3 Year Old Insists on Holding Minimum 2 Crayons Instead of Coloring

Updated on January 13, 2019
M.M. asks from Irvine, CA
8 answers

3 y/o is a former 26 weeker weighing 1 lb 11 oz. He had a come a long way with no serious complications. He has been in therapies since 4 months old. He is slightly delayed in some areas, but catching up nicely. He is very social, cognitively very bright. Biggest delays are in speech and motor skills. He is my first child and I just don’t have anything to compare it to. He just has this habit of holding a few objects whatever it is. Eventually moves on, but it is hard to get him to engage in coloring when all he wants to do his hold the crayons or markers close to him and not color with them. Literally and simply just hold them lol. Also throws a bit of a fit if I try and take it away.
Anyone experience this? Any tips?

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So What Happened?

Thanks moms!
We had a rough start and it’s hard not to think that every little thing is something “off”.
Therapists dissecting every little behavior from a clinical standpoint. Nice to know sometimes from a mama standpoint. Thanks ladies!


Sue, not interfering or micromanaging, sometimes it becomes an obsession and not productive at all. Which is why I asked if anyone experienced this or had any tips.

He is also in school two days a week and I want to avoid a full blown tantrum and collecting everyone else’s crayons every time they sit down to color in school.

As for everyone else, I appreciate your reassurance and suggestions. It’s nice to hear it’s a totally normal occurance. Definitely going to try some more fingerpainting type activities.
Thanks again

Featured Answers


answers from Washington DC on

why are you interfering with a toddler's fun?

i'd throw a fit if you did it to me too.

he's only 3.

why are you 'insisting' on micromanaging his coloring?

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Portland on

My kids all held objects - and walked around with them, and this was very common (from working with preschoolers). It can be a security thing and sometimes they are not even aware they are doing it.

My kids always had pairs of things. So two trains, two whatever ... one in each hand, and then if they got busy, they would hold in the same hand.

I'd say your son is not that interested in coloring at this point.

I would try something like finger painting. That might interest him more, or do something like playdough or those potato printing (where you print with paint) kind of thing.

They do grow out of it - but it might not be until 5 or so. Mine used to put tiny objects (little lego people for example) in pockets.

ETA: Saw your SWH.

My firstborn was misdiagnosed with a disorder and we saw a lot of therapists. So I know what you mean about watching for signs, and being hyper aware of things and wondering if they are 'off'. You end up a bit paranoid. Ask away :)

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Totally normal!

My oldest started preschool about a month after he turned 3. He had almost no interest in any of the crafts. Other kids were doing all kinds of crafts, but my son did the bare minimum. The teachers reassured me that this was totally normal (especially boys) and that some kids just weren't into it.

My son really started enjoying coloring and drawing when he was in kindergarten. Maybe it was his teacher. Maybe it was because fine motor skills were so much better. Who knows.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I wouldn't try to make him color. I don't understand why you would. There are plenty of other ways to work on fine motor skills.

I think you can get a set of jumbo crayons - they are easier for some little hands. But that doesn't mean trying to make him sit down and use them. If you have a driveway or sizable garage, you can get the thick driveway chalk and draw out tracks on the pavement/floor, creating lanes where he can ride his kiddie cars, just like adults drive a car in a lane. That engages him in gross motor activity and perhaps he will choose to engage in the fine motor drawing activity. Add in cross "streets" and stop signs (not to teach him to read, just to make shapes). You can draw other things too - hopscotch grids or anything else. But again, let him play rather than try to force him to play as you think he "should."

It's normal to work on things where a delay has be identified, but sometimes you have to provide opportunities and let him choose. Puzzles, dress up (learning zippering and buttoning, for example), sorting toys (put the triangular block through the triangular hole...), stacking, playing with little cars or trains on a track, and lots more. Do you take him to hands-on museums or puppet time at the library? All those activities help their creativity as well as their fine motor skills.

My son had no delays, but he was really into keeping objects as security items. When he went up for a nap, he needed something from the first floor to take with him - it could be a toy, but just as likely it was a spoon or the lid from a plastic container. Same thing happened when he came downstairs again - he'd leave the spoon and bring down a toothbrush. At 6, he would take an item from home to school with him, and often brought something home from the classroom. These eased his transitions in some way. He gave it up on his own, and he has no developmental delays of any kind. Some kids just do this.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Some toy stores have wonderful crayons that are round with a point, which fit perfectly in a three year old's palm. There are also egg shaped chalks for outdoor sidewalk play. Otherwise no problem. I bet double crayon scribbles are magnificent! I can see the two of you creating great murals, both of you coloring in your own way. And coloring to fit a picture is not a necessary for a three year old. One more tip. Coloring and painting are best done on a vertical surfaces, like the wall or at an easel. Having to hold the crayon or paint brush up and with pressure encourages a good grasp.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

There is no wrong way to color - except maybe if he tries to color the floors and/or walls.
What ever you do - don't let him get a hold of a sharpie marker.
We have a filing cabinet that still has our sons sharpie 'artwork' all over one side of it and he's a sophomore in college now.
Just scribbling is fine - and finger paints would be a lot of fun too.

For 3 yr olds sorting type toys are great - like where you have to put a certain shape through a certain hole of the same shape.
Anything they pick up and manipulate is great - as long as it's not a choking hazard - many 3 yr olds will still put everything into their mouths.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

Some children are not to interested in coloring right away. If he is delayed in motor skills, then I would ask the therapists what else he could do instead of coloring. He might not be interested in coloring until he is 5. When he does pick up the crayons, tell him the two colors he is holding and describe what you do with crayons and then say that you are going to pick up a "red" crayon and make circles with it. Avoid telling him that he has to color.This is modeling.---- He is a preschooler, so make sure he plays, you read to him daily and he has very little time on technology.....With that being said, I would get the very thick crayons or markers that help with coordination of the hand muscles. Put them out on the table with paper and start using them. If he is still not interested, wait 6 months or 12 months. If he is not interested, then see if he likes to play with simple puzzles or playdough instead. I am not sure if you meant fine or gross motor skills.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

"Obsessive and not productive" sounds a little like The Toddler's Creed (worth a read if just for kicks...) Yes, it can turn into an issue with a child who has developmental problems, which your son does. But he is delayed (think 3 years minus fourteen weeks) and doesn't have communication skills that normal yet. Frustration is so very usual because he can't really talk to you yet.

I would not concern yourself with coloring right now. You might try water painting, holding a larger brush at an easel. Maybe he wouldn't equate carrying around brushes like the crayons.

You and your therapists are doing great with early intervention. My son had significant speech issues due to a submucous cleft palate. You will be glad for everything that you and the therapists work on with him, but just understand that you cannot make him catch up. You will need to be patient. Consider sending him to transitional kindergarten if you have that available to you. It will give him an extra year to develop.

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