Ice Cream

Nothing says summer like ice cream.  Make a special end-of-school memory with this sweet project from The Educator’s Spin On It Each child creates their own “scoop” of ice cream and a giant cone to hold a scoop from every classmate. Our twist: Embellish each scoop with a photo! Each child will take home a truly sweet story of their school year…one that includes all of their pals! Top it off with a poem that says it all, “We’re like an ice cream, each of us unique.  But when we come together, our cone is complete.”

What you’ll need:

  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Scissors and glue
  • Printable poems, one for each child, cut apart to glue. Use the printable for $1.99 or make your own.
  • Small portraits of each child in the class. This is another way to enjoy minis from your Teddy Bear Portraits Pack O’ Photos. You’ll need enough copies of each portrait for every child in the class.

Serve it up:

As needed, pre-cut and glue for very young kids.

  1. Cut out each portrait in a circle.

 

  1. To make the scoops, cut circles from the paper that are large enough to hold a portrait plus the child’s name. Size these to include a border so kids can glue the scoops together without covering up the photos. Use a different color for each child. They should all have the same number of scoops as children in the class.

 

  1. Cut out a big ice cream cone for each child. This may be several inches tall, large enough to scoop it high and hold the poem. Glue a poem onto each cone.
  2. Let each child add their portraits and names to their scoops. Jazz up those ice cream cones, too!
  3. Pile on the fun. When the scoops are ready, each child picks up one from each classmate and glues the scoops onto their cones. Stack ‘em high, spill ‘em over, make pyramids, rows or wrap them around.

 

Now that’s a cool treat . . .  and no worries about drips on the car seat on the way home!

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Whether you’re a regular on the sand or anchored more inland, kick off summer by celebrating World Oceans Day and help kids explore the vital role and wonder of our oceans.  After all, our oceans make up more than 70% of our planet!

The United Nations designated June 8th as an annual opportunity to honor and protect the beauty and bounty of our oceans. This year the theme is Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.  Events  are planned all over the world to raise awareness about how the health of the ocean impacts our lives, from climate change to food security.   Here are 3 ways kids can join in the celebration.

Have a photography contest.

World Oceans Day is hosting its second photography contest, which includes an open category for youth under age 16. Single-use waterproof film cameras are easy and affordable, or you can snap up a deal on an underwater digital camera for less than $100.

Or how about hosting your own photo contest for your kids or their summer school class? Make a field trip out of it by taking kids to visit an aquarium or a tropical fish store and take photos with your smartphones. Print photos to make an ocean themed collage or get crafty and have kids make their own Finding Nemo  3D coral reef diorama.

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Do an experiment. 

Basic science is a great place to start preschoolers learning about the oceans. Why are our oceans salty? And what is the difference between saltwater and freshwater? Little eyes will pop open with surprise at this simple hands-on experiment of saltwater versus freshwater.

Take the Better Bag Challenge

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Most of us know plastic bags are not eco-friendly, but did you know Americans use more than 100 billion plastic bags each year?! Plastic trash is carried into the ocean and harms sea animals of all kinds, especially birds and turtles. The problem is serious, but solvable. Take the Better Bag Challenge and commit to using reusable bags from here on out. Share the challenge and encourage others to stop using plastic bags too. For the plastic bags you have already, try reusing them or recycling them (you can often find recycling bins for plastic bags at the front of grocery stores).

Other ways to celebrate

Tell stories, read books, make art, get kids outdoors (anywhere they can appreciate and experience nature) — all of these activities connect kids to nature and encourage their wonder and appreciation of our remarkable, incredible oceans.

And check back on our blog in the coming weeks for tips on underwater photography!

Cupcakes

We found this cute party idea over at A Cup of Jo.  Make these cute little toppers to delight everyone at the next kid’s birthday or classroom party on your calendar! Start with the small sugary classic everyone loves and top it off with something even sweeter: the darling face at the center of attention.

These portrait cupcake toppers add a simple surprise that becomes an easy keepsake to make for guests as a memento of that special day for the guest of honor.

Here’s how to make these cute cupcake toppers:

  1. Take some photos of the child or go through your collection and find an image that will work at cupcake size. Do you have your Teddy Bear wallet portraits? They’re great for this. You can either repeat the same portrait on every cupcake or use different shots.
  2. Make enough copies of the photo for every cupcake. If the photos are on lightweight paper, glue them to light cardstock as backing.
  3. Trim each portrait in a circle and glue a toothpick to the back. For tiny kids, you can use a popsicle stick.

When it’s party time, whip up your favorite batch of cupcakes and top off each one with the star of the day — looking delectable and adorable!

More ideas:

Make it a sweet repeat – If the child is five years old, you could also use photos at ages one, two, three, and four.  Everyone will be amazed to see how the little one has changed in such a short time.

Top it off with everyone – Celebrate everyone in the family or classroom by creating a topper for each.

Cupcakes are always a hit, but these toppers bump the cuteness quotient right off the charts. If you make them, please post on Facebook. We’d love to see!

Cleaning

The bright sunshine and fresh air of springtime bring out the urge to purge and clean. It’s also prime time for small children to pick up this habit — and their rooms! When spaces are bright and organized, everyone feels good. And kids who pitch in on a job well done may be inspired to keep things tidy going forward.

Even very young preschoolers can help, especially when you inject fun and games into the cleanup. Here are some ideas inspired by an article at education.com, with a few suggestions of our own. We’d love to hear your ideas, too!

