Crayon Spring Cleaning

When I embarked on this craft adventure I thought it would simply be a fun, quick, and spring cleaning related activity to do with Penelope one quiet afternoon… in the end I myself had a blast, and at points found myself giddy as a school girl watching the transformation happen.

I’m guessing almost everyone reading this is painfully familiar with a growing collection of crayon nubs as our munchkins use them to experiment with fine motor skills and artistic techniques. What better craft for this time of year than a spring purge of all those crumbles into rejuvenated little rainbows. I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience.

This project seriously only took about 20 minutes from prep to the new crayons coming out of the oven. The hardest and most time-consuming part is waiting for them to re-cool and solidify afterward.

Step 1: Pick a mold for the new shape. We used heart shaped silicone ice cube trays from IKEA (chosen by Penny over triangles and long strips). I was minutely nervous they wouldn’t like the oven, but it worked! Confession, in the end my ice cube tray has a layer of crayon residue in each cup, but at $0.99 a pop, I think I’ll just retire it to the craft box and not bother figuring out how to clean it.

Step 2: Pull out all those little crayon bits and pieces from your crayon stash. I even pulled out long pieces of flat-ended crayons as I deemed them sub-par for coloring. Peel off the outer paper (be forewarned, some papers won’t cooperate, I think I tossed three bits away because I was too frustrated with the wrappers). Make sure they’re all broken into small enough bits to fit your mold, for me that was about a ½” max length.

I was surprised at how engaged Penelope was in this step. She felt really excited when she successfully peeled paper off of a crayon, and sorted through the crayons for the broken ones like a treasure hunt.

Step 3: Distribute them in each cup of your mold. Penelope and I tried to make sure there were a variety of colors in each cup, though I’ve seen people do more monochromatic recycles too, with all the green shades in one cup and oranges in another, etc.

Step 4: Pop the mold into an oven on low heat (I’ve read as low as 150 and as high as 250, I set mine about 200). If you’re using a loose silicone tray like an ice cube tray put it on a cookie sheet so it’s easier to get in and out without spilling. Bake until all the crayons have melted (for us this was only about 5-10 minutes, but I’ve read people keeping them in the oven for up to 45 minutes… either their oven needs service or mine does).

Step 5: Let them cool. As I mentioned this is probably the hardest part, and also where I got the most excited in the process — the colors look super neat in their lava like state!

While we waited, Penelope would suddenly holler “we need to check on the hearts!” and we’d scurry into the kitchen again to find them still liquefied, then shuffle off to wait some more.

It took about 30 minutes for them to be cool enough to touch, but they still weren’t coming clean away from the tray, so I stuck them in the fridge until after dinner. Our tray made 16 hearts, and two cracked in half (ironically) while trying to pop them out of the tray.

One final testimonial on the joyfulness this craftiness brought to both me and my child — the marbling in these hearts is genuinely cool. There are shimmery streaks in some, a few came out a bit dark but then have bright neon blotches; the way the colors melded together I just find so interesting. Penelope and I enjoy looking at them individually, and when we were trying to pick our favorite neither of us could choose just one. When she discovered she could color with them, they weren’t just heart shapes, she had an audible gasp, a connection I didn’t realize she hadn’t made from breaking the crayons up at the start. I enjoy these hearts so much I would actually consider mounting them in a shadow box and hanging them on the wall.

Whether you’re as excited about them at the end of your project as I am or you’re just able to give a second life to your crayon chips this is a quick and painless spring cleaning craft for you and your kiddo. I hope you enjoy!

Originally appeared on the modern mama life blog
A version of this post was featured in the i29 March 2014 edition of News Splash! — Slippery Fish Initiative cooperative preschool’s monthly newsletter.