Meet Mong Bear.
At the tender age of three, my daughter designed this bear. I’m unsure of how Mong-Bear got her remarkable moniker, but let’s go with the excuse de jour; The Russians made us do it*.
I’m sharing Mong Bear with you all because I was recently asked how to encourage creativity in young children. I don’t think Mong Bear is quite what the nice woman in the hand-shibori skirt had in mind when she asked. And yet, here we are.
Mong Bear is a girl. All my daughter’s teddies are girls, including Bruce, the chain-smoking camel from Tennant Creek. Bruce went through a bit of a rough patch during in the plastic-sheet floods of 2012 but he perked up a bit with a touch of lippy. Bruce, however, is a ‘normal’ teddy – he came from a shop. As you can see, it’s going to take more than a smear of Cinnamon Blush to set Mong Bear to rights.
But here’s the thing; Mong Bear is actually perfect. Like the squid that swims backwards or Gina Reinhart in a pair of safety goggles (think: shrink-wrapped polyp with windows), Mong Bear is the pinnacle of her species.
I know this because teddies, all teddies, are designed to make little people happy. And, four years on, Mong Bear has delighted, captivated and comforted my daughter in ways that a normal teddy could never do.
Mong Bear’s perfection lies in her design; she was made to the exacting specifications of a three year old. Armed with a pen and huge piece of paper, my kid and I thrashed out the blueprint for the World’s Most Loveable Ted. It went something like this;
A head shaped like this.
No, no, more like this.
A biiiiig tummy.
A long thin body.
Arms, not too long. Shorter. No shorter. NO MUM! Shorter! Yes, short legs too. Very short.
Kids are acute observers of humans. Good teddies must be teddy-ish but also human-ish. That is, wobbly, myopic orange nerds that are at once too thin and too fat and evoke the suspicion that Teddy’s mum got stuck into the mint julep at a critical juncture. Mong Bear is eminently patient and cuddly, but also, clearly, requires thick glasses and endless operations. Perfect.
Mong Bear has provided my daughter with years of love and fun. But she’s also taught me an important lesson: Big People have no business designing teddies. Big People have troubling pre-conceptions about Cute and/or Fluffy and discernible limbs. Indeed, Mong Bear made me realise that, aside from the ones that look like animals, most store-bought teddies resemble Kevin Rudd. They are small eyed and biscuity, with wobbly heads and a penchant for being smarmy in Mandarin.
Three year olds do not design Kevin Rudd. (Maybe they should).
All children should design at least one teddy. They will, of course, need your help.
Now I realise that a lot of adults have trouble being creative in this way. So I’ve devised two simple guidelines;
- Your teddy should be completely unique – see above.
- the end result should look like it could win a heart-wrenching class action suit against the Federal government at some point in the future.
Now, get stuck in!
*Sometimes it’s way dodgier to explain why the name that sounds ‘good’ isn’t actually good at all, than to just cough loudly and say ‘Oh, yes she’s named after our daughter’s favourite bean sprout’.