Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Crayon Rocks- Less Has Never Been So Much More

So beautiful, you feel like taking a bite. But seriously, they are just crayons and they're awesome.
These crayons help us forget our handwriting woes while still working on our handwriting skills! Genious!

WHAT: Crayon Rocks
INVENTOR: Barbara Lee, Pediatric Occupational Therapist
DOES: Promotes Good Pencil Grips AND Arts in your home or classroom! Also very safe and made in the U.S.A.
INVEST:  $9 -30  depending on size 
3+, I guess you can use for younger ages if you supervise, it's non-toxic for sure.
EXPERT OPINION: Pediatric Occupational Therapist Susan L. Roberts, MDiv, OTR/L  and author of My Kid Eats Everything
GIVEAWAY PRIZE: A box of Just Rocks (64 of the most beautiful crayons you will ever see in your life)

The first time I saw a photo of these crayon rocks, I fell in love.  Sure, they looked like they would be excellent fine motor skill-builders but what I really liked was that they were just GORGEOUS. They all have this invitingly curvy shape that kind of reminds me of the Elsa Peretti Bean Line at Tiffany. Each rock shouts, "HOLD ME!" or even "RUB ME!"

Some of these were used more than the other but you can still see that they are not identical to each other. That's cool!

Indeed they are special! I let my children have a go at them and then they started getting goofy and scribbling away.  I promptly removed them from such irresponsible hands. How dare they just play around with them?  Didn't they know that these were special? Because they not only are beautiful but they also happen to have the magical property of making sure people pick them up with the 3-jaw-chuck, which every occupational therapist knows is the most secure grip one can have for writing with a pen/pencil.

Three Jaw Chuck + Crayon Rock + Raised Line and Highlighted Writing paper (cut-up as Susan suggested).  I like it.  Who says you have to practice cursive with a pencil?

On her website, Crayon Rocks inventor Barbara Lee said that she taught kids with special needs for 23 years and started working on Crayon Rocks after being inspired by Handwriting for Tears creator, Jan Olson, OTR.

Designed to be Used Correctly Always- Now, That's Smart Design!

"These are great," said veteran pediatric occupational therapist Susan Roberts. "Because you have to hold them this way," she said as she demonstrated the 3-jaw-chuck grip to me. "And they’re just the right size!" Susan described the right size as being about one inch because "it forces this grip." Kids will quickly figure out that Susan is right.  To pick up the rock and use it, you really end up using the 3-jaw-chuck.  But crayons do not come in one inch sizes, do they?  Hence most therapists like Susan will literally break fresh boxes of crayons to get them ready for students and really... no one likes doing that. 

Broncos fan 'til the end. He made a flag with a post-it note and colored it with an orange rock.  It's nice to just have a bowl of crayons on the coffee table.
Crayon Rocks made me think twice about crayons.  Some kids HATE broken crayons. My #2 hates broken crayons.  I know that it's silly because obviously you can still "use" them but kids are kids.  Have you ever seen that? Which kid doesn't dive after that beautiful barely used crayon in the bin. They are almost looking for a reason to use that color just so they can use the new one.

Good Things Should Never Go to Waste

The truth is that I had no picture of how crayon rocks would be a part of my children's life.  They are not cheap but they are sooo beautiful. They make great gifts so why would I ever give them to my own children to do everyday coloring? Wouldn't that be.... wasteful?

But you know what? What I was doing was the MOST wasteful.  The crayons weren't even seen let alone touched.

Adorable pudgy little fingers!  3 year old with a 3-jaw-chuck grip!  AWESOME!

Why Leave Lesser Alternatives Around?

So I took a deep breath and exhaled out all of my anxiety and proceeded to put my crayon rocks in lovely clay bowls around my house wherever my kids do their doodling. I also made all the regular crayons in my house UNAVAILABLE and left out only the Crayon Rocks.  Why the switcheroo? My reason is simple. I want more beauty in my home and encouraging good grips on the sly is just as important too. They haven't a clue that I am promoting something "educational" and believe me, after two years of Toys Are Tools, my kids would like to NOT hear the words "educational" for a long time.

