Arts with Heart: Promoting Creative Play

Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld
Columbus Parent

As we head into another season of COVID-19, many of us have grown used to some of the machinery of our new times, such as tablets, smartphones, Facetime, Zoom and other such technical marvels. It’s easy to forget our simplest, natural human gift is the celebration of the arts in our daily lives. Sometimes we need children to remind us of the fun and joy of playing around and dabbling with the arts.

There are examples all around us, including these stories below that demonstrate how satisfying and enjoyable creative play and art can be.

Recently in a piece for The Columbus Dispatch, Joe Blundo, one of our most popular and esteemed local columnists, wrote about babysitting his 3-year old-grandson. They did not do Zoom sessions or online classes. They dabbled and played with the delightful ingredients young children love the most—making Play-Doh cakes, singing, chasing and running, arranging dinosaurs and pumpkins on a canvas of paper, turning their little red wagon into a delivery truck and taking pretend orders. If there were tests or standards for a curriculum in the arts, Joe’s grandson would score high marks in oral language, storytelling, visual arts, singing, movement and drama.

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While visiting her family, “Bubbe” Laurie stayed in the basement guest room. Her 5- and 7-year-old grandsons excitedly suggested having an overnight camping trip in the basement. As soon as Mom gave the OK, the brothers gathered blankets, pillows, water bottles, snacks, real marshmallows to roast over an imaginary campfire and books to read by flashlight. The boys bundled up in their blankets, ate their marshmallows, read stories, sang songs and looked at the imaginary stars in the dark room. In the morning, the boys called out this greeting to their bubbe, “That was the GREATEST!”

Taking a break from her summer babysitting job, teenage Jackie ran into a dollar store to see if she could find something fun for her charges, a 9-year-old girl and her 7-year-old brother. A heavy bag of colorful beads was on sale for $1. She bought string and the beads and figured it would keep the kids busy for at least an hour. Still in their pajamas, they started beading as soon as the last dish was removed from the breakfast table. Soon, colors, designs and patterns of all sizes emerged from their busy hands and imaginative minds. Jackie reports that the two kids never got dressed that day. They spent the entire day making about 100 bracelets and necklaces that they decided to give as gifts for the holidays. I am still wearing one of the bracelets!

We don’t have to go very far to delight in the arts. They are part of everything! Not apart from us; the arts are a part of us!

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.

This story is from the Winter 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.