Crayons are my nemesis

Melted CrayonsHell crayons, markers, colored pencils…whatever. I am starting to hate them with the fury of a thousand burning suns. I wish the suns would melt them into a giant unusable glob. What is even more sad is that I actually LOVE coloring. I could color all day. I find it SOOOO relaxing. I even have a method for coloring involving the right kind of paper, a sufficient buffer from a hard surface and the right angle to hold said crayons. Yeah…I’m extreme.

But parenthood is ruining my love of coloring. I had dreams of coloring with my kids. Everyone making blue ducks and purple cows. Glorious days that Real Simple would be banging down my door for a perfect photo shoot. Can’t you see it? Carrot stick snacks with polo shirts?

Now you may be thinking “oh no…what did Landon draw on in the house?” but no worries there. Oddly enough, he is a child who doesn’t seem to get into stuff. I know I am screwed with Dolphin at this rate but I have time.

Our issue is doing it by himself.

For a child that is VERY independent on most accounts, he “can’t” color by himself. This includes drawing/scribbling. Now we probably enabled this early on.  I can’t blame us too much. It’s cute the little dance he does when you draw him a horrible train. Then he learned the dreaded phrase “one more” or “one last time”. I am sure you can see where this is going. We are slaves to the drawing king. “I want an ice cream.” “I want a Percy” “I want a Lightening McQueen”. Pause here for props to my husband’s kick ass drawing skills…because they are pretty good…but still. This almost ALWAYS turns into a meltdown when we stop. There is screaming and crayon throwing. (Have I mentioned we may have already hit the 3s? Oy).  Then? When you are about to scream too…he says “We do it together?”. Holds the crayon and wants you to hold his hand with him. Yeah…it is STUPID cute…but I know better. It will end the same.

Now at home, we just take the crayons away. They disappear for awhile and we can usually divert him to another activity if he asks for them. But daycare? Where everything is sitting out and it is the one activity MOST kids can do to help the transition for dropoff? Yeah. Like walking into a time bomb. I try to redirect to another activity but it usually fails.  He sees a friend coloring and wants to too…EXCEPT HE WON’T COLOR.  And bless their hearts, the teachers fall into our same trap. The “We do it together” crushes their soul and they cave.  I know…I do it too. THEN? You know he loves it. He carries those pieces of paper around for DAYS. “Look what Miss Brynn drew for me! 2 cupcakes!”. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY????????

So internets, help me. How do I curb this? I have tried to swing it to a learning moment. Like if I draw, he has to tell him shapes to draw to make the wheels or ice cream cone or whatever. He does well. We talk about letters and I make him take turns.  Sometimes this works and I think we are onto something and then the tantrum starts again. We just left him at daycare in extreme meltdown mode after being there 30 minutes. ARG!


  1. 3 year olds are masterminds at working parents. There’s a reason the book is called Friend or Enemy.

    Do you want real advice? Don’t stay there 30 minutes. Drop him off and walk away. The longer you stay, the longer he will tantrum because he knows you will stay until he is calmed down. Then again, between the two of them, we always had someone crying the first 3ish years of drop off so we just HAD to walk away.

    If he tantrums when you don’t draw, then don’t even break out the crayons. 100% keeping it real, there are SO MANY things my kids didn’t get to do because they couldn’t be nice. So many toys that disappeared until they could behave with them. We tried a few times and if they were still a-holes then those toys got put away for a little while. And if day care is the hot button issue, then let day care deal with it.

    • Yeah really at home we have curbed it more. And then like this morning, he colored on his own when I was making breakfast. Daycare is the problem. Also we rarely stay that long. Most of that time was taking him out of the room so he wasn’t upsetting the little ones (lots f newbs today). We rarely leave him in tears. But the instant access there is the downfall I think. We drop in the toddler room so there isn’t a ton for him to do. Coloring is pretty universal. I may ask if they could have another activity ready when we get there. Sensory table, blocks out ready for play. I dunno. He loves all art. It’s just hard to encourage it at this point.

  2. Have you tried letting him know how special having some of his drawings would be for you? If he gets so excited when someone else draws something for him, maybe he would understand that you could feel the same way if he drew something by himself for you.

    This sounds pretty logical, so I’m betting you’ve already tried it.

