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Typically, we think of professional photography as a sentimental endeavor. School picture day, senior photos, family portraits, and wedding photography all capture joyous moments of great personal value. Preserving the moment, the smile and the memory is the goal; and a good professional photographer can make special moments last for generations to come. Professional portraits, however, can serve an even more important service: keeping our loved ones safe.Continue reading

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Remember the anticipation of Valentine’s Day? The silly notes, innocent puns, first crushes and sugary treats? The sweet holiday is upon us and it’s time to break out the glue sticks and unleash the Sweethearts. Stores are bursting with cute cards, but let’s be honest, it’s all about the candy and a good Valentine’s card comes from the heart. Read on to learn how to craft your very own love bug candy-hiding greeting featuring the cutest little bug on the whole entire planet: your sweet, precious child!Continue reading

Red hearts on wooden table against defocused lights.

Now that the holiday decorations have finally made their way up to the attic or down to the basement, it’s time to think about those special Valentine’s Day gifts. No one’s going to argue that chocolates are nice, diamonds last forever, and flowers are absolutely lovely. Here’s the sad truth, though: chocolates are caloric, diamonds pricey, and flowers, well, let’s just say they don’t last forever.Continue reading

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With the ubiquitous cell phone, it’s unlikely that a day goes by when your child isn’t the subject of a candid shot. Professional portrait photography, on the other hand, is certainly not an everyday occurrence. So whether you’re a parent, grandparent, school director, or principal, it pays to do your research. If you’re going to go for it (and you should) we’ll help you do it right!Continue reading

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Personality Rules

In the rush and hustle of preschool portrait day, it’s easy to lose track of the powerful personalities behind each and every smile. A talented portrait photographer, however, never loses sight of this. Each wide-eyed gaze, each dimple, each expression reveals something uniquely meaningful about a child. Those little people in front of the camera aren’t merely your subjects, they’re great big developing personalities and one of the great joys of portrait photography is catching that lightning in a bottle.Continue reading

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Emotions are a huge part of preschool life. Kids at this age feel gigantic happiness, enormous sorry, extreme anger, and overwhelming joy. Thier feelings are big and real. Helping your child recognize and manage them is a family affair. Creating a self-portrait book is a great way to spend time with your developing child, put your school portraits to a great archival use, help them articulate a positive vision of themselves, and facilitate healthy emotional awareness.Continue reading

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School portraits are a wonderful way to capture your child at a specific moment in time, year after year. The resulting developmental timeline provides joy and brings on the smiles for years and generations to come. Here’s the thing, though: not every day is picture day and not every child loves the lens. If your camera roll features more tongues, tears, turned heads, and tantrums than glee, then read on.Continue reading

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Turkeys, Penguins, & Dinosaurs, Oh My!

Surely your little one is a budding artistic genius, right? Are adorably abstract turkeys, penguins, cats, and dinosaurs laying claim to every available surface? Do you feel a little heartless herding them up and burying them in the recycling bin? Yes? Then making your own mix and match flip book is a great way for you and your child to put both your school portraits and those abundant masterpieces to a fun, silly new use. Continue reading

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Just who is Aunt Mary and how did she come to live way up in Alaska? Why is Great-grandfather Wayne someone worth knowing about? By making playing cards for your kids featuring family members, you set the stage for memory-building fun and games plus pique kids’ curiosity — who are these people on the cards?

The result? Expect to tell lots of stories and field questions about characters like Aunt Mary. Kids may become better connected to their extended family, including members across the miles and the generations. Research suggests that children who know about their family history have a stronger sense of self worth and higher esteem for their family.

Of course, they may also make up some family stories of their own and will always get a kick when their face pops up in the hand they’re dealt.

How to make the cards

You can find instructions and a free PDF or MSword card template to download, along with rules for simple matching games at teachmama.com. Add digital photos and names to the templates, then print. Or print the blank cards, then glue on photos and write names. Laminate cards using self-laminating sheets or clear contact paper.

Games especially for little ones:

In addition to favorites like Go Fish, preschoolers will have fun sorting boys from girls, finding their cousins, and telling one side of the family from the other. Add cards featuring family pets, family houses, and resident cities to build out the challenge.

