Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

A dozen toddlers stood and sat in a semi-circle and stared at the woman in front of them. Barefoot with one Sillyband and two beaded bracelets around her left ankle, clad in lavender pants and a tie-dyed T-shirt, this woman with a flowing mane of silver hair was dancing and singing to them.

Raffi music played on a nearby turntable while 75-year-old Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld clapped her hands and encouraged her petite audience to do the same.

Within five minutes, the entire group in this class at the Leo Yassenoff Jewish Community Center was marching and clapping hands for a parade set to "It's a Small World After All." Chenfeld had won another pint-sized battle in her war against the forces of standardized, sanitized education.

"A lot of parents are pushing for more formalized, structured skill centers," Chenfeld explained later, after the children, liberally showered with hugs and kisses, had left.

"I'm a passionate advocate for creative ways of learning and multiple forms of intelligence," she added. "Not everyone learns the same way."

Chenfeld is a native of New York City and a resident of Columbus since 1970 when her husband Howard moved his family here for his career in the shoe business. Though her beloved partner passed on four years ago, Chenfeld remains one of those "everywhere" people in Central Ohio arts education.

This mother of three and grandmother of seven not only teaches at the JCC, she's part of Greater Columbus Arts Council's Artists-in-Schools program and runs a folk-dance club at Ohio State's Hillel Center.

Chenfeld also teaches courses in "arts across the curriculum" at Otterbein University and Columbus State Community College, and travels the country conducting workshops and publishing books on the topic.

In other words, if you don't find out why creativity is so important - not just for kids but for adults - it's not because she didn't try to tell you.

"Our kids need to play," she explained. "Play is not a frivolous thing. They learn through their imagination, and teachers should be encouraged by parents to be as creative as


The Creative Touch

What can parents do to nurture creativity and happy learning for a lifetime? Chenfeld has these suggestions:

  • Let home be a safe, loving and non-pressured environment where children can be children.
  • Don't overprogram. 'Tis a gift to be simple.
  • Don't minimize the importance of simply sharing your time. Take a walk together!
  • • Stay in touch with nature. We have many great, free parks here to enjoy.
  • • In general, trust your instincts. You know when your children are happiest and most receptive to learning.