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Teaching Kids to Be Unique

Welcome to our April Online Book Club for Kids.  Each month, we choose a different children’s author, highlight their books and share a number of kids activities & crafts.

This month, our featured author & illustrator is David Shannon.


David Shannon’s illustrations include very bright and vibrant colors.  His stories are both fun and include wonderful lessons for kids. 

Two of our favorite books include:



In both of these stories, the idea of being unique and standing out from the crowd is a key message. 

In A Bad Case of Stripes, Camilla loves lima beans but doesn’t eat them — “All of her friends hated lima beans, and she wanted to fit in.  Camilla was always worried about what other people thought of her.”

And in the story Duck on a Bike, Duck decides to take a bike ride through the farmyard.  Many of the other animals express negative thoughts as he enjoys his ride.  But when bikes become available to all the animals, they each jump on and try it out!

Normally, I would share a kids activity that connects with our books for the month.  But when I began to read the stories by David Shannon, I realized that this month’s activity should be more a family activity — discussing what makes each of us unique.


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Encouraging Kids to Stand out in a Crowd

It’s so important that kids understand how being unique and doing what you love (instead of what you think others want you to do) will make you a happy person.  When kids are younger, it’s so easy for them to be unique — wearing cowboy boots with pajamas to the grocery store is frequently observed with toddlers and preschoolers.

As children grow, they begin to realize that others may judge them based on what they wear or what they do.  As a parent,  encourage kids to be themselves, to stand out in a crowd and do what they enjoy.

Sharing books like these are a great way to share these lessons and reinforce a child’s ability to be different from others –

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”
A.A. Milne


It’s also important to have regular conversations about ‘being yourself’.  Whether it’s a dinner discussion about what they love to do or daily compliments focusing on doing what you love, kids build confidence through these positive interactions.

Here are a few ideas for encouraging kids to be unique:

Compliment kids on what they do to stand out

Make sure they understand that there are things they do that are special and different from others.  Maybe it’s how they are always offering to help or ways that they are always accpeting of others.  Reinforce the idea of accepting differences in others – everyone doesn’t have to play the same sport or be involved in the same activities.  And teach children to compliment others on what makes them unique.

Share your experiences 

We’ve all had not-so-wonderful interactions with others when we something we did was being judged in a negative light.  When your child comes home from school and tells you that their feelings were hurt, listen and then share a similar experience you may have had when you were younger.  It helps children to know that we all go through these struggles – when someone who is a friend may do or say something that’s very ‘unfriend-like’. 

Let them do what they enjoy (especially when it’s different from the crowd)

We need to encourage kids to do what they love — don’t do things to impress others or because ‘everyone else does it’. You know that phrase almost every parent or grandparent uttered to us at kids “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?”  Of course we wouldn’t, we’d say.  But yet, we just had to wear the same sneakers as everyone else, right?!

So many children will do “what my best friend is doing” because they are afraid if they don’t, they may lose a friend.  Help them to understand that they don’t need to do what their friend’s do; people will respect them and still be their friend if they do what they enjoy.

There’s a great proverb for this too:

“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Bernard M. Baruch


This is a big saying in our house — it means that a friend doesn’t mind if you make your own choices, they will still be your friend.  And those people that do express their negative opinions shouldn’t matter in your life (just ignore what they say and go on living your own way).

Letting children do what they enjoy can also be a challenge for us parents too – we played piano as a child so we just naturally sign our kids up to do the same.   But we have to remember, we are all individuals and enjoy different activities.  Just because you enjoyed sports doesn’t mean your child will enjoy them – they may want to be an artist or dancer!  Give them a variety of choices to learn what activities they may enjoy the most and then support them.

Have you experienced this with your children?  How do you encourage them to be unique?




We have many other great activities & crafts for you this month — enjoy browsing all the David Shannon ideas from these wonderful blogs: