Explore, Express, Imagine
by Dana Reynolds
The world of creativity is a natural place for small
children to inhabit. The next time you are in a park
observe the way the toddler explores the playground.
Notice the way she engages all her senses as she spies a
bright red leaf blowing across the grass, chasing it
laughing with delight. Soon she catches it, touching it
eagerly while turning it over in her small chubby hands
to examine its texture and appearance. She sniffs its
curly edge and then gently licks it to see what it might
taste like, before letting it go to watch it catch the
autumn breeze signaling the game to begin again.
The toddler’s sensual exploration of the world is
the doorway to creativity. Children can help us to
remember what it felt like to be bold and unafraid to
explore the unknown. The innocence of the child, the
purity of heart, and the uncontaminated sense of wonder
of the child’s imagination are key ingredients to
creativity. Perhaps a way for us, as adults, to
recapture our innate creative spirits is to observe
children at play.
Several years ago I taught a series of Saturday
morning experiential art/craft classes, Explore. . .
Express. . .Imagine, for parents and their children
at a local art gallery. The concept was to bring
children and parents together, propose a creative
challenge to explore, provide a variety of materials to
experiment with, and make a place for their imaginations
to co-create together. The metamorphosis that occurred
for the parents from the first class to the last was
In the beginning the adults were timid and reserved
about using the materials and "diving into"
the process. The children, aged five to seven, were
eager and uninhibited as they glued sticks together to
build a time machine, or pasted strips of newspaper to a
balloon to make a papier maché mask. Over time the
children seemed to reactivate a spark within the parents’
creative souls. Soon they were cutting, pasting,
painting together to create a symphony of color and
form. Through the children’s total trust and abandon
to the process, the parents were led to a place of
remembering the joy of play and uninhibited
self-expression. The result was an extravaganza of
creations including maps to imaginary places, and
mythical beasts made of paper and dryer lint.
Children are wonderful guides to remembering. To
protect and nourish our children’s creative spirits we
must remember ourselves what it felt like to squish
fingers into wet dirt to make mud pies. We must reclaim
the excitement of letting go of a red balloon only to
watch it disappear in the bright blue sky.
Just as children can help us to remember our playful
creative selves. . . we can help to foster creativity in
children. Here are a few suggestions for encouraging the
young people in your life to explore, express, and
imagine their world.
Explore: Read to a child. Go to the
library and bookstores together. Books are a gateway to
the exploration of a myriad of topics. Engage the child’s
interest through picture books, vivid imagery, and
stories. Make up stories together while driving in the
car. Go to museums, art galleries, musical concerts,
places that will feed a child’s desire to create.
Point out color, sound, shape, and form. Engaging in
these activities will help to keep the door open to the
child’s senses of wonder and observation.
Express: Gather simple art materials;
crayons, tempra paints, paper, glue, magazines for
tearing up, clay, sticks and string. Create a safe place
for a child to make a mess, to freely express what you
have explored together. Encourage uninhibited expression
with the materials. Transform a hallway in your home
into a gallery for the child’s artwork. Purchase
several inexpensive plastic box frames to display the
child’s creations. Honor his/her outpouring of
creativity with a special place of display.
Imagine: Create together. Color outside the
lines. Encourage the drawings of purple trees and green
fire engines. Turn things inside out and upside down.
Remember the way the toddler examines the red leaf? Look
at things from a new perspective. Nourish the
imagination through storytelling, tent building, and
The creative world of the child is an endangered
place these days. It’s easy to pop the video into the
VCR to "entertain" a fidgeting youngster. Soon
the thumb goes into the mouth and the young mind goes on
automatic pilot as the programmed images play out before
the mesmerized child.
Videos, TV, computer games, all these things have
their place but are often used as pacifiers for the
child who is restless for creative expression.
The next time you experience a youngster acting
bored, turn on some classical music and get out the
crayons and paper. Invite the child to draw or color
what is heard and seen inside the music. You will be
amazed, and you might also remember how it feels to step
through the doorway into the world of imagination.
Copyright© 2001 Dana
For ten years, Dana Reynolds has
been facilitating women’s spiritual presentations and
retreats nationwide. Her work as a Spiritual Midwife,
one who assists women as they birth their creative gifts
into the world, is the foundation of all her endeavors.
Her background as a visual artist and writer enriches
her Spiritual Midwifery: Birthing the Feminine Soul
As the creator of an art making
process known as visual prayer, Dana teaches
women how to combine ritual with sacred intention to
create altars, collages, spirit dolls, and other
touchstones. The creation of sacred spaces is also
paramount to the Spiritual Midwifery experience. Her
offers samplings of her visual prayer collages, poetry,
and a workshop catalogue.
Dana is the author of the
whimsical and colorfully illustrated book, Be An
Angel, a co-creation with illustrator and graphic
designer, Karen Blessen, (Simon & Schuster). Her
essay, Visual Prayers is included in the
anthology, Our Turn, Our Time: Women Coming of Age, edited
by Cynthia Black, (Beyond Words Publishing).
A trained labyrinth
facilitator, Dana incorporates the labyrinth and other
spiritual wisdom into her retreats and workshops. She
recently traveled to Chartres and Vezelay Cathedrals in
France to gather information pertaining to ancient
sacred mystical traditions. She currently lectures on
such topics as spiritual midwifery, sacred journal
keeping, feminine spiritual wisdom, and the early
Christian women saints and mystics.
Dana’s life follows the
spiral path from rim to center and back again. She looks
for the sacred in forgotten places and openly embraces
the great Mystery of life. Guiding women to the
discovery of their creative inner gifts is the passion
that fuels her soul.