  3. I agree with the others.
    What about making him doing something simple like the top line of the train and then you help him finish it. Or he has to do the circles for the wheels. My son is 2 1/2 and is the EXACT same way. I avoid coloring most of the time because I know he won’t do it he will just tell me “Mommy’s turn”. I think with my son it’s an insecurity thing. One time I traced his hand and he was BEYOND excited but when he tried to do it, he couldn’t get it right. So out of frustration or something, he just always makes me do it. And since it sounds like you and your husband are good artists he may not feel like he can do the same quality of art.
    It’s a stretch for a 2-3 year old to feel that way but that’s what I think my son feels. Anyway, I try to get him to do one part of the picture and then slowly add more simple parts so he can feel proud of his work.

    • Good idea. K is way better at drawing than me and he usually gets more upset when he says no. I usually go and have to do something else. Cook dinner, let the dog in, etc. Just an abrupt stop seems worse. Maybe daddy needs to draw crappier 🙂

  4. i just completely pulled this out of my ass, but could you & K start sucking at drawing? like when he asks you to draw a train, could you scribble? then play the “i don’t know how!” card? it might result in a HUGE blow up right off the bat but try being persistent, he might yield. then ask him to help you draw it … idk, reverse psychology-ish.

    good luck though, hopefully one day you’ll have the magazine-worthy coloring sessions you dream about (:

  5. We experience something very similar with my 2.5 year old daughter – it’s so frustrating. I just read this post and felt even worse about it: (the comments actually have some pretty good suggestions about how to stop drawing for your kid – there will be meltdowns initially of course).

    Lately, she hasn’t been as into crayons and I do wonder if it’s because we just stopped drawing for her, but I figure if she wants to she can get back into it on her own this time.

    • Great link! That pretty much confirms the thoughts I had about my child’s lack of interest and frustrations. It’s hard for me not to correct and show him how to do stuff since he’s so young I have to teach him how to use materials. I will try to do better about just letting him do his thing and hopefully he will enjoy it more.

    • Love that article. Gonna be a slow bandaid to rip off but she is right. Problem is, being this pregnant, coloring is about the only thing we can do together anymore besides books and legos. 🙁 Maybe i can use this to my advantage and have him draw for the baby. Hmmmmmm

  6. What about stamps? My little girl loves to do stamps, and she has lots of little cheapy ones that she can do on her own (that come off the table easily when she “accidentally misses” the paper).

    As for the tantrums, we are well-versed in this kind of thing, unfortunately. One thing that has worked pretty well for us is helping our just-turned-3-year-old recognize that behavior and then rewarding when she can stop it. We used to have a terrible time with preschool drop-off whining, and we built up to if she could do “big girl drop-offs” (i.e. no whining or clinging) every day for a week, she got to go to Starbucks on Friday afternoon and pick out a treat. Now that drop-off isn’t a problem anymore, threatening to take away the Friday Starbucks run is helping curb some other undesirable behavior… Just a thought!

    • we use his ipod as leverage. He can’t have it on the way to school. Thing is taking things away is making him even angrier. But all that said, drop offs are good 90% of the time. This morning they diverted to blocks. Much different. Thanks

  7. Not to add another dimension to your worries, but…anything that he neeeeeds you for now will multiply times a million when the baby arrives. It’ll be his way to control the situation. At least that’s how it was with my older one. Suddenly she had to read a story or play with a specific toy that was in another room while I was breastfeeding. Eventually I figured out to let her lay across my legs while BFing and I could read to her that way. I guess my point is to try to break him of it before the baby comes that way it isn’t the baby’s “fault” that you can’t draw and color.

    My three year old is really into being a big girls and being able to do things “all myself”. I would try to play up that angle. We also have a little table that she can color at whenever she feels like it, without needing us to start the activity.

    • So God bless daycare 🙂 Landon will be in full time so I won’t be home with both very often. I am lucky that even now I am very rarely on my own with just Landon. Also God bless my husband’s easy schedule. I don’t plan much zone defense early on.

  8. Ok, I haven’t thoroughly read through the replies, so I apologize if the problem has solved or I am repeating others. There are stages to creative/drawing, hence meatball people. Children will also become reliant on the realism your drawings give. Itsn’t a bad idea to suck on some drawings and celebrate that what he does…”mommy, can’t draw that, will you show me?”. Also, tracers may help. Not so much large shapes, but the negative, the piece that the shape was cut from can help. Scrbbles still are contained to inside and then look like a square or a train when lifted. Large dot to dots also. I would think that your daycare will have an idea also or help with whatever you suggest.
    Don’t abadoned the crayon just yet!

    • We have tried tracing and he doesn’t seem to get that…but it is making me think of old school stencils! I bet that would work well. Thanks!

  9. I’m way too tired to absorb all these comments, but I need to come back and do so since we have this problem at times. I’m not even very good at drawing!

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