I love me some Mo Willems, so when Mo Willems gives me parenting advice, I take Mo Willems’ parenting advice. (If you don’t know who Mo Willems is, please go check out his wonderfully quirky Pigeon book series for kids, plus Knuffle Bunny, which is an all-time fave in my house.)
Willems was interviewed by Rachel Martin on U.S. radio broadcaster NPR and in addition to being as delightful as one would expect – on new challenges, he said, “I get to be really, really terrified in all kinds of new different ways” – he also had an important tip for parents who want to encourage their kid’s creative side: Let them see you being creative.
There is this day that happens in almost everybody’s life where they realise they’re not going to be a professional basketball player and they’re not going to be a professional cartoonist. And it’s a heartbreaking day, but kids still play basketball. And that’s because Dad is still playing basketball. If Dad was still drawing, kids would still be drawing…
I think sometimes the greatest thing you can say to a kid if a kid says, “Hey Mum, will you do this for me?” or “Make me a sandwich,” or something — say, “Not now, I’m drawing.”
It makes sense. If we want our kids to have good manners, we say “please” and “thank you.” If we want them to get off their screens, we put our phones down. If we want them to have empathy, we show ‘em how it’s done.
On a rainy evening out recently, my husband pulled his car up to the entrance of the restaurant so our son and I didn’t have to run through the rain. “That’s so nice,” my son said, as he unbuckled his seatbelt. “You’ve inspired me! I’m going to do that for my wife and kids one day.”
They really are taking every cue from the adults in their lives, for better or worse, on how to live. And if you don’t believe me or Mo Willems, you cannot possibly argue with Mister Rogers:
So if you want to encourage your kid’s creativity, pull out that paper and pencil and start sketching.