Back in the days of small children and little money, I regularly saved pennies for The Best Art Supplies that could be found. I’d read something terribly inspirational about giving your children real art supplies: gorgeous colors and textures that would help them produce fantastic works of art even if all they did was scribble, pummel, and spill. I believe it to this day — real art supplies and fabulous books make artists and readers.
I discovered Stockmar Modelling Beeswax early on. Not cheap, but well worth it. I’ve never found another brand I like as well. (If the website seems daunting, look in your favorite eco-waldorfian-granola-tree-hugging-parenting-toy shops and catalogs — they often carry it.) As a storyteller, I’ve become very fond of this beeswax.
I break the sheets in half — that’s all little hands can hold anyway. The secret is that they must hold it for several minutes to warm it. You can begin your story during this warming period. They sit still, hovered over their beeswax, chubby fingers warming this precious bit of something that smells good, is silky hard and then gradually softer, dyed just the right shade of (whatever) color… kids understand intuitively how wonderful beeswax is. Once properly warmed, they can shape the piece into whatever they like, pinching and rolling, flattening and carving, smoothing and rubbing. The closest I ever get to prescribing what they might do with their beeswax is to say, “I wonder if there’s something in the story you might like to make with your beeswax…?”
I can tell or read a much longer story if my audience has beeswax. At the end of the story, wax creations are shared on a voluntary basis. Everyone volunteers. They make fantastic things always. They tell the group how their creations fit in the story. They talk about what the story made them remember and how it made them feel. They discuss how much they like the texture of beeswax, and what they loved in the story, and how they know another story that is “like it, but different.” With beeswax in hand, the discussions are rich.
Then, with hope in their eyes, they say, “Can we keep the beeswax?” They hold their collective breath, waiting for my response. “Of course,” I say. “You can make something else with it later.” And they do. I know because they often show me something they made with it weeks later. They’ll tell me a story to go with their creation. They’ll make a precious gift of it, sharing it with someone else who needs something to worry in their hands during a quiet time.
Beeswax isn’t messy. It can be kept in a parental purse or pocket for those times when someone just needs a minute to sit and regain calm. It’s magical: beeswax and stories, kids and warm hands. Absolutely magical.