Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is not what I thought it was going to be. I read some glowing reviews about the book, but none of them explained how it worked. I knew the goal of the book was to show children mistakes happen and can even be opportunities to create anew. I assumed this goal was accomplished through a wonderful story about some beloved character making some sort of mistake (with an art project of some sort), going through a journey of discovery, and realizing that, as long as we are trying to do our best, it's okay to mess up.
Since my oldest two, especially The Boy, can very self-critical when doing art projects, I thought this might be a good resource to help them see accidents and mistakes will happen and we just need to embrace that fact. I ordered the book, and what I received was not at all what I expected.
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Beautiful Oops! is an interactive, board-type book. It doesn't tell a story and there is no beloved character. In fact, there aren't very many words at all.
The book is made up of a series of "mistakes" and examples of how those mistakes can be transformed into something spectacular (or at least clever). For example, a torn sheet of paper is turned into an alligator's mouth, a paint smear into a fish, and bent paper into a penguin. While it's all very creative, I'll be honest that I was initially disappointed. I expected more. But it was in our possession, so I read it to the kids.
It's hard sometimes as an adult to see things from a child's perspective. I wanted a lovely, lesson-teaching story. It turns out they wanted an interative board book with a few words.
Once I saw the impact this book had, I realized they would have probably enjoyed some great story, but the lesson may not have been as impactful. It's the difference in education between hearing and doing. You can learn by hearing, but you retain more from doing. Beautiful Oops! offers real-life, tangible examples. The lesson was taken to heart much more through flaps and pull-outs than by reading a story--at least in this instance, in my kids' case.
After we read the book, they immediately went to draw. They intentionally tore and bent their paper or marked it up in some way so they could think of ways to fix their "mistakes".
There is an art journal to accompany the book. It's filled with prompts, in the form of "mistakes", to encourage kids to turn a mess into a masterpiece. I think this journal along with the book would make a great birthday gift or Easer basket filler.
That was a few months ago, and I have found they are less critical of themselves. Furthermore, we have turned "Beautiful Oops" into a saying. When they're getting frustrated with some sort of work or project and start being hard on themselves, I just say, "It's okay. Beautiful Oops!". They smile and relax a little.
If you have a kid who can tend towards being overly self-critical, you might introduce them to this gem. I'm very satisfied with it, and I think you will be too.
How do you handle it when your kids are overly critical of themselves? Give me your ideas in the comments.
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