Short and sweet does it

Set up kids for success with short, doable tasks they can complete in a few minutes such as picking up toys or sorting books. Use a timer and challenge them see how much they can get done. When the bell rings, give them a treat!

Musical statues

Lift mood and spirits with some high-energy music. When the music stops, everyone freezes in place, no matter what they’re doing! Odd postures and wiggles make for lots of laughs.  Who can be a statue the longest?

Reading and sorting fun

Young readers can track down expired foods in the pantry and fridge. For more fun with letters, alphabetize the spice rack, movies and books. Take time with kids to explore their discoveries; for example, smell and taste the spices that go into their favorite muffins, or set aside a long-lost, newly found book to enjoy later. Kids can also sort socks, find missing mates and roll clothing to stash in drawers. Making labels is fun for older kids, especially if you have a label maker.

New storage

As quickly as kids develop, it’s often time to update storage for new activities and clothing. You might add open shelving, colorful plastic bins, or new play stations, perhaps a crafts or a game table. They’ll have fun stashing stuff in snazzy new places. Teach them to put like things together.

Follow the leader

Play follow the leader throughout the house, wiping down wall marks, fishing out dust bunnies, or swiping off dust. Take turns trading off the leader, doing a different job every five minutes. Get a colorful duster for each child.

Want to go beyond dusting or wiping walls? Make sure to keep kids away from the chemical cleaners like Windex and Fantastik. If you want to involve kids in heavier cleaning, try out natural products! You’d be surprised at what you can use as a substitute–many of which you can find already in your kitchen– like vinegar, salt and baking soda.

With a little imagination, you’ll all soon get the job done, and kids will be on their way to a great habit.  Besides, it’s spring: let all those dust bunnies out to play!

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Here’s a floral craft for little ones to celebrate springtime — just in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or any day that could be made brighter with a handmade gift. This special bouquet keeps on giving, thanks to a sweet face tucked into the bunch.

This easy project uses cardboard/cardstock and plenty of popsicle sticks, so dig into your project stash! You’ll also need colorful non-toxic paint, brushes, glue, heavy-duty scissors and portraits of the kids. Teddy Bear Portraits Pack O’ Photos will do just fine!

  1. Glue portraits to cardstock

Glue each child’s portrait onto cardboard or heavy cardstock. When dry, cut out the child’s face in a circle or oval.

  1. Have kids paint the petals

Have kids paint one side of about eight craft sticks: these will be the flower petals and stem. Use a couple of colors for extra pop!

  1. Assemble the portrait flower

When everything is dry, set aside one craft stick to become the stem.

Cut half of the remaining craft sticks in half. Cut the other half a bit shorter (a half inch or so). These will form the flower petals, which you’ll glue to the back of the portrait.

With portrait face down, glue the craft sticks onto the back of the portrait in an alternating short-long pattern. Glue on the stem and long petals first. Allow to dry, then glue on the short petals in between the long ones. They’ll overlap.

When dry, this bouquet is ready for special delivery . . . and guaranteed to get a smile from mom, dad, grandma or a favorite teacher.

Children's Book Week

A love of reading is a lifelong gift for every child and the heart of the national celebration Children’s Book Week. For nearly a century, this annual literacy initiative has celebrated the joy of reading and connected young readers to the best of children’s literature.

Annual festivities include book-related parties and events, “coast to coast, cover to cover.” Here are five ways you can be a part of this year’s celebration.

#1 Become a Book Week Champion

Celebrate Children’s Book Week at home or in school. Order a free commemorative poster by Grace Lee, and download the official printable bookmark by Raúl Colón.

Use the digital toolkit to spread the word with badges, posts and tweets for your social media sites.

Check the official website for a growing list of national and local events.  Keep your eyes open for activities at your local library, schools, and bookstores.

Are books out of your reach? Try Imagination Library, a great free early literacy program that mails children nationwide (from birth until age 5) a new age-appropriate book every month to promote a passion for reading and learning.  Selections include classics like The Little Engine That Could and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Each book targets child developmental milestones like visual stimulation, repetition, colors and letters, depending on age. You can enroll your child and connect with local affiliates of the program here.

#2 Take a picture

Take a photo of your child with their favorite book.  Have the kids dress up as their favorite character for the picture, or snuggling with a parent while reading together.  Share your favorites on our page!

#3 Especially for educators

Teachers will find loads of fun ideas for kids of all ages here.  Suggestions include dress-up parties, a community read-along, scavenger hunts, puzzles, puppet parties, bilingual story hour and chain stories — to name just a few!

#4 Make kids’ voices count

Dubbed “the Academy Awards” of children’s reading, the Children’s Choice Book Awards invites kids to read the nominated books and vote for their favorites.  Voting is open now and ends May 3, 2015.  Help kids vote online or download free printable ballots to hold an election at your home or school. Winners will be announced in New York City on May 4.

#5 Share the joy

Help kids celebrate the joy of reading by sharing books all week long. Hold a book exchange to bring the excitement of fresh material into little hands. Have kids donate books to a hospital or family shelter. Organize a fundraising event to buy books for a library, daycare or school. Volunteer to read aloud at a nursing home and take the little ones.

Make May 4 -10 a week to remember. Sit down with a child, read together, talk together, learn together. As Maurice Sendak says, “There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.”

Mother's Day Blog Post Card

Here’s a fun 3D card design from Better Homes and Gardens preschoolers can make to help mother celebrate her day. She’s sure to display and enjoy these cards for months to come as they capture the innocence of her fast-changing babies, even if they are well past babyhood.

