Everyday, Simple Ideas #1: Broken Crayons for Fine Motor Development

I am sharing some of the simple, daily things I do at home as a Mom that come from my occupational therapy background.

#1  Broken crayons.

My children rarely get anything other than broken crayons to draw with.  While they would both prefer markers, I find they learn more from using crayons.  Here is our box:

broken crayons for fine motor skill development

Why?  The short length gets kids to hold the crayon with their fingers, rather than with a fisted grasp in the palm of the hand.  With a full-sized crayon, children are tempted to use the easiest grasp possible, which often looks like one of these two options:

palmar grasp      palmer grasp, thumb up

A medium length will get the crayon to the fingers.radial digital tripod grasp

A short length will get the crayon to the thumb, index, and middle finger (called a tripod grasp).  tripod grasp pattern with small crayon

The shorter the better, but only as short as your child can still be successful with.  If you want this to work, you have to only offer broken crayons (if there are full crayons mixed in, good luck trying to convince a kid to use a broken one!)

Bonus- I use triangular shaped crayons (usually available at larger stores, like Target).  The 3 sides will guide little hands to hold with 3 fingers for a tripod grasp.

Why not markers?  As a mom, I hate the mess and dealing with caps.  As a therapist, markers are too easy.  You don’t have to push, so you don’t get as much hand strength development.  Markers are often too big for toddler and preschool hands, so they end up using a grasp that is not helpful to learning to write and color well.

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.