Family Home & Living Interviews

Cara Zelas on Creating an Educational Platform Centered on Kindness

Black and white photo of Cara Zelas and her therapy dog Little Dude.
Cara Zelas and Little Dude

Big World of Little Dude is an educational platform that teaches social and emotional skills to children. “Our mission is to foster positive outcomes of love, kindness and empathy through experiencing a rich and engaging evidence-based social and emotional curriculum,” said Cara Zelas, author, educator and founder of the company.

Research shows that participating in the arts helps kids develop social and emotional skills. So it’s not surprising to find many creative craft activities in Big World of Little Dude’s curriculum.

An example of Big World of Little Dude's curriculum. This graphic is called Sounds and Affirmations.
Courtesy of Cara Zelas.

Cara, an all-around delight, is from Australia and now calls New York City home. She and her therapy dog Little Dude visit hospitals and schools throughout the Big Apple, where they deliver kindness and support to those in need. If you haven’t already guessed, Little Dude is the star of Big World of Little Dude’s content.

We asked Cara to tell us more about her creative company.

Artisan Joy: How did Big World of Little Dude begin?

Cara Zelas: I am a teacher who loves creating engaging activities for children and families. When I was pregnant with my first child, I wanted to have a hybrid of staying at home while continuing to teach children.

AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your children’s craft projects?

CZ: I find inspiration in nature, from my children, and mostly from a desire of wanting to create crafts centered on kindness and beauty with a thoughtful and meaningful lesson behind each one.

Butterfly wings craft project for children from Big World of Little Dude's curriculum.
One of Big World of Little Dude’s Craft Projects. Courtesy of Cara Zelas.

AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

CZ: I used to work in the television industry behind the scenes.

AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining. How do you handle perfectionism?

CZ: The struggle to release my craft out into the universe ebbs and flows. It really depends on how I feel about myself in that current moment. Trying to have the self-awareness to know that people looking at your work are looking at it through a different lens.

AJ: What advice would you give to a maker interested in putting a product out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?

CZ: Just do it. The more you create and put out there, the less scary it becomes. And be gentle with yourself.

AJ: Can you share some tips with our audience on handling criticism?

CZ: When you get negative feedback, it’s about ego. You have to remember that you can’t please everyone. As long as you are true to yourself and authentic—that’s what you should focus on.

AJ: Creatives are often very in tune with what’s happening in the world. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. If this happens to you, how do you cope?

CZ: I get out in nature. This is my one tried-and-true medicine when I take a walk in a beautiful rainforest or look at the ocean; it connects me with the present moment and gives me perspective.

AJ: Are you passionate about a cause, and why?

CZ: I love The Good Dog Foundation. My dog, Little Dude, and I are a therapy dog team, and we, along with many other handlers and wonderful dogs, deliver snuggles, kindness and love to vulnerable people. You can learn more about the non-profit organization at thegooddogfoundation.org.

AJ: What brings you joy?

CZ: My family and nature.

Butterfly wings craft project for children from Big World of Little Dude's curriculum.
One of Big World of Little Dude’s Craft Projects. Courtesy of Cara Zelas.

Thanks, Cara! You can visit Big World of Little Dude at www.worldoflittledude.com and follow the brand on Instagram or Facebook.

This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.

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