Fueling the Creative Flame

Josh Selig

Creator and executive producer of the children's TV shows The Wonder Pets! and Oobi!, Selig is also an Emmy-Award-winning writer and former Sesame Street child actor.

What did your parents do to encourage creativity?

There was always great respect in my home for creative work. Every creative gesture-from a puppet show to a homemade bookmark-was acknowledged in some way. My mother is a painter and writer and she always encouraged my brother and me to make things. She would display our work in some simple way and that made us feel great.

Who were the adults in your life who most encouraged your creativity?

My family was supportive of my creativity-and a few very important teachers as well. The best way an adult can support a child's creativity is to treat everything the child makes with respect. This does not mean false flattery or putting drawings in fancy frames. It means talking to a child about what he made and showing a genuine interest in his work. This is very validating for any child or, for that matter, any adult.

Which books and other materials inspired you most as a child?

Dr. Seuss. Roald Dahl. Bugs Bunny. Making sandcastles on Fire Island. Making pretzels in Amish Country. The fact that I could make something (anything!) with my hands fascinated me as a child—and it still does.

If you could share one piece of advice with a child about being creative, what would that be?

Make exactly what you feel like making. Don't believe anyone who tells you there is a right way to draw a dog or make a pinch pot. It doesn't matter what you make. It could be a sculpture, cookies, or a rhythm on a drum. But it does matter that you make something and share it with the world.

What do you see as your most creative accomplishment?

Though I am very proud of Oobi! and The Wonder Pets!, I think my most creative accomplishment has been building my company, Little Airplane Productions. It is a home for my talented staff, where we can produce our television shows, write our books, and make our films.

Why do you think encouraging creativity is important?

Why do you think encouraging creativity is important? I am certain that all people are creative, not just those who become "artists." When we are young, parents and teachers tend to support our creativity. As we get older, this begins to change and we are encouraged to pursue more "practical" activities and vocations. This is unfortunate because one's creativity will help with any task or career. And without some form of creative expression, Life feels less complete.

How do you keep yourself creative?

I go running. I keep a journal. I frequent Starbucks.

What can parents do to encourage their children's creativity?

I don't yet have children, but when I do I'll try to be like my friend and colleague Tone Thyne. He makes green eggs and ham for his children. And he cuts their pizza into a heart shape on Valentine's Day. He and his wife, Kendra, find opportunities for creativity in many everyday family activities. I'd like to be like them.

What do you think are the ideal toys, games, books, activities, and art supplies for promoting creativity?

I am not a big fan of buying a lot of stuff for kids. You can promote creativity by writing a book with your child as well as by buying a book for your child. Instead of signing up for that dance class, you can dance around the living room with your kids every night. The more that creativity is integrated into a child's daily routine, the more likely he or she will embrace it. Art doesn't just belong in museums. It belongs on refrigerators.

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