These cards use a simple flower design with a sweet standout: colorful cupcake liners form the flower petals, with the face of a child in the center of each flower. Kids love the 3D effect that the liners create and have fun planting their own images in unexpected places. And this is another great way to use wallets or minis from your Pack O’ Photos.

This easy project uses items you have on hand:

  • Card stock or construction paper, including green for leaves and stems
  • Cupcake liners – keep it simple or go crazy with colorful prints, foils, laser-cut patterns, minis and scalloped edges
  • Portraits of each child, in a size that can be trimmed to fit the base of a cupcake liner
  • Scissors and glue or drawing materials

Jump in and help the littlest ones with this craft, especially with cutting.

  1. Cut the cardstock into rectangles to serve as the card background.
  2. Have kids draw and cut out flower stems and leaves, and glue in place. Or they can simply draw these on the card. They may want to leave space to write something to mom.
  3. Trim the portraits into circles to fit in the base of the cupcake liner.
  4. Glue portraits in the cupcake liners, then glue the liners on the top of the stems on the card to create the flowers.
  5. Add a note of love to Mom.

Variations include layering cupcake liners in different colors, cutting edges into petal shapes, or whatever ideas your kids come up with. You could also use craft felt for the flower parts.

Each child or member of the family could make a card for mom, which she could then display as a bouquet using card stands in a vase.

What to do with all of those leftover cupcake liners? Your kids may have some ideas! Cupcakes go especially well with cards, so don’t forget to wrap up a few for mom.

Mother's Day Blog Post Vase

Tulips, lilacs, iris, peonies . . . A fast succession of May flowers in the garden is perfectly timed to celebrate Mother’s Day. Make a home for the beautiful blossoms with this easy craft for mom that is personalized with kids’ portraits!

Add a picture window and a vibrant splash of color with this craft from HomeStories: A to Z to transform a common mason jar into a colorful vase for all the moms who deserve appreciation this time of year: from aunts to teachers, neighbors to grandmothers–and you, of course!

What you’ll need:

  • Empty Mason jar
  • Non-toxic paint in bright spring color
  • Small paint brush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Photo of child. Teddy Bear Portrait’s wallet-sized portraits are perfect for this!
  • Clear top-coat spray finish for sealing

To make the vase:

  1. Have kids choose the portraits they want to feature.
  2. Measure the portrait and use painter’s tape to block out a slightly smaller “window” on the outside of the jar for the portrait to show through. Or if you have other removable adhesive material such as stickers or shelf liner, use this and cut a fancy edge with decorative-edge scissors if you have them.
  3. Paint the outside of the jar. Carefully remove the tape before the paint dries.
  4. After the paint is dry, distress the embossing on the jar by scraping off some of the paint. Use a blunt-edged tool or sandpaper.
  5. In a ventilated area away from kids, spray the jar with a clear finish. Let dry.
  6. Tape the portrait to the inside of the jar so it shows through the “window.”
  7. Protect the portrait from water damage by inserting a cup in the jar to hold water for flowers. This vase also makes a great lumière when lit by an electric candle.

 

Let us know if you surprise mom by adding this vase on a tray with breakfast in bed — or perk up a teacher’s desk at preschool.   Either way, it’s a gift that’s sure to brighten a special lady’s day!

Spring Crafts #20 Picture

After a long winter, the first signs of spring are always welcome! If you have children in tow, it’s a joy to see the season unfold through their eyes. Little hands simply must pick those first flowers (especially your neighbor’s), often for complete dissection, as all young children seem to become naturalists this time of year.
Here’s an activity to feed their curiosity and celebrate springtime in a project inspired by this lesson from Scholastic.

Find books with spring themes
Spend a few minutes in your stacks or at the library selecting books with springtime content. Here are some titles that focus on spring to get you started:

● Spring is Here! by Mary Packard – This book, from Scholastic Trade, explores the sights and sounds of the season through the eyes of a little girl.
● And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, Erin E. Stead – In this Booklist Editor’s Choice title, a boy and his dog plant a garden and await signs of spring.
● Everything Spring by Jill Esbaum – From National Geographic, this book uses photographic close-ups to explore spring, from buds to baby animals.
Focus story time on the new season
Read one or two books with the kids and focus on what happens in spring in contrast to winter. Ask them what they have noticed is new. You might explore why the days are getting longer, what plants need to grow and why springtime is a good time for animals to have their babies.
Make a “Signs of Spring” poster
Kids can now put together a poster showing the signs of spring as words, drawings, or clipped images. This can be a group or individual project.

1. Get a sheet of craft paper or poster board, large enough for all kids to participate. Label it “Signs of Spring”
2. Give kids drawing materials or magazines to cut from. They’ll also need age appropriate scissors and tape or glue.
3. Have kids make their signs of spring to add to the poster. Help them come up with ideas. For example, you might ask:
● What activities can they do in spring they couldn’t do in winter?
● Are they wearing different clothing from winter?
● Do they see any new colors outdoors?
● What is happening on the trees?
● What new sounds do they hear outdoors?
Have kids share their signs of spring as they add them to the poster. Display the complete piece on the wall or bulletin board.
This is also a great project to add to as the season progresses. Just remind your budding naturalists to be on the lookout for what’s new this spring!

