Remember when we were little and we loved colouring with wax crayons?
Some of us would have begged our parents to buy larger boxes of that Faber Castell or Staedtler crayons for all our colouring needs, while others would make do with whatever they have and keep on using them until the crayons disappear into nothingness?
A crayon is basically a stick of coloured wax used for drawing and are usually a lot easier to work with and less messy compared to water colour or markers.
Even though most of our childhoods have been filled with memories involving crayons, the wax sticks have been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons in recent years.
More specifically, in 2015, United States’ Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund found asbestos fibers, a type of toxic ingredient, in four brands of children’s crayons and two kids’ crime lab kits.
EWG’s report stated that children can inhale the fibers while using the crayons, as the inhalation of small crayon shavings is common while colouring with crayons.
Any child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 times more likely to develop a lung disease called mesothelioma.
Keeping all this in mind, one Malaysian mother went on a quest to find an improved alternative to toxic crayons as she does not want to put her children at risk.
Yvonne Kong decided that the best way to do that is to come up with her own range of crayons.
The concerned mother opened ChubbyFingersPlay
, a handmade novelty crayon store in Malaysia, to encourage her kids to continue their colouring activity but with a safer tool.
Yvonne recently spoke to Rojak Daily
about her step into entrepreneurship.
Colouring the world with crayons
Just like any other regular mother out there, Yvonne is a 40-year-old mother of two who has her hands full juggling a full-time job in an IT firm and her motherly duties at home.
Now, she can add another 'job' to her portfolio: selling safer, non-toxic crayons on the side.
Yvonne told us that the idea came when she developed a 'weird' hobby of collecting and recycling all the broken crayons lying around in her house back in 2016.
“Have you seen children throwing away perfectly good crayons away because it had snapped in half? It happens a lot in my house and I thought it was such a waste.
“Not only that, I realised that the crayons available in the market today are not only in a traditional, boring stick shapes, but it also contains unhealthy ingredients which can be harmful to our children.
“That was when I decided to recycle them,” she said.
Re-inventing the wheel
Yvonne said her experiments with the broken crayons were very simple - sorting them into moulds, melting them by baking them and re-packaging them.
“We used to purchase boxes after boxes of crayons from the bookstores for my kids to doodle at an early age.
"When I discovered they could be re-melted to be made into novelty shapes, I started experimenting with them and was happy that not only could I minimise wastage, I could also make the crayons more fun and exciting!” she said.
Despite that, Yvonne said the result of her experiment was not up to her liking.
“I didn’t exactly got what I pictured. As a parent, we are always looking out safer options when it comes to all sort of things like food and other materials used by our children.
“Due to this, I started researching more about crayons and safer alternatives,” she said.
Researching safer alternatives
Yvonne said she wanted a safe, non-toxic, odourless crayon that doesn’t snap too easily.
She also wanted to produce crayons with the most beautiful and intense colours for children to use.
“With the idea of creating them in novelty shapes, I started experimenting and after a few months of research at home, I found the perfect recipe to make it work.
“I made the crayons out of beeswax and non-toxic colours. They do not contain paraffin waxes, lead, asbestos and others ingredients which can be toxic and potentially harmful to our health in the long run," she explained.
To entice children to use them, she made the crayons in novelty shapes such as animals and vehicles.
“It wasn’t easy, but it was very rewarding to be able to see what we could produce and provide to parents and their kids today - healthy, safe and fun crayons to doodle, colour and play to their wildest imaginations,” she said.
Yvonne said when it comes to her business, she gets her inspiration from various local, home grown artisans who started from a one-man set up.
But of course, she said her number one inspiration is her children.
“I spend a great deal of time with them since they were young. I observed them and saw the gaps which needed to be filled.
"I also saw what I can do to help other young mothers who are always on the looked for healthier options for their kids,” she said, adding that it is the important to let children doodle away in order to help strengthen and refine their motor skills.
Yvonne said Malaysian parents were very welcoming when they heard of her novelty crayons.
“The response has been very encouraging, and I am very happy to see young parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties purchasing our crayons as a healthier and safer option for their loved ones.
“We plan to continue to drive more mindshare of our brand through bazaars and collaboration with partners locally, and hopefully to the export market one day,” she shared.
Despite it being safer than the ordinary crayons out there in the market, Yvonne cautioned that young babies should not be left unsupervised with the crayons.
“Do try to avoid the incidents of ‘eating’ the crayons as it could be a choking hazard to your children. But, should your child ingest a ChubbyFingersPlay it really does help to know that your child will be perfectly fine,” she added.
You can check out and also purchase Yvonne's crayons on her Instagram page