Children blossom when they can explore their favorite interests.

Derry’s grandchildren shared their answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Her 5-year-old grandson, about to begin kindergarten, told his grandmother that he wanted to be an elf! He had many good reasons for such a choice. Elves help Santa. They play nicely together. They have fun. He couldn’t wait to go to kindergarten, where he was sure there would be lots of time to build an elf house, draw pictures of elves, make up stories about elves, sing songs about elves and even pretend to be an elf.

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Derry’s 3-year-old granddaughter, who was very excited about starting preschool, learned that her favorite thing in the world—butterflies—also was the name of her classroom, the Butterfly Room. If she could be anything in the world, she would choose a butterfly, with their beautiful colors and graceful wings. When she drew pictures, her colorful butterflies flew in blue skies with puffy white clouds.

Our elf- and butterfly-loving children aren’t into labeling or categorizing. They fall in love with life, and the best ways to celebrate their favorite subjects are through the arts. How easy and natural and almost instinctual: playing, singing, building, painting and dancing the objects of their fascination.

Six-year-old Len is in love with trucks—all sizes and styles and colors. See his pictures of trucks and the play roads he builds to drive his collection of toy trucks. Chloe is a mermaid girl. She has a little notebook filled with mermaid sketches, and adds mermaids to so many songs and poems.

Tuned-in teachers and parents know the best way to reach their children is to include and enrich those topics they love most, such as elves, butterflies, trucks and mermaids. Just provide the time, materials, free-spirited singing, improvised dancing, poetry, story and imaginative play, and joyful learning will blossom!

Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld is a longtime Columbus arts educator and author who works with children of all ages and encourages them to become creative, lifelong learners.