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If you have a family with small children, you’re bound to have hundreds of great photos sitting in digital memory. Many of these are “keepers” you would love to pull together if only you had the time. Add to these a growing collection of videos of holidays, birthday parties, concerts, vacations, and sporting events. And as soon as kids start preschool, there’s a steady stream of artwork, including treasures that end up in folders or boxes.

So many memories to manage and share! New digital albums can help you keep it all together. One you might want to try is Keepy. It uses a Facebook-style timeline to create beautifully organized playlists of your child’s treasured moments.  For example, you could pull together highlights of your child’s year in preschool, or a series of school portraits, including your favorites from Teddy Bear Portraits.

Record the story behind any image or video.

Keepy is designed especially for families with growing kids. Simply organize photos and video into timelines, then capture more memories by adding a voice-over, such as the story behind a child’s art project. Keepy is private and you share your timeline with friends and family by invitation, using the best tool for them: email, the Keepy website or a smartphone. As an added bonus, you can use the app to archive your images to Dropbox for safekeeping.

A Two-Way Street

Not only can you share content, but anyone who sees it can easily respond by adding their own voice, video, or text comments — to give your little one a digital high-five! No matter how far away aunties and grandparents are, this app lets everyone share the excitement of a recital or cheer on a young artist in the making.  And kids will love checking in to see who’s commenting on their latest post.

A 2014 coolmomtechTM pick of the year, families on a budget can get started with the free basic option supporting 15 photos or videos per month. For unlimited use, the monthly and annual subscriptions are pleasantly affordable.

If you give it a try, please let us know what you think and how your kids like it.

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Learning the letters of the alphabet may seem basic, but kids have to do a mental double take to master both uppercase and lowercase letter forms. They may wonder how “big A” is the same as “little a” — how two different shapes mean the same thing. Thankfully, many of the shapes do relate, and you can help kids by pointing out these similarities.

To add some fun along the way, here’s a super-sized alphabet matching game and craft. This project comes from Filth Wizardry, a blog that shares “messy arts and crafts” tested by the author’s three active girls. This craft is not messy by our standards, but is room-sized fun!

Basically, you’ll create a matching game from uppercase and lowercase alphabets, and kids will have fun decorating the letters to their heart’s desire.

  1. Get a good-sized roll of paper, such as fax, masking, or newsprint, about 1 ft. wide. You may need a couple of dozen feet in length to fit in the full alphabet, depending on how wide you make the letters.
  2. Draw the uppercase letters on a continuous strip of paper. If you can, draw each letter as a large outline shape so young kids can easily color inside. Of course, coloring outside the lines is fair game, too!
  3. Draw the lowercase letters on another strip of paper, and then cut each letter apart. Or simply use separate sheets of paper or index cards for these.
  4. Next, you’ll tape the uppercase strip on the floor. First, cut the strip as needed to fit your floor and make a rectangle. Warn kids not to step on the paper or it may slip. You could also tape it to the wall or place on tables.
  5. Turn kids loose with crayons to decorate the letters.
  6. Ask kids to match the lowercase letters by placing them with the big letters. Have them decorate the little letters, too. The colors can match — or not.

This project would also work on a small scale, something like a board game.

Flash cards, sticky notes, magnets, blocks or other 3D letters, alphabet books and alphabet posters are all great tools to help kids learn their letters. Practicing lettering is a powerful exercise, so another take on this craft when kids are ready is to have them help draw the alphabets. Although small kids may not be ready to draw all the letters, especially in outline form (still a challenge for some of us) other styles of lettering will do just fine.

From A to Z, learning the letters can be a simple matter of “F” for fun and “g” for games. Eventually, kids get the idea. When it clicks, you may find they happily sing out letters of the alphabet as they spot big and little letters . . . everywhere!

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Spring is just around the corner and nicer weather means more outdoor time with kids. If you haven’t thought about introducing your preschoolers to photography yet, you may be missing out on lots of fun — it’s a portable activity that goes anywhere.

Today’s digital cameras for kids are inexpensive and childproof, with some designed for fingers as young as age three. These colorful cameras look like toys but pack a lot of power, often with video or filters for special effects.

Photography builds motor, visual, and creative skills — all as it opens small eyes to the wonders of the world. Digital cameras also give kids just the instant feedback they love, for a quick boost in confidence as they learn and improve.

How to get started

Start by teaching kids how to hold the camera. Kneel down to their level to look at the view screen with them. Show them how to click the shutter. If they have problems holding the camera still, rest it against a doorway, windowsill, or chair.

If kids need more help understanding the idea of framing a picture, use an empty picture frame, holding it up so they can see how to fit objects and views inside. For first shots, keep it simple. Flowers or favorite toys are good subjects. Review the shots with the child until they get the hang of it.

Time for photo adventures

After they master the basics, young photographers are soon ready to go on assignment. Take them on photo hunts for favorite colors, clouds, birds, people wearing baseball caps — you name it — or they do! Take cameras on outings like a visit to the zoo or to a grandparent’s house. Older kids might ask grandparents about objects that are special to them, such as something given to them by their own grandparents that they’d like to have photographed. The act of photography itself can open a door to family stories, all while making new memories with the youngest generation.

Be sure to find ways to use children’s photos: in crafts, framed and hung, as gifts, as cards, screensavers or in scrapbooks. Kids can use their photos to write stories, whether on paper or digital devices.   Encourage them to create a memory book that journals the world through their eyes at various ages, which they can share with their own children in years to come.

However kids’ photos are used and enjoyed, photography is a rewarding way for even very young children to explore their world and share their vision with others.

