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The Colourful World of Crayons

Ever thought about a world without colours? Imagine a world without the orange hues of the sunset, the serene white of snow, the lush green of forests or the blue expanse of the sky? Pretty difficult, right?

Crayons and Pastel Colours, Image Credit:

Colours are what add magic to our life. They are the element of nature which helps us differentiate between things and makes even lifeless items like furniture stand out.

Before colours splashed into our lives, there is a deep history associated with them, one that can be traced back to over 40,000 years. Experts believed that artists chanced upon pigments first by mixing soil, charcoal, animal fat and salt in different quantities. They discovered five basic colours – red, black, white, brown and yellow. These pigments were mixed to devise various colours and their shades. Most of us have memories of keenly observing a colour wheel during art classes that displayed several hues of each colour. In 17th century, Sir Issac Newton introduced the world to a colour wheel after he discovered light’s visible spectrum.

Colours and drawings have a special place in the development of a child’s mind. Drawing or painting is a form of expression as not every child is good at communication. There are many benefits associated with kids’ development and drawing. For starters, it boosts creativity. Children can do wonders with just a sheet of paper and a pack of crayons. Further, it helps them concentrate, which makes them mentally stronger. The other common benefits of art are that they boost motor skills while encouraging them to be more imaginative.

Depending on their age, kids these used different kinds of colours. However, crayons and pastel colours are two of the most commonly used mediums across the world.


While there are a lot of claims about when crayons were first invented, it is believed that the first wax crayon was the brainchild of a company called Binney and Smith. They pioneered the art of creating non-toxic wax crayons for kids by mixing pigments with paraffin wax. The company rolled out its first set of crayons in 1903. The pack cost five cents and contained eight shades– yellow, green, violet, red, black, orange, blue and brown.

Pastel Colours

These colours are made from using a dry binding agent along with a pigment. Additionally, one can use chalk too to enhance its texture. They are believed to have originated in Italy in the 16th century. Federico Barocci and Jacopo Bassano are among the earliest artists who are believed to have used this medium in their works. There are two types of pastels — soft or oil and hard. In soft or oil pastels, the binding agent is oil and they are buttery in texture. Hard pastels are usually used drawing and sketching. They are usually available in chalk-like bars. A difference between wax crayons and pastel colours is that while the former can be mixed to form a new shade, pastel colours cannot.

While wax colours and other types of crayons have been in use for decades now, there have been reports of the harmful effects that chemicals present in these products can have on a child’s health. For instance, in a 2018 study, a public interest group found that a leading crayon manufacturer was using asbestos in its wax colours. The findings were detailed in a study by the United States Public Interest Research Group, which tested over 27 school products. Asbestos is a carcinogen and continued exposure to the compound can be harmful. The group also found that another leading brand used benzene in its dry-erase markers, which is another carcinogen.

If you are looking for pointers on how to buy non-toxic colours for your kids, here are a few things you should avoid:

Petroleum or oil-based materials

Playdoughs and paints are often made with petrochemicals that contain harmful chemicals like cadmium, arsenic, and lead.

Synthetic dyes or pigments

Many clays and pigments contain PVC and similar compounds, which use phthalates as a softening agent or to add a fragrance. You should know that phthalates are endocrine disruptors and can cause hormonal imbalances in kids nearing puberty. These are also usually the first choice of people when face or finger painting.

While shopping for crayons and colours for your kids, read the packaging carefully. Rather than going for oil-based products, buy water-based products. There are several products which use natural pigments and mineral-based extracts to manufacture crayons. They are safe for use and do not pose as a health hazard.

Here are a few brands which have been in news for their non-toxic products:

Eco-Kids Dough: The brand makes playdough for children using natural ingredients like vegetable, fruits and plant extracts. They have a unique shape and it makes the product easy to handle. An added advantage is that they smell great without being toxic.

Playon Crayons: This is another brand of crayons that would boost your tiny tots’ creativity without harming them. They are available in both primary as well as pastel shades and are made completely from natural wax.  In addition, they bear the European CE Mark, which is a certification that the product complies with the safety, environmental protection and health guidelines mandated by the European Union.

Kitpas Crayons: This eco-friendly brand makes water-soluble colours so that kids can use them on a multitude of surfaces like glass, paper and whiteboards. Once you are done, simply erase the drawing marks using a wet cloth. These can also double up as watercolours.

Eco-Kids Sea Rock Crayons: These colours are shaped like sea rocks, making them fun to work with. What’s more, is that they are made using natural wax and mineral pigments rather than petrochemicals.

However, while looking for crayon brands, be cautious about any allergies that your kids may have. Also, carefully read the packaging to know how safe the product is. This being said, you should not let the health concerns stop your child from drawing.  Art as a form of expression is very important for a child’s cognitive development.

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