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   Recycle broken crayons into fun new shapes Posted by Chica 
April 16, 2008 
Chica
 

Toolbox

  • broken crayons
  • empty metal cans
  • plastic spoons
  • silicone ice cube tray

Like most kids, my niece loves to color. She has a seemingly endless supply of crayons but whenever they get broken or worn down into small bits, she doesn’t want to use them anymore. I’ve tried melting them down into new shapes before, but the colors would always get muddled and she’d be left with a bunch of new brown crayons. So I brainstormed a bit and came up with new solution, with results that I believe are even better than the original crayons!

The key to my solution is sorting the crayons into color families and melting them separately. The result is a beautiful, layered, rainbow crayon that isn’t muddled and is a joy to color with.

Step 1: Prepare the crayons

recycled crayonsFirst, take all of the crayons and peel off any remaining paper (check out our crayon peeling tips for help). Then separate them into color families. I put all shades of red together in one cup, and the same for orange, green, and blue. For yellow, I tossed in the white and tan crayons, which I knew would blend well into the yellow. The result was fun array of colors.

The way you sort and select the crayons can vary depending on the design you want. I went for a rainbow approach, but you could easily adapt this to whatever colors your child likes. For example:

  • shades of blue (for coloring skies)
  • red, white, and blue (for the 4th of July)
  • pinks and purples (for a little girl)
  • red and green (for Christmas stocking stuffers)

Step 2: Select the mold

recycled crayonsNext I selected the forms that I would use for my new crayons. I find that the best thing to use is a silicone ice cube tray. These come in numerous shapes and sizes, which makes for very fun crayons. The flexible silicone makes it so easy to pop the crayons out when you’re done. They are also totally non-stick and can handle the heat from the melted wax, so they are perfect. (Please do NOT use them for food after you’ve used them for crayons!). I got my trays at IKEA, which sells them in many different shapes. If you don’t have an IKEA near you, you can find these trays on eBay too.

Step 3: Melt the wax

Now dump one cup of crayons into an old food can that has been washed and dried. You’ll need something metal that can handle the heat as you can melt the crayons. Use a new can for each color. You can melt the crayons using one of the following two methods: Place the can on the rack in the oven and heat until melted or boil some water in a pan on the stove and then set the can inside until melted. With either method, please be sure to use an oven mitt because the can will get hot.

recycled crayonsrecycled crayons

Use disposable plastic spoons to stir the wax until all chunks are melted and the wax is totally liquid. The spoons will also come in handy for filling the molds in a minute.

recycled crayons

Step 5: Layer the wax in the molds

Wait until the can is just cool enough to touch, but the wax is still hot and thin. Do not let the wax cool, or you’ll have trouble working with it. Then use the spoon to carefully ladle wax into the molds. For my rainbow effect, I started with a thin layer of red then let it cool completely while I melted the orange wax. I then ladled in a thin layer of orange. I repeated these steps with yellow, green, and blue. (I had planned to use purple, too, but I ran out of room!)

recycled crayons

After each layer, you may have some spills and drips. For best results, try to clean those out before you add the next color.

recycled crayonsrecycled crayons

Step 6: Clean up the edges

Once you’ve added layers of color as you wish and your molds are full, let them cool and then flip them out onto the table. If you have any rough edges, you can smooth them down by coloring on a scrap piece of paper.

recycled crayons

The result

I found that the triangle shapes are ideal for something like this because of the corners, which offer the best rainbows. They are also nice and chunky, which makes them very easy for toddlers to hold onto. What’s more, the flat edges keep them from rolling away on the tabletop, like regular crayons! This helps to avoid lost crayons and keeps the child’s play area neater.

recycled crayons

Now hand these little beauties to the kids and watch them have fun making rainbows!

recycled crayons

Pi Symbol Ice Cube Trays

41 comments so far:

  1. Pammya said: (April 17th, 2008 at 7:50 am)

    This is a wonderful idea for those leftover and broken crayons. I have a five year old with tons of crayons. I’m sure she has some that we can recycle. I will have to try this for a new and different touch on an old product.

  2. Marie said: (April 19th, 2008 at 3:25 pm)

    That is a great idea for the Recycled Crayons. Ikea has fabulous
    shapes and that would be super fun for the kids. Thanks for sharing.
    Also, your site is great. You have lots of great projects and ideas.
    Check out my post on making chunky crayons:
    http://www.makeandtakes.com/recycled-chunky-crayons

  3. nobrainerdeals said: (December 29th, 2008 at 12:42 am)

    Love the idea, my girlfriend is in design school and is always using Crayons to sketch and color. This would be perfect for stubs.

  4. TiLt said: (December 31st, 2008 at 11:16 am)

    What great timing on finding this! I was just looking at the box of old broken crayons my son has, trying to figure out what to do with them :)

  5. Nikki said: (January 19th, 2009 at 10:05 pm)

    I have been looking for a fun way to recycle the crayons I have saved from the restaurant where I work. I was a little apprehensive about peeling all those crayons, so my mom suggested soaking them in warm water. It worked great. I soaked them for less than a minute, and I had nearly 200 crayons ready to go in less then 10 minutes. The paper just fell off!