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Life runs more smoothly when everyone takes the time to put things away. Organizing is a skill every child needs to succeed and preschool is primetime to grow this habit. Why not make it a little fun? We even have some ideas for using your Teddy Bear Portraits Pack O’ Photos, too!

  1. Timed Game – Set a timer and see who can put the most items away in three minutes.
  2. Clutter Hunt – Get cute removable stickers or colored dots and mark items that have been out of place too long. Make it a game to find the clutter and put it away. Who can collect the most stickers?
  3. Fling Boogie – This fun idea originally comes from the queen of clean herself, Fly Lady. Not only can you tidy up, but get kids up and moving. Put on some upbeat music and dance through the rooms with kids, patrolling for out-of-place items. Find a preset number of things to go out — whether for trash, donation, or recycling, and use tubs or bags to organize what you collect. Celebrate with popcorn or another treat.
  4. Out with Old, in with New – This simple idea teaches kids to organize and Plan this activity before or after a birthday, holiday or start of school, when new items usually come into your house. Help kids find toys or clothing to donate, so they learn the idea of sharing unwanted things with others who may need them. The fun? Help them visualize making room for new and fun things and the smiles they’ll bring to another child.
  5. Personalize with Portraits – Your Pack o’ Photos from Teddy Bear Portraits are the perfect size for labeling places and items-think children’s storage! Kids have more fun putting something away in a personalized space, especially featuring their own image!
  • Coat hooks and lockers
  • Toy and storage bins, shelves and drawers
  • Special items such as an instrument case or sports bin

Cut portraits into circles or ovals and apply with removable adhesive. Laminate for use as a tie-on tags for things like coats and bookbags.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is a worthy goal at any age. Tidying up is even more rewarding when storage places are customized for their content and labeled with a name or portrait.  Let us know how it works with your kids!

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Spring is here and with it comes bright sunshine and bursts of color! Easter will be here soon and we’re getting ready to dress Teddy for the Easter parade. He needs some help selecting his Easter colors. Will your child help “TeddyBunny” pick a colorful look in time for Easter?

Fill in and return Teddy’s coloring sheet and we’ve got a sweet reward for you–one you’ll treasure for years to come!

Send the finished coloring sheet to us at the online address below, and you’ll receive a $25 gift card code toward ordering portrait sheets at our online store.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Download Teddy’s coloring sheet here
  2. Print the coloring sheet and enter your contact information at the bottom.
  3. Have kids color Teddy Bear for Easter.

Either scan or photograph the finished sheet and email it to socialmedia@teddybearportraits.com

The last day for submission is April 4th, 2015.

 

You’ll soon receive a gift card code for $25 toward portrait sheets at our online store, valid through April 20th, 2015.

Custom gifts fill Easter baskets with smiles

Add to your child’s fun this Easter with a gift from our online store. Any child would love to be surprised with their portrait on a jigsaw puzzle, colorful growth chart, T-shirt, lunch cooler, magnet, key chain or even a placemat. (What a cute surprise for Easter breakfast!)

Don’t forget aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends! Share your child’s beautiful portrait on useful products for home, work or play. Our most popular gifts include ceramic and stainless steel travel mugs, magnets, sports bottles and marble coasters. Our wooden memory box is an elegant place to tuck a sweet pair of customized pierced earrings. Have more than one child? If you order a pair of earrings featuring each child, you could combine different singles into pairs to give to aunts, friends, and grandmothers.

From apparel and desk accessories to iPhone cases, you’ll find something for everyone on your list! These unique gifts will be treasured for years to come, all personalized with your child’s smile or a candid photo of your choice.

Please be sure to order early to receive gifts in time. Happy Easter, everyone!

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Photographic portraits used to be rare and treasured, taken only by professionals to record special milestones in the life of a person or family. If you’re like most people, you may have loads of these family photos buried in storage. Wondering what to do with them? Pull them out and enjoy these treasures for what they are!

Here’s an idea: make a family tree to tell the story of your family to your kids. This project can take on a life of its own with the magic of chalkboard paint, which lets you add to the story as you learn more about each person.

  1. Get your photos together. If you haven’t already, digitize old photos to preserve them. If you’re missing photos, check with your family and look online. From genealogy websites to cemetery records, you’d be amazed at what you can find — shots of babies, soldiers in uniform and relatives who made the newspaper. For missing photos, kids could draw portraits or symbols to represent each person.
  2. Make a board. This beautiful example was made from thin Masonite and painted with chalkboard paint. You could also use art board/foam core or designate a wall in your house for the family tree and framing the prints.
  3. After you have your board and know how many photos you plan to use, you may need to scale some photos. As you produce your final prints, consider adding fun effects like borders or changing modern shots to antique tones.
  4. Lay out the pictures on the board using double-sided adhesive. If you plan to track down more information about some of the people, leave space to add details.
  5. Use chalk or a chalk pen to add family names to the board.

As you learn more about each family member, you and kids can add details. What did great-granddad do for a living? Who had red hair? Kids may come up with questions of their own. Meanwhile, you’ll have a great reason to call Aunt Mary or post a question on Facebook.

It’s easy to see why professional portraits became an instant hit more than a century ago. Teddy Bear Portraits proudly continues this tradition of fine portraiture but takes it further: with our lifetime replacement guarantee, you never have to worry about losing your portraits to discoloration, adhering to glass or a natural disaster. So print your portraits and start branching out with a family tree!

