National Crayon Day is March 31. And while this is definitely a less-than-official holiday, it's big enough that Crayola usually uses it to announce retired colors. Find out more about this day and get some ideas for fun ways to celebrate it in the assisted living community this year.
Wax crayons have been around for some time, and the concept of crayons potentially dates back to the mid-17th century. Even before that time, artists used cylindrical drawing and coloring tools, but they were typically made of oil and charcoal like modern pastels are.
Crayola itself began as a company in 1902. By the time the company was 96 years old in 1988, it had come up with 120 colors. Today, the company makes 3 billion crayons every year, and it's not the only crayon maker in the market. That's a lot of crayons.
Why would seniors care about crayons? Aren't they something for kids? A growing trend over the past decade of "adult coloring" says otherwise. Don't worry, it's not R-rated coloring — it's simply a trend of adults enjoying the past time themselves. Some adults color in books meant for children and others enjoy buying more elaborate or advanced coloring books.
For adults in the U.S., the smell of crayons is iconic. Out of all the scents, it's the 18th-most recognizable for this population. That means if you blindfold a friend and hold a crayon below their nose, there's a high probability that he or she can identify the object on scent alone.
Crayons are so recognizable because they — and the activity of coloring — are such a big part of many people's childhood. It's something that's unifying no matter your background or age. You probably colored in school and at home when you were young.
But fond memories aren't the only reason adults like to color. Here are a few other benefits of putting crayon, marker or colored pencil to paper.
It's relaxing. For many people, the act of coloring slows down restless thoughts and calms the brain. That can result in the same type of mindfulness that people seek in meditation and yoga.
It might improve focus and concentration. Coloring requires a certain amount of focus from your brain, but it's not so much concentration that you feel stressed or pressured. Coloring regularly helps you put your focus to work in a relaxing way. Plus, the act of putting writing or coloring materials to paper has been shown to increase problem solving and creative functions.
Coloring in the evening might help you sleep. Screen time right before bed can make it more difficult to sleep. That's partly because the blue light that comes from devices such as phones can cause your brain to release less melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep. Spending a few minutes every night coloring before you sleep puts a barrier between blue light and bedtime. It also helps you relax before you slip between the sheets.
Whether you have fond memories of crayons or want to enjoy the benefits of coloring as an adult, here are some tips for celebrating National Crayon Day this March.
Color something. It doesn't have to be fancy. It can be something from a kid's coloring book, a print out from the internet or your own drawing. If you're not feeling artistic, just draw some circles and fill them in with your favorite shades. Don't have any crayons? Ask the staff, as craft and common rooms might have some options. Or, visit a local dollar store and stock up on books and boxes of crayons.
Crayon hot rocks. This is a fun craft to do when visiting grandchildren, though if your grand kids are all younger, make sure other adults are on hand to help out. You could also do this craft in the assisted living community kitchen, but make sure to check with staff first. Once you have the go ahead, gather some river or craft rocks and place them on a baking sheet. Heat them up in an oven. Take care when handling them and use oven mitts, as they'll be very hot. Color on them while they're hot with crayons, which will melt and run over them. Let the results cool and dry, and you'll have beautiful, unique decor for shelves or for use as a paperweight.
Create drip ornaments. Use the same premise — that crayons melt and drip when they touch something hot — to make unique ornaments that can be used as decor now or given as gifts come Christmas time.
Whether you're a long-term artist or someone just exploring their creative side in later years, crayon is a great medium. Break out the paper and other craft supplies and put crayons to work this March and beyond to have fun, destress and make awesome projects.