Cleveland occupational therapists handwriting with broken crayons

Why Our Cleveland Occupational Therapists LOVE Broken Crayons

If you’re a kid, few things are better than a brand new box of crayons: That waxy scent, the smooth paper lining, the fine point tip, and the bright, bold colors. But if you’re one of our Cleveland occupational therapists, chances are you actually prefer the old, broken crayons.

Seems weird, right?

It’s not that we don’t like brand new crayons. But for Cleveland occupational therapists working with their patients on handwriting, broken crayons present a lot of opportunity.

Broken crayons (approximately 1 inch long are ideal) may be used as a therapeutic tool to help children improve their handwriting skills for a few reasons:

  1. Grasp Development. When children use broken crayons, they are encouraged to hold the crayon with their fingers, promoting a tripod grasp (thumb, index, and middle finger). This grasp is considered ideal for handwriting as it provides stability and control. Using broken crayons can help develop the muscles in the hand and fingers necessary for a proper pencil grip.
  2. Pressure Control. Broken crayons are shorter and require children to exert more pressure while coloring or writing. By applying the appropriate amount of pressure, children learn to control the force applied to the crayon, improving their ability to modulate pressure when writing with a pencil or pen. It also helps build strength in the small muscles of the hand. These things are important for producing legible and consistent handwriting.
  3. Hand-Eye Coordination. Manipulating a shorter and less stable tool like a broken crayon requires greater hand-eye coordination. Children need to exert more control and precision to achieve the desired results. This helps develop their fine motor skills and enhances their ability to coordinate hand movements with visual input, which is crucial for neat handwriting.
  4. Sensory Stimulation. Broken crayons can provide different sensory experiences compared to whole crayons. The irregular surface and varying lengths of the crayons offer tactile feedback, stimulating the sensory receptors in the fingers and hands. This sensory input can be beneficial for children who have difficulties with sensory processing or need additional sensory stimulation to enhance their focus and engagement during handwriting tasks.

Broken crayons tend to be easier for tiny hands to manage – while at the same time, making use of immature grasps very difficult (if not impossible). In essence, the “force” the child to grip the writing utensil differently because there is only so much length to hold onto and manipulate.

While broken crayons can help children with development of the tripod grasp, there are actually several different types of functional grasps (lateral, quadripod, lateral quadripod, etc.). Lots of kids will move through the phase of immature grasp to mature grasp naturally, with practice. But others need extra help. The use of broken crayons is just one of many strategies employed by OTs to help address handwriting challenges.

Each child’s needs and abilities are unique, and occupational therapists tailor their interventions to meet individual requirements.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Grip Pattern Development in Early Writers: A Study of Flip Crayons, May 2010, A Thesis, By Aimee Michelle Sidhu, Texas Woman’s University, College of Health & Sciences

More Blog Entries:

Occupational Therapy Tips to Practice Pre-Writing Skills at Home, May 10, 2023, Cleveland Occupational Therapists’ Blog