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Take a rainy day, add sunshine and what do you get? A rainbow. But if the weather isn’t game, gather up some little people and make your own rainbow for St. Patrick’s Day. This project is fun for preschoolers and perfect for decorating a doorway, bulletin board or thematic photo booth.

Step 1. Make an oversized outline

Get a large piece of cardboard or poster board, big enough so several kids can work on it together. Draw a big rainbow with a line between each color. What colors and how many? Think “Roy G. Biv” — for red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo and violet. Or have kids pick their favorites.

Drawing a rainbow is easy if you tack a string to the center bottom of the board. Pull the string taut and pivot to make an arc, adjusting string length to define each line of the rainbow. Tie or hold the pencil at various points on the string to draw each line. Cut out the rainbow, and mark each band with the color to be used.

Step 2. Gather collage materials

Tissue paper is especially pretty for this project, but you can use any colored material: construction paper, old art projects or magazines. Pre-cut any papers that might cause paper cuts. Other options include colorful buttons, dyed macaroni or broken crayons.

Step 3. Turn little hands loose

Have kids tear up the materials and glue them onto the rainbow.

Step 4. Make the pot of gold — add charm with portraits

Do you have a Teddy Bear Pack o’ Photos? These minis are wonderful for classroom projects!

Use construction paper to cut out a pot proportional to the rainbow and large enough to hold as many coins as kids in your group. Cut out coins big enough for a child’s name or portrait.

Cut out each portrait to fit and glue on a coin. Or have kids write their names on the coins. Glue coins in and around the pot.  Mount the rainbow and affix the pot under an end.

Lessons behind the legend?

Legend has it that if you catch a Leprechaun, he’ll lead you to the pot of gold he guards. This gold was supposedly left by the Vikings and hidden by fairies, fearful of a repeat of the greed that had brought ruination to the land. So even if you find your own pot of gold, it might be wise to leave it there . . . at least for another rainy day?

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#1 Get Genuine Smiles

Have your kids been photographed so much that they smile for the camera automatically? Even the youngest preschoolers learn to ham it up, strike a fake pose, or lock their faces into a “say cheese” position — yes, they’re showing teeth but at the expense of the real expression you’d love to get.

Instead of asking kids to “look natural,” you can help them simply be natural in front of the lens. Get them used to being photographed! Pull out your camera and take impromptu shots when kids are busy — playing, talking, eating, or even nodding off.

When you’re trying to take a more planned shot of a child, start a conversation. Ask about their day, a recent event that was funny, or something cute that happened in a storybook you’re reading together. For preschoolers, nonsense songs, catchy rhymes, and even inventing silly names for objects are reliable ways to get real smiles.

#2 Downplay Flash

If you have a point-and-shoot camera, the automatic flash was a feature you paid for, right? Unfortunately, the built-in flash can produce washed-out faces on dark backgrounds, especially indoors. Try turning off the flash and increasing the lighting from sources away from the lens. If you can’t turn off your flash, try diffusing the light by holding up a piece of white paper in front of the flash.

451056539 #3 Use the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a simple design principle that can improve your photos’ composition and create an interesting background. Imagine dividing your photo area with two horizontal and vertical lines to make a grid of 9 equal blocks. Place your subject off-center, on a major horizontal/vertical line of the grid or at a grid intersection point. Photographers often observe this rule by placing the eyes and mouth in these key positions.

Remember to focus on quality rather than quantity as you create lasting memories of your kids growing up. Having your child professionally photographed regularly is another reassuring way to make sure you have a record of your child’s authentic smile at every age.

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Kids’ art . . . little masterpieces enter your car clutched in tiny fists, crammed into backpacks or piled on seats. Then it migrates through your house, from countertop to refrigerator to boxes. Some parents are disciplined about keeping only the best pieces and tossing the rest, but even the best curators can soon face an unmanageable pile, especially if you have more than one child in the house.

So what to do with your kids’ art?

You’ve heard of having your cake and eating it too. Here’s one way to let go of the paper while preserving the art: capture it digitally and create a printed photo book.

Thanks to today’s technology, you can easily create professional-looking photo books of your child’s art.  A photo book lets you keep more artwork organized and preserved for years to come.

If you can take a digital photo or use a scanner, you’re halfway there. Once digitized, simply upload your child’s art pieces to an online photo service (there are dozens of options— one to fit every budget and creative need). Adding your child’s portraits is easy to do through Teddy Bear Portraits and a great way to remember artwork by your child’s age! Arrange, add and resize photos, add text and captions, jazz up pages with different layouts and backgrounds, and even print in a variety of sizes — from Instagram mini-books to gorgeous, artisan-quality coffee-table books. It’s all up to you!

Photo books are a great way to capture specific events and phases in your child and family’s life. For example, you could produce a book of artwork and special school projects for each grade level. Or capture a single summer or a special family vacation. These books also make wonderful gifts. Just imagine the smile crossing the face of your child all grown up, revisiting the small person he once was through a photo book, thoughtfully put together by a loved one like you.

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When cabin fever sets in and you’re running cold on ideas to keep kids busy, try this indoor photo memory scavenger hunt. It gets little bodies and brains moving, as kids find hidden photos and then revisit the memories. Our inspiration for this activity comes from blogger Allison McDonald, at No Time for Flash Cards. Just a little prep time on your part makes an afternoon fun and memorable.