Now we have beautiful rocks in a bowl and no big mess of crayons that ultimately end up in a huge Ziploc. And strangely, my kids use crayons much more often now than they did when our crayons looked like those cylinders that rolled off the table.

Crayon Rocks make ancient computer paper look awesome too.

I think that it was great timing too because I spotted my ten-year-old reluctant writer not using the 3-jaw-chuck!  ARGH! Wherever did it go? I think when we get tired, our fingers move around and perhaps they might get used to using an inefficient grip.  I do see that sometimes in adults.  Even some Asians I know have some pretty awful chopstick grips (very similar to holding pencil) and I just wonder how they get by but they do manage to eat their food.

It's Worth a Try... It's Up to You...

But... and I don't mean to show off but here is what I can do with my chopsticks, I can slice pickled napa cabbage down the grain, I can pick up a single kernel of rice, wrap a slice of dried seaweed around a lump of rice and then eat it, all without finger assistance, I can quickly fish out tiny bits of green stuff floating around in soup too!  With my pen, I am no artist but I was known in high school to be an excellent parent signature "forgerer."  I feel bad for saying this but since we're all grown-ups here, I can tell you... Dang, this made me so proud.  I'm still proud of my chopstick work even though my forgery days are over. I don't believe that it isn't possible for my kids either.  My husband has an awful chopstick and pencil grip but he can draw way better than me.

 "I learned from her how important it was to develop early a good tripod grip. Handwriting skills depends upon this." Barbara Lee wrote on her website about Jan Olson, creator of Handwriting Without Tears.

So if you still have use for crayons at home, then consider getting a small to large pack of these beautiful rocks.  Take the regular ones and melt them into LEGO minifigures and sell them for a school fundraiser or something.  But at home, just use the blessed beauties and you will see that there will be no crayon clutter, no tears because of the occasional beheaded or broke-in-half crayon, and definitely none of that horrible paper that kids can't peel off anyway. (#1 loves to strip them for fun which irks me)  If you have someone resistant to unwrapped crayons due to sensory issues then consider these rocks too because they are soy-based and high quality and the feel is definitely less waxy
When you get a box of Just Rocks- you'll have 64 crayons which means you will have 4 sets of 16 colors.  With a lovely bowl, you can easily just create a little gift.  We gifted this bowl to the kids' tutor.  She loved it!  She gets compliments from colleagues who pass by her desk.

Leave your rocks in a little bowl on the table.  Dress your bowl with Wikki Stix to make it less breakable.  Encourage the grip on the sly while you encourage creativity everyday!

Oh, and whatever happens... don't get hung up on the grip

Susan said that kids will get that awesome 3-Jaw-Chuck Grip sometime around the age of five but that all kids are different and to not push so much.  She talked about a story she read somewhere on  on the Bad Ass Teachers Facebook page.  Apparently, a parent complained that her kindergartener had been given a grade of "Unsatisfactory" on the subject of handwriting because she couldn't write three sentences. And FYI. this happened in the beginning of kindergarten.  What is going on? Why are we not considering children's development in educational expectations anymore? This is crazy.

I'd just like to say that even though Toys Are Tools supports using toys and tools to build skills, I would strongly advise anyone to take it easy when your child or student shows fatigue.  I know that is not easy to do with all the ridiculous pressure but I have watched my child "snap" more than once and really, it's not worth it- ever!  I think penmanship could be a great thing of joy too.. it just might take someone longer to get there but look at doctors' handwriting on scripts.  I really don't know how that has been allowed for so long.

You can't blame me for keeping my babies safely snug in this box. But my kids didn't want to make me mad and so they never touched it.  My mistake.. but I fixed it.

I now know that the most wasteful way to use these crayons is to not even use them at all.

One box of Just Rocks Costs less than a Ziploc of Broken Crayons

As for all of you with young ones, do consider making Crayon Rocks the only crayons in the house.  Try not to fall into the trap of owning a large ziploc full of broken crayons like me. I really hate the sight of that ziploc bag.  I don't have the heart to throw it away but it is in the back of the closet somewhere and it probably won't be found until we move out of this house.  I think the largest color variety offered by Crayon Rocks are sixteen colors. I don't know about you but 16 is really enough! Less clutter = more clarity = more creativity! With Crayon Rocks, less has never been so much more.


