Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crayons vs Markers-Please respond

I am curious to gather some opinions here.

We recently had a wonderful professional development session given by occupational therapist Melody Cohen who is based in New Canaan, CT.  She was sharing with us information about hand development and proper grip development with young children.

I could write several blog posts about what she explained to us, but the item I found most interesting was her emphatic plea to get rid of markers and even pencils in our preschool classrooms.  She believes very strongly in the use of crayons.  She implored us to get rid of the markers around the rooms.  At the time of her presentation, in my classroom, I had crayons and markers, as well as colored pencils and fat graphite pencils, but the children usually choose the markers. In fact, I could not remember seeing the children ever choose the crayons from the writing buckets all around the classroom.

Melody explained to us that with markers it is very easy to produce a mark on a paper.  You can hold the marker at just about any angle with varying amounts of pressure and it still works.  With a crayon, you need to use more pressure and varying amounts of pressure when writing and coloring. Crayon use is also more conducive to proper grip development as they are shorter, often lighter, have marks on them with which to align fingers and you need that control of pressure that only a thumb and forefinger working together can achieve.

So I did an experiment.  I removed all of the markers from my classroom aside from those used on the various whiteboards around the room.  I was ready for the children to balk the next day, to search for the markers, to complain that they were missing.
It has been over a month now.  Not a single child has mentioned the missing markers.  They are all happily using the crayons.

And...I can see the few children that used to write with their elbows in the air and with such a light touch starting to gravitate their arms and hands closer to the paper.  It has been an interesting experiment that I am planning on continuing while I process this, observe more and research it more myself.  I am really interested to hear from other teachers.

What do you use and WHY?    


  1. I agree with her. Although a child that is having a lot of issues with writing and needs some encouragement some markers and a whiteboard can give them some instant success...I love rock crayons wonder what she would think of those...

  2. I agree as well, but I am an OT also. I think we're pushing our kids too fast to do paper and pencil tasks and they lose out on developing the small muscles in their hands. Crayola has those nice lines at the bottom for placing their "pinching" fingers on.

  3. As an OT, I agree with the use of crayons over markers. Also try dry erase crayons on the white boards, they give more feedback and resistance.

  4. Agreed. As on OT, I am encouraging parents and preschool teachers to let the children scribble with fat crayons on large paper on the floor. The kids love it! We then cut their coloring into meaningful shapes (we just did dreidels for Hanukkah) that they can decorate with small craft supplies. This floor scribbling promotes weight bearing through the arms and hands, wrist extension, arches of the hands and midline crossing. These foundation skills will help them with higher level tasks such as coloring with accuracy, drawing and writing when the time comes. We ARE expecting too much too soon from our preschoolers. They need to move more and sit less!

  5. I find that broken pieces (yes! On purpose) of crayon is the best way to encourage good handwriting later on. Markers require weak pressure and encourage barrel grips

  6. The only problem I have with this is that is writing really being affected because of this? Markers have been used for decades and I have not heard of this ever in all my 25 years of teaching preschool. You may not use them at school but they will go home and use them and then does that undo everything? why not have both and just encourage them to use crayons and have a day or two with only crayons. Use other means also to develop fine motor . Are we going to get rid of all the chalk? all the pencils? where does this stop? they took away shaving cream because apparently after decades of using this material now it is harmful ( (please find me a case of a child who dies from shaving cream poisoning). Don't get me started !! I am hearing this marker debate as something that is researched . Where is that research? As teachers it is up to us to use materials that will enhance learning and development. I guarantee that a Kindergarten teacher will not blame a child not being to write their name because they used markers.

    1. I do not have specific research to offer you. I just have the suggestions from the several OTs that we have worked with, that have evaluated our students or given workshops at our schools. Crayons take more effort and sensory input. They help develop muscles more than markers. OTs do not use markers in their work with the children and have suggested to us to use crayons. Chalk has been suggested as a good implement to use on many levels. For now, we use crayons for most things, offer markers occasionally and use chalk as well. We have small pencils as well. And I hear you on all the risk aversion! I still use shaving cream:-)

  7. I agree with the use of crayons over markers for young children. I've believed this intuitively for a long time (I'm a mother of three grown-ups, grandmother of five young ones, and currently a DRE, working with 4-8 yr. olds) and I never could articulate my reasoning except to say: markers take such a small amount of effort and the instant success precludes any amount of work. I find that crayons offer an opportunity for more expressive work. Markers also offer a fine-line style of drawing that is developmentally more advanced than a young child's view of the world. Also, markers preclude texture or shading or broad application of color. I always feel like a spoil sport when I remove the markers from my classroom and home so your report is a welcome bit of news.

  8. Markers are better since they use cow fat in the making of crayons I mean come on people, did do we really wanna be giving our kids cows to colour with?

  9. 8:1:1 Special Ed Classroom Teacher here who began 3 yrs ago with weak unmotivated K-2 non-writers so I started with mini white boards and markers. I have found that students need to succeed in communicating with the marks they make to inspire them to write. OT pushes in everyday and we work on eye & hand excercises, tracing cursive, concentration excersises, book writing, drawing, cutting, painting. Every child/student is different and you have to find the right writing instrument that will provide enough success to be motivating enough to keep on writing.

  10. I agree - if using dry erase board, use dry erase crayons that provide more input, use your "bird beak" (pincre grasp and cotton ball to erase the strokes the sme way you wrote the, More muscles recruited and better learning of letter formation. I also make various shapes of crayons and use a textures light cover taped to a foam core board. if you make muffin tin or mini muffin crayons IN THE PAPER you get a jagged edge so the writing vibrates for even more feedback.. I like to place it vertical or on a slantboard to for hand-eye coordination. Many kids now ad ays need multi-sensory input as much as possible. Those who want markers may have low tone etc. Markers and dry erase are much better for cursive.