What you’ll need:

  • Photos of the kids’ fun experience
  • Colored construction paper for photo backing
  • Glue and marker or pen

How to make photo cards:

  1. Select a collection of photos of experiences shared by the kids. These might be highlights from last year, family vacations, or special events at preschool — anything fresh and fun enough to stick in little minds.
  2. Print the photos on a color copier or a photo printer. If you need to lay out multiple photos on a page for printing, try free online software (such as picmonkey.com) to do the job. The size of the prints is up to you! Cut out each print.
  3. Cut construction paper as a mat and backing for each print. If you have a range of age groups in the hunt, use a different color for each group, so you can hide each color with age-appropriate difficulty.
  4. Glue each print to the backing.
  5. On the back of each mounted print, add some information to jog kids’ memories: a date, a place, or perhaps a question: “Where were you?”
  6. Hide the photos in locations appropriate for the kids’ ages.
  7. The hunt is on!

Story time

After kids find the photos, ask them to lay out the events in order. One fun option is to tape these to a whiteboard or chalkboard, so kids can add words or arrows to connect the story. Prompt kids to recall the events in the photos and share their memories.

These photo cards also make great material for another rainy-day project, like putting together a storybook.

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We love taking and having photos of our precious kids, whether they’re our own or little ones in our charge. But too often we focus our lens only on their faces, never thinking to include our own. So next time you’re out with the kids and a camera, consider putting yourself in a few

photos. In future years, kids will want to see and recall their experiences with you as much as they’ll want to see themselves. And twenty years from now, you will all be grateful for these memories of happy days you shared together.

#1 Ask someone to take a photo

This is the simplest way to get everybody in the shot. If you’re out and about, simply ask a passerby, “Would you mind taking our picture?” Don’t be shy — most people love to help. If you’re on your own with the kids, maybe an older child can capture the moment. You can help by setting up the shot and showing what you’d like to achieve.
#2 Use a built-in timer

Start the countdown and jump in! You’ll have to set up the shot and prop up your camera on a table or couch.
#3 Consider a remote shutter release

Did you know that standard headphones on newer iPhones double as a remote camera shutter release? Simply open your camera and press the headphone volume + button — click, it’s a remote control. Have a different smartphone? Google to see how to use the volume+ on a wired or bluetooth headphone as a wireless remote. Sometimes you need to download a different camera app. Want to get even fancier? Check out the many inexpensive wireless remote shutter release accessories available for your device.
#4 Invest in a small flexible tripod

With a tripod and your remote shutter release, you have time to set up the shot, get the kids settled into a nice pose, and be ready with a smile when the shutter clicks.

#5 Engage the services of a pro

Professional photography, available at many price points, can become priceless over time. At Teddy Bear Portraits, we capture the smile in your child’s eyes and make it easy for families to share memories of all of their children through the years. Use a professional photographer at least every other year to capture your family at its best.

Find more great ideas on posing and capturing your own family photos here. What does your family do to creatively capture the moment?

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This President’s Day, add to the fun of presidential hats and silhouettes by inviting kids to celebrate in a unique way — with a birthday party and gifts. After all, February is Washington and Lincoln’s birthday, and what kid doesn’t love a birthday party?

One way to start the day is to read an illustrated book about the presidents. Focus on the pictures and talk about what the world was like back then. How did people travel in Lincoln’s time?  What did they wear? What did Washington do for fun?

Ask your little guys what they think would make a fitting present for a president. As kids come up with ideas for historically accurate gifts, they go beyond learning a president’s name and a few stories about cherry trees and log cabins to visualizing what American life was like long ago. They may even imagine themselves celebrating with the president on his birthday!

Next, let each of the kids pick a present they think the presidents would enjoy the most. Have kids draw the gift or cut images from magazines and glue them to cardstock or a birthday card. Video each child presenting their gifts in a birthday greeting to the president and wrap up the day with a birthday party to celebrate. You can serve these patriotic goodies (or try some of the treats from Washington or Lincoln’s time) while the kids sit and watch each other’s videos.

George Washington may not have chopped down a cherry tree, but he loved cherries. And President Lincoln was never happier as a boy than when his mother baked gingerbread men. Often, it’s details like these that make learning stick.

Your kids will come up with clever, creative, and maybe even comical ideas.  Have fun and let us know some of your favorites.

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and if your refrigerator door or bulletin board isn’t overflowing with red hearts, it soon will be. As preschoolers get busy making cards, the lessons of the holiday come into focus. Being kind to others, saying “I love you,” and making a card for everybody in the class so nobody will feel left out — these are just a few ways for kids to share the happy message. Here are two more ways to add to the fun.

#1 Lunch box jokes

Most kids get the giggles over those tiny messages on candy hearts. Why? Kids love to be surprised and to surprise others, which helps make this Valentine joke activity a winner. (And knock-knock jokes are never better than when you are five years old!) Simply cut out these free printable Valentine’s Day jokes, and slip them into your child’s lunch box. Or let your child surprise their friends at school by tucking jokes into classmates’ Valentine cards or coat pockets.

To stretch out the fun even more, start sending the jokes a few days early or be creative about where you hide them. How about slipping one under a napkin at the dinner table? Inside a hat or shoe?

#2 Make kids the star of Valentine cards with portraits

No Valentine season would be complete without getting into glitter, lace doilies and glue — making cards, of course. For the special people in your child’s life, every card becomes a keeper, especially when it includes a portrait of the child. But rather than putting a photo inside a card, why not have your little one’s face take center stage and feature their portrait in card designs?

