Is your child easily frustrated by crayons? Often young children find pencils and crayons too hard, they require too much pressure to make a mark and the child fatigues easily and may give up in frustration. If your child doesn't like crayons or pencils, I suggest giving oil pastels a try.
Oil pastels are rewarding; they make a mark with very little pressure, they are responsive, soft and smooth on the paper. Oil pastels come in a wide variety of colours, the colours are highly pigmented, vibrant and rich. They are affordable and easily accessible. Our local stationary shop has at least ten different types of oil pastels in the children's and adult's sections, starting at four dollars. Often the more you pay, the better quality of the art materials, but I've found the cheaper oil pastels really good. Oil pastels can break easily, so I don't recommend them for children who are still putting items in their mouths.
One study found that children prefer using oil pastels to crayons. They also found that the children took better care of their artist-quality oil pastels than crayons. What a win-win. My four-year-old loves to use oil pastels and will draw with them for much longer than he will with crayons, pencils or markers, we have a few broken pastels, but most of them are intact and are looked after.
The environment counts, a lot! I put a large clean sheet of paper on our easel, with some oil pastels on a stool next to the easel. It's irresistible, it's just calling out for the child to draw on it!! We've had a lot of rain this year and we've just come out of winter, so I've put our easel inside, while I'm not ok with using paint inside, I'm completely ok with oil pastels.
We like soft pastels and oil pastels, and there is a difference.
Soft pastels usually don't have individual wrappers and are much softer than oil pastels, they are really soft and great for shading. I prefer them when working with children but they break easier, smudge easier and therefore blend and mix more easily, and they are generally messier, they produce a little pastel dust and children will get the pastels over their hands, we need to use them in well-ventilated areas. We love, love the mungyo soft pastels (UK here), we use the half size, the colours are vibrant and rich, and I like the square shape for little hands to grip.
While soft pastels are soft and messier, oil pastels are harder and cleaner. The child's hands stay cleaner using the oil pastels as they have wrapping on them and they stay together more.
The oil pastels we use include:
- Sakura Cray-Pas children's pastels - I read these are used in Japanese schools. They are lovely and vibrant, a good size.
- Staedtler Jumbo Pastels (UK here) - the jumbo size is good for children, they are easier to hold and harder to break.
- Pentel Oil Pastels (UK here)
Have a look around, there are lots of affordable oil pastel options. In Australia, Officeworks has a great selection of oil and soft pastels; make sure you check out the pastels in the children's and adults' sections. This jumbo fluro set looks fantastic (it is out of stock at my local store).
In the drawings above and below, Otto (4yrs) is using mungyo soft pastels. You can see they are more smudgy than the other drawings. They are exceptionally smooth. They are a great option for shading and teaching children to blend and mix colours. I love the movement in the picture above.
Drawing on the easel with large paper is a good option with pastels, it encourages lots of large body movements.
Oil pastels look fantastic on black paper too!