Recycled Crayons – giving old crayons new life

Recycled Crayons

In the process of decluttering our house I came upon a large box of crayons.  Many of these were from restaurants, given to the kids to color on kid’s menus.  These crayons weren’t used much, but some were broken.  Other crayons in the box were broken ones or ones sent home (box-less) at the end of a school year.  There is no shortage of crayons in our home, as we picked up several boxes at the beginning of school sales and the kids have received more with coloring books as gifts.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this box of crayons, though I knew I didn’t want to just leave the box floating around the house.  Then one day I saw this craft posted online – use your old crayons to make new ones.  It was perfect!  I gathered up the materials – crayons, mini-muffin tin, old cup, knife and cutting board.

Once I knew I had everything I took time to think through how the kids could help with the craft.  There were two different methods I came across while searching online: melt in the oven OR melt in the microwave.  I wasn’t sure which was best, so before asking the kids to help I tested both methods.

Method #1 – melt in oven

  1. Gather crayons.
  2. Sort crayons by color.
  3. Remove paper.
  4. Break or chop into small pieces.
  5. Place pieces into molds.
  6. Melt.
  7. Cool.  Remove from molds.

cup of broken crayons

Method #2 – melt in microwave

  1. Gather crayons.
  2. Sort crayons by color.
  3. Remove paper.
  4. Break or chop into small pieces.
  5. Place in microwave safe cups.
  6. Melt in microwave and pour into molds.
  7. Cool.  Remove from molds.

As you can see, there is only a slight difference in the methods.  The microwave method promised to be quicker with getting the crayons to melt, though would be quite messy if I actually wanted the kids to pour the melted crayons into the molds.  

The oven method looked to take longer, though would give the kids more hands-on opportunities.

After testing the two methods I found that it took a really, really long time in the microwave for my crayons to melt.  Even if I were to do this myself I’m not sure I would use this method.  Maybe if I only had plastic molds, but definitely not if I was looking to save time.  It took just as long to melt them in the microwave as it did in the oven.

The oven method left a bit more mess – use pans you don’t plan to use again or are willing to take time to clean afterwards.  However, I didn’t have to babysit the crayons while they melted like I did in the microwave.

box of crayons

Now that I had tested the methods and had a good idea of the process I called the kids in.  Here is what we did:

  1. Gather the crayons.  – done before kids were called over.  I also got the molds out to be ready when we were.  I tried two different kinds.  The red one is actually a Jello mold and deeper than a basic mini-muffin tin.  However, the designs turned out to be a neat addition.  If I were to use this again, I wouldn’t fill the these to the top with melted wax; it was just too deep.  I might also tried these by pouring in different melted waxes to create layers of different colors – example: red and blue for this patriotic themed mold.crayons and molds
  2. Sort crayons by color. – I had sorted the crayons out before hand to see how many I had of which colors.  When I do this again, the kids can do this step.sorted crayons 2
  3. Remove paper. – This was one of the first steps the kids got to help with.  I found it worked best if I scored the paper along the length of the crayon with a knife, then let the kids peel them.  We did this one color at a time, putting the stripped crayons into a designated cup.  If I finished scoring all the crayons of one color before they finished peeling them, then I either helped them finish that color or started on the next color.peeled crayon
  4. Break or chop into small pieces. – At first I had the kids try to break the crayons, but quickly realized my kids were not patient enough for that.  They thought breaking a crayon in half was enough.  Mommy didn’t.  So we came to a compromise.  I cut the crayons into pieces by laying 3 or 4 next to each other and quickly chopping them with a knife.  The kids then gathered up the pieces and put them back into the designated cup.  They had fun catching pieces and I was happy to have the process moving along at some measurable pace.cups of sorted crayons
  5. Place pieces into molds. – The was kids’ favorite part.  Mine too really.  Okay, so I like order and have trouble with chaos while working on a project.  In other words, I didn’t just say, “Here, now fill the tins.”  We would have ended up with crayon pieces every where and the melted colors would have made brown.  Perhaps if the kids were a bit older or knew what we were doing or knew what happened when colors mixed.  As it was, this was a great time to talk about how yellow and blue make green, yellow and red make orange, and so on.  I showed them the examples from my trial run.  Then we worked using two colors per kid, that was my limit of freedom – they could choose which ever two colors they wanted (even if it was red and green) and put them in however they wanted.  This system worked really well and actually made them slow down and think about what they were doing.recycling crayons
  6. Melt. – As much as the preschooler wanted to put the pan into the hot oven, I wasn’t so keen on the idea.  Compromise – I turned the light on so they could see what was happening.  After the first batch I realized there needed to be a pan under the muffin tin to catch any drips from stray pieces of crayon or over filled cups.  As for the specific time and temperature, it doesn’t have to be to the degree accurate.  I set them to a low temperature (250-300 degrees F) at first and kept an eye on how quickly they melted.  You aren’t baking these, only melting them.  And just in case I need to say this – don’t put plastic molds in the oven.  The plastic ones were used with the microwave method of melting crayons. full tin of melted crayon jello mold with melted crayon
  7. Cool.  Remove from mold. – “But, Mom, they are out of the oven.  I want to touch them NOW.”  This was a great step in patience, for us all.  I shared in their excitement to see how all the colors melded together.  Waiting was hard.  (The picture below gives you an idea of the size of these crayons.  Though they aren’t huge they are just the right size for little hands.)

five crayons and a hand

The point of this project was to declutter our old crayons.  In the end we had over 30  new “recycled” crayons.  If we were to keep them, it wouldn’t exactly be decluttering.

So what were we to do with that many?  Why share them with other kids!  They fit perfectly into card envelops as small gifts.  The one kid passed them out to the classmates at school with a card wishing them a happy holiday.  Some of the others made their way into stockings of cousins.

We did keep a few for the kids to color with here, but have already started gathering crayons for the next batch of “recycled” crayons.  If it works out, I may have the kids make these and sell them either on the stand this summer at one weekend at the local farmer’s market.

You could use heart shaped molds for Valentines day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, stars for Independence Day or Christmas, or many other ideas.  You could even use a specific theme for birthday party favors.  Or how about the colors of your favorite team?

This really was a fairly easy project, though at the time it felt never ending.  To make it even easier in the future, I will divide the steps into one per day.  If we didn’t have as many crayons, then perhaps it would have been okay to do this in a day or two.  As it was, I never wanted to see another crayon again for a month afterwards.  With a bit of time between me and when we did this, I realize that it really was a fun project to do and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

 melted crayons


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