And now try to win your own set of Crayon Rocks' Awesome Box of Just Rocks!

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win! a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Buy Links: 

My Awesome Affiliate: Ark Therapeutic!  Click to find out my picks at this awesome Skill Building Collection for kids.  $100 brings you free shipping which is easy to do if you are going to buy that amazing pencil.

Crayon Rocks $29.99

Raised Line Paper $10.50

OR At Amazon:


Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools and to an expert to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 



  1. The jr litigator's momFebruary 5, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Writing in schools today: I am pleased with my second grader's private school writing program. He has ADHD, Asperger's and probably disgraphia. He learned to print & type in kindergarten (began basic word program). In first grade he began cursive writing which is much easier for him. My work colleagues children are in public school (middle scho same are). Cursive wasn't even fought to their children?!?! They can't even sign their names- much less read cursive writing. My son does well with grotto grips and raised line paper. Excited about crayon rocks to reinforce the grip- he loves drawing painting sculpture etc.

  2. We're just starting writing and learning printing first. They don't even teach cursive anymore in public schools here. Some kids can't even read if it's not printed; I find that appalling. So we're glad our private school does both in sequence.

  3. I ask my child to draw and write his own little stories using creative spelling so he practices his handwriting among other things :)

  4. I think alot of schools are cutting down on handwriting instruction, figuring that kids will pick it up automatically by practicing writing, which is not the case for many kids. There is alot involved with handwriting, and if diffficulties aren't picked up and corrected/remedied early on, the child will likely struggle with writing the rest of their lives.
    I am an occupational therapist, and one of the things I do with my kids is teach handwriting with the whole body. This enhances the muscle memory, which is what is required to make writing automatic.We start writing really big in the air, then with a finger on a textured surface such as carpet, then on a chalkboard with lines on it before we start on paper. At each step, repeat the letter several times, saying the strokes out loud, including "Start at the top line..." etc if that is an issue for that child.

  5. Sheryl, So do you think that even though you are not writing on paper, then writing in cream, sand, or the air contributes to muscle memory? I thought such tactics would help for stroke order and things like that but would it also help for the actual writing with hands? So for instance, if I had a struggling writer and felt that he was motivated by "sky-writing" and I only had 90 minutes per week to devote to handwriting practice then how would a parent or even a therapist decide what the most optimal breakdown would be? 50% sky-writing and 50% pencil and paper writing? Thanks for even reading this crazy question but I believe that there are more than one way to reach a goal but it's one thing to practice with a crayon and practice with shaving cream. I would do anything if I knew it would help. Thank you for such a great comment!

  6. not teaching cursive? wow... I think we are in a transitional period, aren't we? I wonder how we negotiate this issue within our own families and schools. When is the optimal time to learn typing. And maybe we can let go of the Qwerty keyboard now? Wouldn't that be a hoot?

  7. Your welcome! I just found your website, and I've been here 3 hours! The skywriting is a great motivator for kids, it gets them out of their chairs, which is what they usually want. They use many more muscles, and it gets the brain awake. It doesn't contribute to the specific muscle memory, but it helps to imprint on the brain the stroke order and shape of the letter, as you said. I only spend a few minutes on the skywriting, then I go into medium (pun intended) size and texture- practicing the strokes on carpet, sandpaper, whipped cream, pudding, sand, any texture. Another idea is to 'write' with a finger on a cabinet, using the spaces between the drawers as the lines, the finger will feel the spaces and imprint where the lines are. Getting more senses involved means more pathways to the brain. When the child finally starts writing on the paper, the brain has a pretty good idea of the strokes and shape it is going to make. A vibrating pencil can also help the hand and brain learn what to do. Work on a few letters at a time that have a related shape, and get those learned really well before moving to the next set. Don't try to teach easily confused letters at the same time, like 'b' and 'd'.