A dream come true? The Crayola Experience

It’s cold. It’s a little rainy. We need something indoors to do with our grandchildren. My daughter-in-law suggests, “You could go to the Crayola Experience in Plano.” Really? I think I was more excited than anyone.

It’s only twenty minutes away. We got our tickets online at a discount. Loaded up the van and we were off. Pretty easy to find. Whoa – when we stepped out of the van we remembered just how cold it was, especially for us FL folks. But it was only a short walk and we were in.

If you like to color, like I still do, you are a fan of Crayola. RoseArt? No thank you. I need the real thing. I remember opening up that new pack of twenty-four at the beginning of each school year. The thrill was quickly eclipsed by the kid in class with a box of 48. But the real oohs and aahs were reserved for those who brought a box of sixty-four with the built-in sharpener.

When we walked in, we stopped at a kiosk where you could personalize a wrapper for a red, blue or green crayon. For a token, of course. Uh-oh. Tokens? Each of us got two with the price of admission. We might need to get more. We’ll see. I made a blue one for my grandson and I think my granddaughter made a red one.

No time to waste. Off to a coloring center. Here you sit at a counter and there are bins and bins of brand new crayons right there in front of you. Classic colors. Metallic colors. Pastels and browns and blues. Niche colors, like Mac-n-Cheese. It was amazing. Off to the side, you could stand in front of a camera and have a line drawing of yourself printed to color. Very cool. I made sure I scanned the pic on my phone so we could make more later.

We didn’t stay there long. There’s a spin art station. You put a crayon in a slot, the paper spins, and melted crayon makes a sunburst design. A second crayon adds an additional color. It quickly dries, we carefully take it from the spinner, and put it in our plastic bag keeper.

Just to the right was another station. A melting station, Here, you put a crayon in the melter and watched as it dripped into a mold. A blower cooled it before your eyes and just like that, you had a ring formed from a crayon. My granddaughter commented, “I never had a crayon ring before!”

I was always fascinated by melting and melted crayons. Growing up I had a high intensity desk lamp which generated more than enough heat to melt a crayon. I remember spending a lot of time creating mountains from melted crayons. I would melt the metallic colors first – gold, silver and copper. I would cover them with other colors, and then go mining for precious metals. On a sunny day, a ray of light and a magnifying glass melted deep holes into melted crayon hills.

What makes a crayon so appealing, so special, so unique? The smell, the assortment of colors, no drying time, the ease of making a shape and filling it with color. An art supply that appeals to both young and old.

Crayola has it’s own formula of a Play Doh-like substance called Model Magic. It’s a tad more elastic, but harder to separate than Play Doh. We had about an hour’s fun with that, too.

They had a show to watch, a live-video hybrid demo of how crayons are made. I was rapt. We got a free crayon on the way out, too.

On the way out, you go through the gift shop. One wall is completely covered with crayon towers in every color they produce. You can mix and match your own box, just like picking an assortment of craft beers for a six pack. You just can’t walk out without some crayons!

I would go back or to another location at the drop of a hat. What a great way to spend a morning!

Toddlers, tortellini, and toys

The other night, I go to hang out with all three of my grandkids for a few hours. Their parents headed out to see the lights in St. Augustine, my wife had a meeting, and they wondered, “Can you watch them for a few hours?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Yes!” I don’t get that kind of opportunity very often.

At ages one, two, and three, they really don’t play together. For the first half-an-hour or so, each wanted to play with what another had, but eventually they settled down with their own. After a bit, time for some music. I got out my guitar to sing songs, but no one really wanted to sing with me. Instead, they wanted to run laps around the living room, chasing or running from me as I played. Then it’s time for food.

IMG_8147Tortellini (with “dip”), strawberries and green beans were a hit, everyone wanting seconds. Once supper is over, a few episodes of Paw Patrol kept them quiet for a moment as I cleaned up supper.

My wife was the first adult human to return home, amused and perhaps a bit dismayed at the number of toys strewn around the house. Cars, pretend food, zoo animals, farm animals, action figures, balls, flashlights, a doll house, trains, pretend ice cream cones, kid-friendly power tools, books, lab coats and medical equipment, dinosaurs and a pretend Keurig are all needed to keep everyone busy for a while. Yep, we used them all! (Side note: it doesn’t take three to get and leave out all the toys. One can do the job just as well!)

As a grandparent, I relish these moments not only because they are fun and fill me with joy, but because I know they are rare. As a parent, you feel like you’ve got a lot of time to spend with your kids as eighteen-plus years stretches out in front of you. But as a grandparent, you know those years will fly, so you savor those moments when you have them.