Yellow Snowflakes

The wooden snowflakes sat primed and patient before us on the table. I picked up a little plastic bottle of paint and inverted it over our mixing plate. Squeeze. Out came the blue. Then the white. On a whim, I squirted a little puddle of purple. “What other colors do you want,” I asked my five-year-old daughter, Grace.

“Yellow,” she said without hesitation. “And red and orange.”

A yellow snowflake? It goes against the rules. Snow is supposed to be glittery white and icy blue, not blazing yellow. Everyone knows that.

But who says it can’t be painted that way?

The world of the imagination goes outside the rules. The granite guidelines of “what is supposed to be” serve only as stepping stones for the open mind of a creative child. The imagination is not held down by them. Why can’t a snowflake be brilliant as sunshine in the mind’s eye? What if instead of being frosty , they were fiery? Catching them on your tongue would be like prickly drops of hot sauce. Replace your snow shovels with garden hoses and spray away the glowing sheet of fire-flakes, never enough to be blazingly dangerous, just beautiful, like tiny embers.

Children can truly play in such a What-If World. Conversely, without whimsy, play ceases. Edward de Bono, an expert on creativity, says that children’s play stops when “the world changes from an unknown place in which wonderful things can happen into a familiar place in which there is an adequate explanation for everything.” In other words, it’s a grown-up place, full of hard-fast boundaries.

I heard a mother correct her child the other day. “Worstest is not a word,” she said. I felt a twinge of regret for the little girl. Yes, the word was wrong, but I’ve never met an adult who still uses it. Kids will leave those childhood words and ideas behind all too soon. In the meantime, children need to play.

Let your kids paint snow whatever color they want it to be. Let grass be blue and the sky green. Let pigs have wings. Let nonsense words linger. Let your children play in their imaginary landscape.

Better yet, go there with them.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter