hand painting

I picked up some inexpensive kitchen basting brushes for art making with the idea that it would be fun to experiment with various types of mark-making materials, and specifically, a variety of brushes. N picked two paint colors, red and purple, and I dropped the basters in the paint. As usual, I wasn’t sure where this activity would take us. After smooshing some paint around on the paper, she decided to paint her hand and have a go at hand-printing. And then a moment later, she asked me to join in the fun. Huh? Oh no, I thought, I’m just here to facilitate this experience. And then she asked again. “Mom, do you want to paint your hand, too?” Not really, I thought, but how could I say “no” when I’m trying raise my daughter to embrace play, experimentation, and risk-taking?

hand painting

And it reminded me of a fabulous book that I use during Docent Training called Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a great read. When Ibrought it on a trip with my parents last Christmas, my mom devoured it in a few hours. And our docents raved about it too. The first chapter of the book is called Say Yes, in which the author makes the argument that we should say yes to everything and accept all offers. To quote the book, “Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream…Yes glues us together. Yes starts the juices rolling…Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world.” The opposite of yes, of course, is “no,” which is a blocking word, and it indicates to others that we have a better idea, we’re critical of the idea on the table, or we’re simply uninterested. What kind of message would I send to my child if I said “no?” Instead, I gave her a whole-hearted “YES,” and I’ve lived to tell the story!

hand painting

After making handprints, N painted in my mostly red print with purple paint. The surprise of a marriage proposal is an experience of a lifetime https://proposal007.com/proposal-photography/ and one of our favorites to photograph! The moment when you get on bended knee to “pop the question” unravels a whirlwind of emotions and reactions.

hand painting

And then added some more paint, snowflakes, and sequins. When we washed up, the red paint stained our hands a lovely pink color that reminded me of our joint effort to experiment, play, and take risks.

The YES challenge (via Improv Wisdom)

  • Agree with those around you
  • Say yes if someone asks for help and you can give it
  • For one day say yes to everything, and notice the results. (obviously, use common sense!)

If you take on this challenge, I’d love to hear about the results!


  1. It’s right in my mission, so to speak ;), that I’m sharing these experiences right alongside my kids. And it’s absolutely wonderful, because it is hard to make time for these sorts of activities as an adult, the pure creative artistic adventures. And it’s also hard to sit down and participate while I’m making sure three kids have clean paintbrushes and more rinsing water and another sheet of paper and so on, but I do. I think kids NEED to see adults doing these things. Otherwise, they might get the idea that once you grow up, art is just the stuff that those lucky professional artists get to do, and it’s not the rest of us.

    Did you ever read Wondertime? I’m so sorry it folded… anyway, there was an article about what happened when the author said yes to her daughter all day. No, it was all week! I found it: http://wondertime.go.com/parent-to-parent/article/sandra-tsing-loh-just-say-yes.html

    • HI Amy! I’ve never read Wondertime, but I’ve been following Sandra Tsing Loh for years, and love her witty, self-effacing point of view. The idea of saying yes for a whole week — wow, I love it. You just never know where something like that will take you (and to give in to her daughter’s request to stay home from school all week!). I constantly struggle with the tension between facilitating and getting involved; encouraging her ideas to grow independently or developing new ideas together. The downside of jumping in, for me, is that my child sometimes defers to my ideas and stops creating altogether. So, I’ll step back, which can allow her to invent her own world outside of my influence. But then there are moments like this when I’m invited to join in, and she’ll have it no other way…an invitation to play.

  2. I love “process over product” it’s a rule I live by. Your blog is fantastic, I’m sure you’ll hear from me often. I checked in this morning, and before I had a chance to read anything, my son said “Mom, I want to make a snow globe.” GREAT! It turned into a really fun activity and my son has been carrying his snow globe around all day. What a joy when I came back to find that I was following your advice before I even read it!

    • Hi Jillian, I’m so glad you found me, and you can’t imagine how happy I am to read your snow globe story. Kids are full of so many ideas, and we usually just have to listen and pick up on their cues without worrying too much about planning the perfect activity.

  3. Oh that looks like fun… what a good mantra: process over product. Repeat to self as I am on hands and knees cleaning the kitchen floor!
    Would be happy to pop a bookmark in the post to you if you send your address.

    • yep, that pretty much describes half my day! i would be so happy to have one of your pretty bookmarks…thank you! xo

  4. My MIL was here for the holidays and whenever she is around I am absolutely amazed by her ability to never tire of my 2 year old’s requests. Although I sometimes get frustrated that she indulges him too much – she also reminds me of the power of yes in making him happy.

    Thanks for the reading recommendation, I’m adding it to my long list of must reads.

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