  6. Chica said: (January 20th, 2009 at 7:01 am)

    Nikki, what a great idea to soak the crayons in water. I’m sure that saves quite a bit of headache!

    I also love that you are rescuing the abandoned crayons from the restaurant. I’ll bet there are tons of them left on the tables every night.

  7. Dawn said: (March 19th, 2009 at 9:18 pm)

    I love this..I have 3 kids (2 love to draw and color) and work at a school. I’m going to ask the teachers to save the crayons instead of throwing them out. Oh I wish I would have seen this earlier in the school year.

    I always tell my kids to take their crayons home. I figured they just got thrown away and they always use crayons at home. I wonder if restaurants would save them if you asked…hmm gonna check on that now

  8. Kylie said: (July 21st, 2009 at 6:26 pm)

    Perfect idea! I work as a preschool teacher and wanted to layer them like that but wasnt sure of a good way to do it. and your way seems very clean also! i just wish i would have seen it before breaking all the crayons into tiny little pieces. oh well!

    Can’t wait for the kids to do this, i know they’ll love it!

  9. Chica said: (July 22nd, 2009 at 7:17 am)

    Dawn, restaurants are a great idea. I bet if you gave them an empty coffee can to put near the bussing station that they would drop the crayons in for you, especially if you told them it’s for a school project.

    Kylie, good luck with the kids. We’d love to see what you all create!

  10. Christina said: (August 18th, 2009 at 1:00 am)

    Thanks for all the great ideas! This will be perfect for my toddler since he can’t color with the toddler crayons available in stores. I will have to try this soon! I blogged about this at: http://goinggreenandsavinggreen.blogspot.com/2009/08/reusing-old-crayons.html

    Keep up the good work!

  11. Chica said: (August 18th, 2009 at 7:09 am)

    Thanks, Christina. The chunkier crayons (which also won’t roll away) certainly do work better in little fingers!

  12. Laurie Fuller said: (August 19th, 2009 at 10:48 am)

    Great Site

  13. Sheryl said: (September 10th, 2009 at 10:20 pm)

    I do own a restaurant and always felt guilty throwing out the broken crayons, so I started saving them hoping to find a home for them. – sooo – if anyone wants my broken crayons and lives on Long Island, please email me at Mitchells-restaurant.com.

  14. andrea said: (December 13th, 2009 at 1:08 pm)

    thanks for the great idea and it sure beats the $50+ price tag on a crayola crayon maker!! way more fun to make too!

  15. Chica said: (December 13th, 2009 at 6:08 pm)

    Hi Sheryl. What a generous offer! If you haven’t found any takers yet, why not ask around to find friends with kids in Girl Scouts or some other group activity. I’ll bet you’ll find some takers :)

    Andrea, you’re quite welcome! I definitely agree that this is a lot cheaper of a solution :)

  16. Ashley said: (December 25th, 2009 at 6:02 pm)

    this would be great for the airplane too as they dont roll away!

  17. Diane said: (February 4th, 2010 at 3:43 pm)

    Wow, just wonderful, I will do this for sure.
    Your methode is simple and very well explain.
    Thanks a lot!

  18. Chica said: (February 4th, 2010 at 4:57 pm)

    Ashley, that’s a great point!

    Diane, thanks! We’d love to see what you create.

  19. Brenda Nixon, M.A. said: (April 6th, 2010 at 4:29 pm)

    Thanks for sharing this in pictures. I have this recipe (and idea) in my book, The Birth to Five Book, published in 2009. Too bad I couldn’t include wonderful pictures like you just did.
    Recycling crayons is a teachable moment for kids because it teaches them to re-use rather than throw out for new.

  20. Joshua McGe said: (July 29th, 2010 at 2:26 pm)

    This is fantastic. Thank you. I try to work recycling into all parts of my six-year-old’s life — and as he has some perfectionism issues, this may help assuage feelings of failure when he breaks a crayon (I’m trying to work with him on ways to handle that in general, but this, I think, would help.)

    When I was myself in sixth grade, we made Halloween candles in class. Broken orange (or red + yellow) crayons were melted into paraffin in one pot. Broken yellow crayons were melted into paraffin in another.

    Each child was given a rubber balloon to inflate. The balloon was dipped into the orange wax (by an adult) and removed. This was repeated multiple times until a thick shell was built up. Then the balloon was popped, the rubber removed, and a pencil laid across the top with a wick (which may have just been kite string) dangling. In layers, the yellow wax was poured into the shell — slowly enough, and as cool as possible, so that the shell wasn’t melted.

    The tops were cut flat and the children carved jack-o’-lantern faces through the orange shell, revealing the yellow beneath. When the candle was lit, the faces would glow. We had so much fun with that!

  21. Chica said: (July 30th, 2010 at 8:54 am)

    Hi Joshua! Recycling crayons is a great learning activity on so many levels, and we’re happy to hear you’ll be using it as a teachable moment with your son. I also love the candle idea you described. Sounds pretty cool!