Other cards kids can make

Use the same idea and template to help kids make a memory card set featuring their favorite things, illustrated with photos, drawings, or magazine clippings.

Growing out the set

Don’t forget to add family members as new babies and spouses come along, and snap lots of shots at your next family reunion or wedding. Dig out old family albums and take vintage photos to a photo kiosk with scanner to get inexpensive digital versions and prints. Don’t forget to collect stories about these ancestors while you can. As an added plus, you’ll have the peace of mind of having these irreplaceable old photos backed up, too.

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Most people are fascinated by before and after shots, whether it’s a makeover of a kitchen or the cook’s outdated look. A take on this idea is to recreate photographs from childhood, putting today’s faces in front of the camera for comparison with more youthful “before” versions.

This back to the future concept is the brainchild of photographer Irena Werning, who solicits old childhood photos and subjects willing to be captured as they look now. Her meticulous recreations show each person years older, in shots are carefully staged to mirror the same pose, expression, outfit, props, location, lighting and style of the old photo.

Before and after shots are then presented side-by-side, with remarkable effect.

Attention to detail is key to much of the intrigue. But fundamentally, how people and times change are fascinating, and nothing captures a face and a feeling as well as a photograph.

Take your Teddy Bear Portraits back to the future

Childhood portraits are perfect for this project, so keep this in mind for future enjoyment of photos by Teddy Bear portraits.

While annual school portraits may capture your child’s changing face as they grow up, a portrait recreation has a different effect. These recreations capture more than facial changes: the bygone styles, the feeling of a certain time, the awareness of the subject as they revisit who they once were . . . or is it just simple fun?

If you find these as fascinating as we do, please join us on Facebook and post your thoughts — and photos!

Good fun for family and group shots

If you’re looking for inspiration, pull up some of the childhood photo re-creations posted on social media and photo sharing sites. Some of the funniest images revive long-gone fashions, or bring adults together to recapture silly childhood milestones!

Recreating some childhood photos might be a wonderful project to bring to your next family reunion, wedding, birthday party, or other event attended by favorite family members featured your photo album in younger years.

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Did you have a Teddy Bear or other stuffed animal you loved the “stuffing” out of when you were little? Teddy Bears especially are loyal friends kids can count on through thick and thin. Unbreakable, huggable, and happy to share the bed with a menagerie of fuzzy friends, Teddy Bears are a mainstay of childhood. Like blankets, their faithful presence really does help children feel secure.

Here’s a wonderful idea we found for using Teddy Bears to project your hopes and dreams for your child into the future — and get some sure laughs in years ahead. It’s simple. Just buy two identical Teddies today: one for your child to love now, and one for her child to love later.

Put the second bear into storage for the long haul. And meanwhile, as your child grows up with her Teddy, you’ll enjoy your own little secret; knowing a twin bear is tucked away for a future tiny person to love and rely on in just the same way.

When your child finally outgrows her well-worn Teddy, and he sits collecting dust on the shelf, be sure to retrieve, clean and store this old friend. Or if you can’t spare the storage, get some good photos of beloved old bear before moving him on.

In years that will fly by faster than you can imagine . . . imagine the fun when you have a grandchild on the way! Dig out the new bear and old, and with your expanding family revisit the adventures that Teddy took with your child. Take some side-by side photos of the old and new — Teddies, people, and friends united.

How to store stuffed animals

Store clean stuffed animals by wrapping them in acid-free paper and placing in archival quality boxes with lids, just as you would store quality linens. Keep from heat, and dehumidify if necessary for your climate. You’ll find archival materials at craft, storage, and some retail supercenters, as well as many online sources.

Do you have photos of your old Teddy Bear? We’d love to see all they’ve been through. Please share on our Facebook page.

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Ahoy, matey! Boating is classic fun for the whole family and especially kids. While parents relish taking summer cruises on ocean liners or powering around a lake or river, kids’ imaginations take flight when they create their own Jolly Roger or race soap boats down slippery slopes.

Here are five inspired crafts to buoy up your kids!

