Have you ever eagerly opened a new set of colored pencils for the children, only to discover that the first time you sharpen one, the lead breaks? And breaks again… and again?
There actually is a reason behind this frustrating dilemma — and it does not necessarily mean you are dealing with cheap colored pencils, as you might first think.
The best of the best
I am an artist who loves colored pencils. 🙂 In my opinion, the best colored pencils all-around are the Berol Prismacolor, but they are so great because of their extremely soft lead… which unfortunately also equals easy breaking.
All you have to do is drop the pencil once on a hard surface and the whole thing may be all broken into chunks inside, which will lead to that oh-so-frustrating experience: it seems like that lovely colored pencil is breaking as you sharpen it. (As a side note, if you get a broken-up box of colored pencils fresh out of the store, take it back. It was likely dropped before you bought it.)
Unbreakable — well, almost — for the wee ones
On the other hand, very cheap colored pencils are made of a very hard, quite durable material. So surprisingly, those cheap colored pencils are the ones that will be less likely to break. The cheap pencils are not a bad choice for preschoolers who are still learning to be gentle with things or who still tend to fumble when holding pencils or whatnot.
However, that same hardness makes for a lot less enjoyable experience in using them because they do not write as nicely. The “lead” feels like it is scratching across the paper, and your lines look just about as rough as they feel.
A happy medium for the older children
As children get just a little bit older, I highly recommend you go for a higher quality pencil. (Experiment yourself with a couple different colored pencil brands side-by-side. Color a bit with a more expensive one; then switch to a cheap one. Do you feel the difference? It’s worth it!)
What I recommend as a good balance of durability, price, and smoothness are Crayola colored pencils. It is still important to teach the children to be careful with them, but they will “survive” more rough treatment than the more expensive brands will. Plus, they will color quite nicely for the price.
If you want your children to love — or at least enjoy — drawing, they need a smooth pencil sooner or later, and Crayola fits the bill quite well. 🙂
image: “Color Pencils” by Matti Mattila 2013 (CC BY 2.0) – flickr.com