Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Toolbox of Faith: A Program That Helps Children Discover the Uses of Faith

Taking It Home: Expression (Paintbrush)

Beauty without expression is boring.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


The paintbrush symbolizes personal expression of our inner life and thoughts. In this session, there were opportunities to reflect on the various means for personal expression, such as painting, writing, music, and theater. The children heard about a variety of ways that people have expressed themselves through all times, from cave painting to modern dance. We allowed time for participants to explore hands-on and talk about media they might like to use as a tool for their own personal expression. We emphasized that there is no one way that will feel comfortable for everyone. In addition, we noted ways of expression that go beyond the arts, such as building a trail, inventing a computer, or creating a personal identity.

We learned about expression to illustrate that:

  • Unitarian Universalism is a faith that will help you express your inner voice and your inner thoughts
  • Unitarian Universalism affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and values acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth
  • Unitarian Universalism looks to the direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life

The children heard a story, "The Cellist of Sarajevo," about a man who used music to protest the violence of war in his city.


Talk about different ways each individual in the family expresses their inner thoughts, emotions, and personalities. Who uses art forms, such as drawing, knitting, playing music, writing, carpentry, gardening, or dancing? Does anyone in your family express themselves in other ways, such as in the way they clean and organize a room, prepare a meal, or invent ways to earn extra money?

You might ask your child what he/she enjoyed about exploring different modes of expression in today's session. Then, see how other members of your family answer these questions:

  • Which form of expression is your favorite? Why?
  • What other forms of expression might you like to try?
  • How might you express your inner thoughts or inner life if you were very sad? Very happy?


Look for books, movies, websites, and excursions your family can share, to investigate the variety of ways people have expressed themselves through all times, from cave painting to modern dance.


Find easy and open-ended art projects in Scribble Art: Independent Creative Art Experiences for Children by MaryAnn Kohl, illustrated by Judy McCoy (Bright Ring Publishing, 1994). The projects in this book encourage process, discovery, and exploration.


Discover an adult finger-painting artist and her works! The website of Mary Ann Brandt has fascinating images and some how-to information.

The picture book, The Big Orange Splot by D. Manus Pinkwater, puts a lighthearted spin on the idea of expressing yourself. When a seagull drops a can of paint on Mr. Plumbean's house, he gets ideas about how to decorate it that cause ripples in the whole neighborhood. Eventually, each house becomes a reflection of the owner.


Have a variety of artistic media available for your family members to express their inner thoughts and lives. Drawing, poetry, sculpture, and music are among the ways that people have expressed themselves. Set aside a space and/or a time for family members to use different media as they wish.