Teddy Bear Pack ‘o Portraits are perfect for this project. One way to attach portraits to cards is with non-toxic removable glue dots, making the portrait a truly lasting gift for grandma when the red cardstock begins to fade.

Another option is to let kids add their photo to a favorite card design. For example, we love this darling owl and think a child’s portrait is just the right answer to this question: Hoo loves you? While the features of the child in the portrait will soon change, the message the photo sends will be revisited again and again.

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Does the idea of the New Year — a fresh start — inspire you? Whether you’re a resolution-maker or breaker, something about “Happy New Year” energizes us with fresh resolve. Focus your attention on these two bright ideas to capture your legacy for years to come.

#1 Roundup 2014’s best photos

Do you have a resolution to get your photos in order? You probably have hundreds, if not thousands, of digital photos from 2014.  Many precious and hilarious moments of your kids, friends and families (and selfies too).  Before the stack gets too high, and while memories are still fresh, take the time to organize and archive.

Digital images may last forever in the cloud, but how will anyone find them?  Especially future generations?  Make enlargements of the photos that really capture the spirit of 2014. And send out the best 100 (or more) shots to a local photo processor so you’ll have tangible reminders your family can reminisce about for years to come.  Photobooks organized by individual or theme are another great option to capture memories in one place.

#2 Connect the generations through photography

Do you have old family photos? Invite grandma, grandpa or other extended family members over to explore the family album with the kids.  Do you see a resemblance between generations?  Ask the relatives what it was like when they were children; how did they celebrate birthdays and what did they get for presents? Did they have a pet, a best friend? What did great-granddad do to make a living? Take advantage of the Internet to bring places and activities to life through images and videos, perhaps zooming into the old family homestead on Google Earth. Is it still there?  What’s changed over the years? And don’t forget to take a picture of the generations gathered together!


We hope you’ve had time to pack away decorations, re-energize from the holidays and turn your focus toward what matters most to you in 2015.

At Teddy Bear Portraits, the opportunity to capture your child’s unique spirit is an honor and a privilege. The New Year renews our commitment to delighting our customers and getting plenty of giggles from every child in front of our cameras.

Wishing you and yours all the best and brightest in 2015!

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It’s never too early to inspire little kids to dream big. If a little dreamer wants to blast off into space or don a red cape to save the world, making a Dream Board (or Vision Board) is a creative way to imagine the future and put one foot forward.

This project is great for an entire classroom or the kid at home on a rainy day.

Even very young kids can visualize what they want to be, what they want to do or where they want to go; older kids can take it further by imagining the steps it takes to reach their goals.

Make a collage using photos, magazine images, drawings or words to represent aspirations. Be sure to offer a large assortment of image sources — old magazines do the trick — and stack the deck with photographic subject matter that opens little minds to big possibilities.

As they craft their Dream Boards, kids can practice spelling, writing, hand-eye coordination and spatial planning.  Have the dreamers share their completed boards with each other, and revisit them for renewed inspiration in the months ahead.

We love this twist: it’s a chalkboard on a magnetic surface, perfect for an evergreen family Dream Board that can easily be refreshed with new goals. Simply purchase a magnetic wall board or apply chalkboard film or paint to metal sheeting (you can even use old baking pans!).

Two More to Try: Action and Gratitude

Two variations on this project are the Action Board and the Gratitude Board.

An Action Board maps out the steps it takes to reach a goal. Kids learn to visualize what they need to do to make a goal happen, a skill that will help them for years to come.

A Gratitude Board directs a child’s attention away from things they want, like toys, to the riches they already have: the family who loves them, a lovely park to play in or a full belly. Make it magnetic to keep this happiness-boosting exercise fresh throughout the year.

Whether you’re five years or five decades old, it’s important to take time to focus on what matters most.

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What’s your top goal this year? Have you challenged yourself to do something unique? Tell us about your dreams for 2015.

 

Family Playing Board Game At Home

Board games, “the kind that rattle around in a box,” could be key to developing a child’s ability to plan, pay attention and recall short-term information, reports teacher Jessica Lahey. Games give preschoolers a chance to count and sort, remember and read, imagine and tell stories. Add self-control and mental flexibility to the mix, and you’re targeting crucial milestones of the developing preschool mind.

Games for All Ages

When picking out board games for your preschoolers, the best ones involve matching and sorting.  Quirkle and S’Match are two favorites from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child. In addition to bonding and brainpower, family game night is a chance to shape your kids’ social skills, including how to gracefully handle winning and losing.

Looking for more inspiration in between rounds of Go Fish? This review of best games from The Artful Parent includes a dozen great picks for preschoolers, from The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game to Spot It.

For slightly older children, Dr. Bill Hudenko recommends Chess and Swish (ages 8+). For kids 6 and up, try Quarto, Quoridor and Set (try Set Junior for preschoolers!). All of these games continue to challenge your children as they develop and focus more on concentration, planning and reasoning.

A Winning Hand

We know — you wonder how to fit family game night into your packed schedule?  One suggestion we love is making family game night do double-duty.  Invite other kids and make it a play date or catch up with neighbors and extended family.  Just remember,  the payoffs are huge:. Families who play games together find it improves their moods and satisfaction with family time.

So turn off the screens, put on some tunes and gather around the table for a fast round of Pictionary or Checkers. Establish traditions, like a family game night, when children are young. Create a lifetime of joyful shared experiences that will continue for generations. Does your family have a tradition of playing games together? Tell us your favorite, and why, in the comments below.