Friday, November 13, 2009

Tutorial: Making Crayons

I'm pretty sure every family with kids above the age of about 4 or so has a bucket or a bin or a jar full of broken crayons. And because who wants to colour with the crappy broken crayons, the jar just keeps getting fuller!

This is a great way to put those broken crayons back into use. And have some fun craft time with your kids! Essentially all you do is pile the broken crayons into a baking mold of some sort (you can even just use a muffin tin, to make nice little hockey-puck type crayons), and then stick 'em in a hot oven until they melt. Wait until they cool, and bingo, you have some big fat crayons your kids may be willing to use again. Or they'd make a terrific gift for the toddlers in your life. Or at least you'll have spent an hour of quality time with your kids.

First up, you need crayons, and lots of them. Peel off the paper (it helps to score the paper with something like the tip of a knife to make them easier to peel), break the crayons into small pieces, and have your child helper sort out the crayons by colour. My helper refused to help with the paper peeling part, but she did enjoy the sorting.

Decide what you will bake them in. This is a Pampered Chef silicone cake pan that I have never actually used, so I figured if the crayon residue doesn't come off, well, at least I used it for something! I found the crayons do leave a residue, so I'd bear that in mind when choosing your pan. If I was going to do these in a muffin tin I wanted to use again later for muffins I'd probably do them in paper cups (the paper should just peel off the finished crayons).

I gave the pan a quick spray with some spray oil, then my helper got to work piling in the crayons. We decided for the first batch to go with blue/purple, red/pink, and yellow/orange. Fill up the molds, then stick in a warm oven (I used 300 degrees) for about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, the crayons had mostly melted. Once they're melted, there will be more space left, so we added more crayons.

Adding crayons to the melted ones. Then I put them back into the oven for 5 minutes, and then checked every 2 minutes or so until they were completely melted.

We probably shouldn't have put quite so many crayon pieces in the second time! Here you can see why perhaps you shouldn't fill them up completely. Or at least keep the tray completely flat as you take it out of the oven.

Then, let them cool, resisting the temptation to take them out before they are completely, 100% cool.

The really nice thing about the silicone pan is it's super easy to turn these out, just push 'em from the bottom.

Having achieved such great results with the first three, who could resist making more?

So fun! We have now exhausted our crayon supply. Whenever we make these again, I think I will chop up some of the crayons into very small pieces, and put those pieces in the bottom of the molds. Especially for the blue, where it would have been nice if I'd made sure more of the light blue and lavender crayon pieces wound up visible in the finished product.

One other suggestion - try not to put too many low quality crayons in any one mold. The lower quality crayons seem to have a lot more wax than colour, and you may find if you use a lot of low quality crayons you get a layer of largely colourless wax at the top of the mold. And that's very frustrating to try and actually colour with!

This is a super easy activity to do with your kids! Highly recommended.

Edit: since we made these, my kid has spent about 3 solid hours playing with them. Not so much colouring with them, but stacking them, sorting them, pretending they are people having adventures. I'd call that a success, anything that can keep her busy for an hour is fine by me!

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