Is it bad if a kid eats a crayon?

It’s common for toddlers and young children to put nonfood items in their mouths as they explore the world around them. This includes things like dirt, rocks, and crayons. While supervised exploration is normal, you may worry about possible dangers if your child eats a crayon.

Overall, swallowing a small piece of crayon is not likely to be harmful if it’s a nontoxic brand. But some risks do exist, so it’s best to try to avoid it.

Is it dangerous for a child to eat crayons?

Many crayons are nontoxic, so swallowing a small piece will often pass through a child’s system without issue. But some specific risks exist:

  • Choking hazard from large pieces blocking the airway
  • Stomach or intestinal blockages or injury if sharp pieces are swallowed
  • Toxic effects from contaminants or coloring ingredients in some crayons

Paraffin wax, used in most crayons, is not digested and may cause constipation or stomach upset if large amounts are eaten. Petroleum-based waxes may also contain trace contaminants.

What to do if your child eats a crayon

If you see your child put crayon pieces in their mouth:

  1. Remove the crayon right away before large pieces can break off.
  2. Check their mouth to ensure no pieces broke off already.
  3. Give them a drink to help wash down saliva or very small pieces.

If you suspect larger pieces were swallowed:

  • Look for signs of choking like coughing, gagging, drooling, or difficulty breathing. Call 911 if choking appears severe.
  • Call the poison control center if unsure about signs or for advice. The national number is 800-222-1222.
  • Watch for signs of stomach/intestinal obstruction over the next few days, like pain, vomiting, constipation, or poor appetite. Call your doctor if these occur.

Reduce the risks of kids eating art supplies

You likely can’t prevent a determined child from any oral exploration. But you can take some steps to reduce risks:

  • Supervise young kids during art time and guide them away from mouthing crayons and other supplies.
  • Avoid small crayon pieces and broken crayons that can come loose while coloring.
  • Choose crayons marked nontoxic or washable, which indicates less risk if ingested.
  • Opt for thicker toddler crayons rather than standard thin crayons which break more easily.
  • Store art supplies securely out of reach when not in use.

Are all crayons nontoxic and safe if swallowed?

No, not all crayons are nontoxic. While many major brands produce nontoxic kids crayons, some specialty art crayons contain pigments and ingredients that may be unsafe if swallowed, especially in large amounts.

Crayons marked nontoxic, washable, or child-safe have undergone testing by the manufacturer showing they are not expected to cause harm if ingested in small amounts. This gives reassurance if some chewing or swallowing occurs.

But other types of artist, calligraphy, or industrial crayons may contain heavy metal pigments like cobalt, copper, or manganese that could cause toxicity in large amounts. Some coloring agents approved for adult art uses may not meet standards for children’s nontoxicity.

For this reason it’s important to keep specialty art crayons away from children and ensure they use only child safe crayons.

Common safety standards for kids crayons

Reputable crayon brands marketed for children typically adhere to one or more of these safety standards or certifications:

  • ASTM D-4236 – safety certification for art materials including labeling of any hazardous ingredients
  • AP approved – certified nontoxic by the Art & Creative Materials Institute
  • Conforms to ASTM D-963 – standard safety specification from the American Society for Testing Materials

Crayons meeting these standards have been evaluated to not contain hazardous levels of substances like lead, heavy metals, phthalates, or asbestos that could be toxic. They are considered safe for children if swallowed.

Examples of nontoxic crayon brands

Many popular crayon brands emphasize child safety and nontoxic design. Some examples include:

  • Crayola – prominently marketed as nontoxic and child-safe
  • Cra-Z-Art – marked AP certified nontoxic
  • Prang – states conforms to ASTM D-4236
  • Melissa & Doug – tests for child safety
  • EcoKids – avoid synthetic dyes and use plant-based colors

These all undergo evaluation to ensure low risk of harm if accidentally ingested by kids. But supervision is still recommended, and larger pieces could pose a choking risk.

Are organic or natural crayons safer?

Organic or eco-friendly crayons made from beeswax or plant dyes are often marketed as “safe to eat.” While intake is still not advised, they may contain fewer synthetic chemicals and be less likely to cause issues if a child chews on them.

However, natural does not always mean nontoxic. Some plant pigments like vermilion are not child safe. Also pure beeswax can be a choking hazard. But brands using natural ingredients typically avoid any known hazardous compounds.

