When people first learn about Waldorf methods they are captivated by the beauty. Silks, watercolor paints, beeswax crayons are such lovely treats for the senses. But it isn’t until these materials are put to practical purpose that the beauty of Waldorf education truly shines forth.
Some may wonder, though, why are beeswax crayons — blocks or sticks — and Ferby pencils best? Why shouldn’t we let our children use traditional graphite pencils for writing and Crayolas for drawing?
Crayons — Those lovely, sweet smelling crayons do more than just treat our senses. They actually encourage healthy artistic habits in our children. All though my teaching years I have worked quite hard with my students to prevent them from drawing outlines in the pictures. When a child draws a person, a house, a tree, anything, from the inside out several things are achieved.
Firstly, when drawing with these materials the child gains a more holistic understanding of the subject. When drawing with a block or a stick crayon the child is drawing the thing itself, not just the line where the thing stops and the rest of the world begins. If I draw a leaf with a block or stick crayon I grow it from the inside outward, following the same growth pattern that the leaf itself follows. My drawing is more true to the inner nature of a leaf. With a traditional crayon or pencil I would simply be drawing a leaf shape and then filling it in afterwards.
Secondly, the child will be happier with his or her results! If a child draws an outline that line sets the drawing and the subject is fixed. Mistakes are more difficult to fix or redo. Drawing with block or stick crayons is incredibly forgiving as growing subjects from the inside out is a very safe way to draw. There’s not much that cannot be fixed.
I strongly recommend using these pencils for writing only, at first. Their chunkier size and triangular shape encourage proper pencil grip. Using them for writing rather than using stick crayons sets writing apart from drawing from the beginning. Children are better able to make clear letters and they get a solid start with a proper pencil grip.