Pittsburgh authors share lessons from Mister Rogers in new book

Saturday, March 20, was Fred Rogers’ birthday. His legacy lives on in a new book called “When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids.”   Pittsburgh Authors Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski share the science behind the Mister Rogers Show and the lessons for today’s parents, teachers, and caregivers.

We all know the iconic opening of the Mister Rogers show, but most don’t know that everything in the show was deliberate. For example, the sweater and slippers and the flashing yellow lights in the opening scene were designed to tell kids it was time to slow down and relax.

Gregg Behr, Co-author and Executive Director of the Grable Foundation, says, “All across the Pittsburgh region, we have people who are essentially applying the Fred method, and we want to tell their story in the context of something that’s so familiar in Fred Rogers.”

He and Rydzewski, who is a former teacher, share three lessons from the book.

Lesson one: Nurture curiosity by engaging with children’s questions, even when you don’t have the answers.

“Kids are naturally curious,” Rydzewski says. “It’s our job to let them (be curious), to trust them to be curious, and to create the conditions around them to allow them to indulge the questions and the passions and the interest that they naturally have.”

Places all around Pittsburgh encourage curiosity, including the Carnegie Science Center, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, MuseumLab,  and Manchester Craftsman’s Guild.

And at home, parents can create an “Ask It Basket,” where kids write down their questions and you have fun taking time later to discover the answers.

Lesson two: Seek out and build environments that support creativity.

“It’s about recognizing that learning happens everywhere. So it can happen in every corner of the household, but it can also happen as we venture out to the grocery store or to the bank,” Behr says.

Fred Rogers purposely used blue walls, wood, and sunlight on his set – all scientifically shown to promote creativity.

Whether it’s making a mini maker-space in our homes or exploring new places, the environment is important for creativity.

And the third lesson: Be present. It matters more than anything else.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have great advice. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you always have to be able to say the right thing,” Rydzewski says. “It just means that being present for someone is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to somebody else.”

They suggest parents set aside time for kids, like we do for colleagues and friends, and genuinely listen to them. This is one of the best ways to spread Mr. Rogers’ lesson that every child is special.

And one way to set aside time is to create “Saturday Experiments,” where every Saturday you find a new thing to do or place to explore.

You can get many more lessons beyond these three in the book, which is on presale now and comes out April 20 — http://whenyouwonder.org/index.html