  22. Rachel said: (January 23rd, 2011 at 4:55 pm)

    Awesome! Totally answered my question about hot crayons and ikea ice cube trays! I’m doing crayon hearts for valentine’s day: “You color my world”! What would happen if I put the ikea ice cubes trays with broken crayons into the oven or microwave? Would the tray totally melt?

  23. Chica said: (January 23rd, 2011 at 5:45 pm)

    Rachel, we’ve never tried putting the IKEA trays in the oven, so I don’t have an answer to your question. Perhaps you can contact IKEA and see if they are oven safe? If you do try to bake them, I suggest the following precautions: 1) put them in a disposable container in case they melt, 2) use a very low temperature, and 3) make sure the kitchen is well ventilated in case the heated trays give off fumes.

  24. Jo said: (January 23rd, 2011 at 9:14 pm)

    I just found one of mine and it says for ice only so I imagine it will melt if placed in the oven!

  25. marlene said: (April 7th, 2011 at 5:14 pm)

    Hi
    these crayon remakes would be nice to put in a childs gift bag you get at the party. WOW thank you.
    marlene

  26. sarah said: (May 1st, 2011 at 12:05 am)

    Your project was really inspiring. I found some caterpillar molds and they turned out super cute: http://getallergywise.blogspot.com/2011/04/old-crayons-new-crayons.html. I also ended up using cupcake tins instead of the cans since I didn’t have any cans and didn’t have that many crayons either–they did the trick! Yay!

  27. Chica said: (May 1st, 2011 at 10:29 am)

    Sarah, I love those caterpillar molds! And the cupcake liners were a great idea. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  28. Brandy said: (September 21st, 2011 at 6:31 pm)

    I’m going to make these for my daughters birthday party favors for the treat bags. Great idea.

  29. Teresa said: (September 26th, 2011 at 3:29 am)

    Thanks for the great idea! I’m going to make some for the children at my wedding!

  30. トリーバーチ レディース ロングブーツ said: (November 15th, 2011 at 11:58 pm)

    nice,it the best i have seen.

  31. Carol said: (April 14th, 2012 at 10:03 pm)

    #22 Rachel – No, they are not ovenproof. I tried it tonight with one from Ikea that says to only use for water. The edges started to droop and there was a little smoke coming from it before I got it out of there.

  32. Mary said: (July 4th, 2012 at 5:02 pm)

    Perfect for Sunday school…! There are always lots of extra crayon pieces turned into a project they will love to create. Great for ministry budget and a lesson in wisely using available resources opposed to tossing and replacing.

  33. Sara said: (August 8th, 2012 at 12:42 am)

    I bought plastic candy molds (seashells) but they come in a variety…they were less than $1.50…I microwaved the colors (on a power of 7 for less than 2 min) and then poured them in the molds. They cooled quickly and were easy to get out of the molds.

  34. Chica said: (August 8th, 2012 at 7:06 am)

    Thanks for the tip, Sara!

  35. Amy Patrick said: (September 4th, 2012 at 9:38 am)

    This last February I did something like this too. I found you could use a razor blade to slice down the side of the paper to remove it easier, if someone doesn’t have the cutting tool that you have. Also, I took my crayons and broke them into small pieces, Then just mixed the broken pieces of all different colors right into my mold. I then put the mold on a cookie sheet and into a 250° oven for about 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave it alone about 45 minutes to 1hour. Once the wax hardens, pop out your crayon and enjoy. The colors will be a beautiful design and not be muddled, the trick is don’t move the mold until they are set. I made mine in the shape of small hearts, we gave them to my daughters preschool class instead of candy for Valentines Day. If interested I do have pictures.

  36. Chica said: (September 4th, 2012 at 9:57 am)

    I love the idea of using heart-shaped crayons as Valentines, Amy! We’d love it if you’d add photos to our Flickr group for reader projects.

  37. Tara said: (October 19th, 2012 at 12:30 pm)

    If you have the silicon that you can put in the oven then you dont need to melt the crayons down. You just break the crayons load them in and bake! We added glitter and did then as xmas treats for the class

  38. Chica said: (October 19th, 2012 at 12:58 pm)

    Tara, your method does work well for random-color crayons, but for a true layered “rainbow” crayon, the separate melting of each color is necessary.

  39. Naomi said: (November 20th, 2012 at 11:33 pm)

    I loaded broken crayons into a silicon heart ice cube tray I had been given some time ago but never used. I tried it in the microwave first and partly melted the tray then tried it in the oven on pretty low and melted the tray further. I’m guessing there are different qualities in silicon moulds. Some clearly cant handle heat. :-(

  40. Chica said: (November 21st, 2012 at 7:37 am)

    I’m sorry you had those results, Naomi, but you’re right — some molds shouldn’t be used in the oven. I would try to stick with ones specifically labeled as safe for the oven.

  41. gtojohn said: (November 28th, 2012 at 9:32 am)

    For a great kid’s science experiment, put your mold in a sealed tupperware, leave in the sun!

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