Step 1: Gather materials.
- Sorting bowls in different colors
- Crayons (broken or old crayons)
- Cookie cutters for shapes or muffin tins with or without liners
- Plastic wrap
- Cookie sheet or plate
- Sunshine and hot weather
Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.
Step 2: Introduce activity.
- Read Change It!: Solids, Liquids, Gases and You by Adrienne Mason
- Discuss: “What could we change from a solid into a liquid on a hot day like today?”
- Ask: “Do you think today is hot enough to melt a crayon?”
This science experiment can be used to teach children about the phases of matter and how temperature can change an object from a liquid to a solid or a solid to a liquid.
Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.
- Remove the paper wrappers from the crayons and break them into pieces. As you peel the paper off of the crayons, discuss what state of matter the crayon is in: “Is it a liquid or a gas? What makes the crayon solid?”
- Set out the sorting bowls in rainbow order and invite the children to sort the crayons and place them in the matching bowls.
- Cover a cookie sheet with plastic wrap and place the cookie cutters on top. Muffin tins also work well for this activity, although you may want to use aluminum muffin tin liners for easy cleanup. Place a few crayons of different colors inside of the cookie cutters or in the muffin tin. Some children may want to melt only one color.
- Cover the top with a sheet of plastic wrap for faster results. Ask the children to predict how long it will take to melt the crayons. Some colors will melt faster than others.
- Through this simple project, children can see how different temperatures affect their crayons and discover new ways to re-use or recycle their old, broken crayons. This is a great opportunity to discuss cause and effect.
- Different crayon brands and colors will also melt at different rates because the pigments that give crayons their color react differently to heat. Black crayons will melt faster because it has dark pigments, while yellow crayons will melt slowly because of the light pigments. Try this same experiment and compare the melting rates of the different colors in your crayon box!
Step 4: Vocabulary.
- Gas: A form of matter with no set volume or shape; gases expand to fill their container (for example, when you blow up a balloon, you fill it up with air, which is a gas)
- Liquid: A form of matter with a definite volume, but no set shape; liquids take the shape of their container
- Matter: Anything that takes up space and has weight
- Solid: A form of matter with a definite size and shape
- States of matter: The forms in which matter can exist
Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.
Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
- Be interested in melting ice cubes
- Be engaged for shorter periods of time
Child care providers may:
- Incorporate ice into indoor and outdoor play; discuss how ice turns from a cube into a puddle and why
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
- Be interested in predicting how much time it will take to melt crayons of different colors
- Want to display different melting times on a bar chart
Child care providers may:
- Assist the children in observing and documenting the rate at which different crayon colors melt
- Assist the children in displaying the different melting times on a bar chart
The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow (author) and Steven Salerno (illustrator) tells the inspiring story of Edwin Binney, the inventor of one of the world’s most beloved toys.
Music and Movement
“ROY G. BIV” by They Might Be Giants introduces children to the acronym ROYGBIV, which represents the sequence of hues in a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
By playing this game, you can introduce children to the different states of matter:
- Ask the children to form a close circle while holding hands tightly. Say: “Solids are made of particles that are very close together.”
- Then ask the children to increase the distance separating them while continuing to hold hands. Say: “Liquids are made of particles that are farther apart.”
- Then ask the children to move farther apart so that their fingertips are barely touching. Say: “Gases are made from particles that are barely touching one another.”
- Now separate the children into smaller groups and call out the word, “Solid!” Instruct the children to move in close while holding hands.
- Then call out the word, “Liquid!” and instruct the children to make the circle bigger while still holding hands.
- Finally, call out the word, “Gas!” and instruct the children to move out farther, until they are connected only by their fingertips.
Enjoy this read-along YouTube video: The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow (author) and Steven Salerno (illustrator).