-Pack Crayons - Jumbo (So Big) Size (Single Box)

Jumbo crayons are for babies! Literally toddlers only.

Bigger isn’t better!

Why no Jumbo crayons or CHALK?

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Toddlers use their whole arm to move the pencil or crayon. They hold it in a fist and use all of the muscles in their arm to make the marks on the paper.

As children begin to develop improved fine motor skills, they use their wrist and fingers to move the pencil or crayon. This is the natural development of shoulder stability.  Between the age of three and four, they should be resting their arm on the table and using the small muscles of their hand to do the work.

Imagine how much heavier those Jumbo crayons and pencils are for those little hands! Using golf pencils instead of Jumbo pencils allows a child to manipulate the pencil more easily, which discourages them from using too many fingers, pressing too hard, or scribbling outside the lines. Very often, children who have difficulty holding their pencil correctly have weak muscles in their hands. To compensate for this weakness, they use more fingers or more pressure! Ouch!


The Jumbo pencil is more than twice the size of the golf pencil. Too big!

These old fashioned “Jumbo” pencils are only appropriate for babies who are learning how to make a mark on a paper.  They are expected to use their whole arm, so it’s okay. Once they start scribbling, it’s time for a regular pencil or a golf pencil.

crayons, jumbo crayons, grasping, fine motor skills


So what crayons should kids use?

Good old regular crayons are fine.  BUT – if you see that your child is using too many fingers, you may want to go with broken crayons.  Broken crayons should be an inch or smaller.  Many moms cringe at this (teachers too) because we remember the awesome feeling of getting a brand new pack of crayons.  There was nothing better than that!  If the broken crayon thing bothers you, there are a lot of cute new crayons that are good for encouraging a proper grip.


Crayon rocks are perfect for little fingers! They automatically put your fingers in a “pinch” position so kids don’t get in the habit of “fisting” their crayons.

Handwriting Without Tears makes these cute little “flipz” crayons which are perfect for preschool to school age children! Kids have to use in-hand manipulation to “flip” them over and change color.


How can you help your child to develop the proper grip?  There are a lot of things you can do.  First, practice coloring.  This sounds too simple, and moms who have children who don’t like to color may say, “he won’t color”.  There are tons of sneaky ways to get a kid to color.  Go online and google “free coloring pages” and get a picture of their favorite cartoon character.  It’s more motivating (and less overwhelming) than opening a whole coloring book.  Tell your child that Grandma asked for a new picture for her refrigerator.  Or Aunt Susie’s birthday is coming and she wants a picture, etc.

Is coloring absolutely necessary?  Well, no. There are many ways to learn how to write besides coloring.  BUT – Coloring is a fine motor skill. It is exercise for those little muscles in the hand.  If your child refuses to color, it could be because it’s hard for them. They may need some hand strengthening activities to work those little hands so it’s not such a chore.  Play-doh, clay, and cookie making are all good for hand strengthening.

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

Another great way to help your child develop shoulder stability (the ability to use their hand without using their whole arm) is to have them color while laying on their belly.  This will be hard at first because it takes muscle! Keep at it.

I hope this gives some motivation to chuck those jumbo crayons! Or at the very least – break ’em!  The smaller the better.  Have fun!

Want more great tips to improve your child’s skills? Check out The Handwriting Book, written by a team of ten pediatric OTs and PTs to help parents, therapists, and teachers just like you!

Handwriting and Middle School

Don’t forget to read this:  Two Magical Crayons that will change your child’s grasp


~Miss Jaime, O.T.

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19 thoughts on “About those crayons…what parents should know

  1. Roxana Gilliss says:

    Excellent blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

    • Jaime S says:

      Hi Roxana! Thanks for the compliment! I’ve only been blogging for a year but I’ve learned a lot! I would suggest reading as many articles about how to get started blogging, how to set up for good seo, etc. As far as all the options, start simple and dont be afraid to make mistakes. I chose wordpress because other “computer people” told me to, but I like it so far!

  2. Julie Ruis says:

    We use the Handwriting Without Tears flip crayons and pencils. LOVE them and so does our OT teacher. do, Much Easier To Teach Proper Pencil grip. 🙂

  3. Molly says:

    Hi! I am a 1st grade teacher and mom to a 7 year old girl and 5 year old boy. I enjoyed this post, but now I have some questions. So in my classroom this past year I used the Ticonderoga Laddie Pencils. Do you feel these are appropriate for 1st graders? I really liked them for a couple of reasons the lead is a little thicker so they last longer and the students printing is darker. What about having my 5 year old boy and my first graders writing with thin crayola markers and ball point pens? Thank you so much!

    • Jaime S says:

      Hi Molly- thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to write. I personally don’t like the ticonderoga pencils. I think that kids need to press harder because they are heavier for little hands. This encourages them to use an inefficient pencil grasp (usually fisted). I like golf pencils the best, because they are lighter and easier to manage with the proper grasp.Regular pencils are fine too. If you have to use Ticonderoga for the whole class, I would use golf pencils for your weaker kids. Even if they are writing beautifully, if they are using the wrong pencil grasp, it can really affect them later. Thin crayola markers are fine, I prefer the Pipsqueak Skinnies. They are short so it’s more difficult to sneak extra fingers on. I think ball point pen is okay, as long as you keep an eye on that pencil grip. If they are sneaking extra fingers on the length of the pencil, they need a short pencil.

  4. Buffy Betenbaugh says:

    I am a 4K teacher and enjoyed the article. I knew about the length of writing tools but never thought about weight. Question. What about 4-year-olds that have never held a pencil/crayon, do they need the bigger pencils/crayons first? For a short time- since they haven’t had any experienced? Is this information researched-based proven? Thanks so much for your help.

  5. Maryline says:

    In light of this, I now wonder if the large Crayola washable markers would be considered unfit for Kinders. What would you recommend based on research and best practice?
    Thank you for your insight.

  6. Jo McIntosh says:

    What about the child whose thumb rolls over the index finger to try to grip “skinny” crayons. The thicker ones seem to deter this and encourage a tripod or puncher grip.
    Do love the shorter versions to aid control!

    • Jaime S says:

      Every child is different, and if you see that thicker ones are better for a certain child, then go with your gut. If they were three or older, I would try crayon rocks or flipz, or just broken crayon bits first.

  7. Katie says:

    Hi! I teach kindergarten,
    Where I live (overseas), it is hard to get the smaller crayons and markers, the larger sizes are standard, and the skinny ones cost extra and are usually of poor quality, so parents don’t buy them-and I don’t really want them because they don’t last long or color well.

    I do have colored pencils in my classroom and regular pencils and pens and I try to have my kids use these often, at least as often as the other things. They have to be regular sized, because tiny pencils aren’t really available. Do you think this is enough?
    We do a lot of playdough work too, especially first semester.

    What about kids who still have trouble with correct grip? I have some triangular pencils, they are thicker than regular pencils, but do you think it’s worth using these to help?

    • Jaime S says:

      Hi Katie! Thanks so much for writing. If skinny or small crayons aren’t available, I would just hang on to my fat ones until they become tiny. You can break them into little pieces to encourage less fingers and a more precise grasp. I don’t find that the triangular crayons really help, although it’s nice that they don’t roll away! But, if that’s all you have access to, they are fine! It sounds like you have the right idea by using playdough and working on other strengthening activities. Here’s another trick that helps with grasp: https://www.missjaimeot.com/2-magical-crayons-change-your-childs-grasp/

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