I don’t know what made me think about Bob Ross and his classic PBS show, The Joy of Painting, but one day, I started telling my kids about it. They’re four and five years old, and in a flash of inspiration, I realized this show is perfect for them to watch before bedtime: his quiet voice narrates as he paints, his calm encouragements make viewers feel like we could do this too, and the relaxing sound of brush strokes in the background is nothing if not hypnotic.
I remember laying on the couch as a kid, mesmerized by his ability to transform a white canvas into a nature scene full of “happy little trees” in real time. Would his magic work on children of this new generation who are accustomed to watching vibrant, flashing animation and are already trained to bounce from one YouTube Kids video to another within milliseconds of starting it?
The answer is a resounding yes!
My son asks to watch “the calm guy,” and my daughter asks for “the man who shows us how to paint,” and perhaps most amazing of all is that we’ve finally found a show that our whole family will sit down to watch together.
Before we rediscovered Bob Ross, my husband and I were guilty of sitting with the kids while they watched their bedtime show, but we weren’t actually viewing the program with them. Paw Patrol, Blaze and the Monster Machines, and the new Muppet Babies just couldn’t hold our attention night after night, so I’d work on my computer while my husband would occupy himself with his phone. We were physically there, cuddling with our kids, but we weren’t really present. And to be honest, I wasn’t concerned about it—right after the show is over, we have focused time with each child reading and talking with them.
But now I see how much of an opportunity we were missing by not starting that connection earlier in the bedtime routine. We’ve had fun sharing the Bob Ross experience with our kids because we’re just as amazed at what he can do. It’s calming for all of us, it’s reinforced our daughter’s budding love for art, and sparked an interest in our otherwise “too busy to sit and paint” son.
Thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime, we have access to 21 seasons of the show, and while I don’t know how long Bob Ross’s bedtime magic will last for us, we’ll appreciate watching every “happy tree” come to life while we can.