Talk to your doctor if unsure, but these types of crayons are generally less concerning if ingested than petroleum-based paraffin crayons. As always, avoid giving children small pieces or leaving them unsupervised with art supplies.

How does a child’s age affect crayon safety risks?

Younger kids are at greater risk of choking on crayon pieces or having blockages since their airways and intestines are smaller. Children under age 4 require the closest supervision around small objects.

Safety risks also depend on the developmental stage:

  • Babies – May mouth and chew objects but unlikely to bite off pieces.
  • Toddlers – Oral exploration peaks as they learn to grasp things, greater chance of biting and swallowing pieces.
  • Preschoolers – Still put many things in mouth but can follow rules better about not eating nonfood items.
  • School age – Less oral exploration but may arbitrarily bite off or chew things within reach.

Across all ages, kids should use only nontoxic crayons and be monitored during use. Keep small, broken crayon tips out of reach.

Are crayon fumes hazardous if inhaled?

Inhaling crayon dust or fumes during heavy use is generally not dangerous with standard nontoxic crayons. Most contain paraffin wax and pigments considered nontoxic if inhaled in small amounts.

But as a precaution, provide adequate ventilation in rooms where children use crayons extensively. Sensitivities or respiratory irritation can occur with any strong fumes or dust.

Therapeutic putty crayons may contain higher levels of volatile ingredients like essential oils. Take care to limit inhalation risk and watch for any reactions.

Baby crayons are a safer option when airborne exposure is a concern, as they contain zero dust. In general, minimize dust and airborne particles for any child with respiratory issues like asthma.

Can a child have an allergic reaction to crayon ingredients?

Allergic contact dermatitis from coloring ingredients is uncommon but possible if a child has sensitivities to specific chemicals. Red pigments, chromium, and cobalt compounds are more frequent allergens.

Rashes may develop on the hands or around the mouth. See a doctor to identify the allergen. Switch to hypoallergenic crayons free of common allergens.

Fatal anaphylaxis after swallowing crayon particles is extremely rare but has occurred in a few cases. Avoid brands with gluten or known clinical allergens if your child has severe allergies.

Do crayons contain any nutritional value?

No, crayons have no nutritional value for children. They are nonfood items. While the paraffin wax and pigments are generally not toxic in small ingestions, they provide no health benefits and are not digested.

In fact, swallowing wax can cause constipation, abdominal pain, and appetite loss in some cases. Never purposefully give crayons to children to eat. They are art and craft supplies only and should not be treated like food.

Can eating crayons indicate pica or psychological issues?

Eating nonfood substances like crayons may be a sign of an eating disorder called pica in some children. In pica, people compulsively eat items with no nutrition. This could include paint, soap, paper, fabrics, or cigarette butts.

Pica can have many causes, like nutritional deficiencies, stress, OCD, or intellectual disabilities. If crayon eating persists, talk to your doctor and psychologist to assess any underlying disorders and ensure your child gets needed support.

Do crayons help teething pain for babies?

Teething babies may chew and mouth crayons for temporary relief, but this is risky and unhealthy.

Crayons can break into sharp pieces or detach causing a choking hazard. The wax can also upset a baby’s delicate stomach. Never hand crayons to teething infants or leave them in reach.

Instead, use proper infant teethers made of silicone or chilled rubber. You can also gently rub swollen gums with a clean finger or moist gauze for relief. Talk to your pediatrician about other safe ways to soothe teething discomfort.

Can a child safely eat crayons labeled “nontoxic” ?

No, even crayons marketed as nontoxic, child safe, or washable should not purposefully be eaten. These terms mean the risk of harm is low if accidentally ingested in small amounts, not that they are edible.

Eating crayons excessively could still potentially cause issues like choking, intestinal blockage, or chemical exposure depending on the ingredients and quantities. Supervise kids so they know crayons are for art, not for consumption.


The occasional lick or taste of a crayon while coloring is typical behavior for curious kids. With supervision and nontoxic brands, minimal crayon ingestion generally isn’t hazardous.

But pieces can break off and pose a choking risk. Make sure to keep small children away from small, broken crayon tips. And if larger amounts are swallowed, watch for signs of abdominal pain or blockage.

While it’s ultimately better to prevent any eating, using child-safe, nontoxic crayons can give some peace of mind knowing a small amount likely won’t cause harm. Just be sure to keep all art supplies out of reach when not in use.

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