  1. Make a little boat:
    Hello, Wonderful shares 10 delightful ways to make boats using simple and abundant materials scavenged from your home or yard. Make a boat from a sponge, pick up a piece of driftwood, or use a milk carton. Find your supplies, put up the mast, and get your rig underway.
  2. Race a soapy boat:
    Ready for a regatta? Soap boats are super simple to make. All you need is a bar of soap, a toothpick, a fabric mast, and away you go. Your waterway? How about a piece of rain gutter (or two, side-by-side) filled with water. Get more details here.
  3. Make boat art:
    Little feet and fingers dipped in paint make for this cute boat with this idea from CraftyMorning. Pull out a piece of white cardstock, some colorful water-based craft paint, and stamp your little one’s footprint on the paper. Decorate the mainsail and post your masterpiece.
  4. Build a big boat:
    Every captain needs a ship. Take a cue from What I Live For and construct a pirate ship with a big cardboard box. Shape the box, cut a porthole or two, add a mast and a wheel, and yer beauty is ready to hit the high seas in search of treasure.
  5. Eat a healthy boat:
    After a long day on the water, crafting and tacking, a little snack is order. How about a healthy celery boat filled with hummus and a pita sail? Looking for something a little sweeter? A tropical fruit boat, made with bananas, blueberries and other yummy fruits will satisfy even the pickiest eater.

 

Whatever boat you float this season, make your voyages full of fun.

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It’s Not Too Late to Get Kids Gardening

Come August and September, most of the big summer events like family vacations and summer camp are fading as fast as fireworks in July. Store shelves are packed with back-to-school plunder. But Mother Nature has her own rhythm, and she’s not done with summer. So before you shelve activities like gardening, consider that now may be a good time to plant this interest in your kids, before school kicks in big-time.

Here are a few ideas to get kids interested, even if you live in an apartment.

  1. Grow a green bean teepee

Southern parts of the U.S. may still have time to grow a green bean teepee from pole beans, while other areas may opt for tall vining snow peas or snap peas, which can climb to 6 ft. and thrive in cooler weather. Make a teepee from 6 or 8 bamboo stakes, branches, or twine staked from a center pole. Plant seeds around the base, water, and wait. Tie up vines as they climb. This can also work with pots on a balcony.

  1. Give kids a plot or pot of their own

Clay pots are a good choice for kids — inexpensive and fun to paint, too. Good fall crops to start now include lettuce, spinach, and companions such as radishes and herbs. Germinate indoors, then harden off and move seedlings to a sunny place. Teach kids to care for daily. Hanging planters and window boxes work well, too.

  1. Grow upside down

If you know any veggie gardeners in your neighborhood, you may be able to get a still-small tomato plant from them that will grow well upside down. Check retailers for an upside-down growing kit – which should be on clearance this time of year — or copy the idea yourself using a plastic bag or bucket. Grow greens like lettuce in the top.

  1. Explore edible flowers

Not every flower is edible, and some can make you ill, so be sure to educate your children on this fact. Fall flowers that are edible and available in many nurseries now include chrysanthemums, marigolds, and pansies. Pea blooms taste much like peas, or for a spicy addition to taco night, try radishes blooms.

Whether it’s spring or fall, gardening is a great way to introduce children to the excitement of seeing something they have planted grow and thrive.

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For generations, a cold pitcher of Kool-Aid fruit drink has been a sweet summer tradition. Invented in 1927 by Edwin Perkins and his wife, Kitty, the original powdered drink sold for a mere nickel a packet. Nearly a century later, the little packages haven’t changed much and are still a bargain — mix up a couple quarts, enough for the whole family, for a few dimes.

For many, Kool-Aid is a better alternative to sugary, caffeinated soft drinks (you only add enough sweetener of your choice to bring smiles to your little ones). And did you know you can also create some cool crafts with Kool-Aid? So while you’re chillin’ this season, here are five ways to keep your kids entertained with this colorful treat.

  1. Make and race Kool-Aid ice boats. Mix up some Kool-Aid and pour it in ice cube trays, small cups, or bowls. Add a stick or as straw for a sail, then when frozen, pop out the boat and add a paper sail. Create a water channel out of foil, or even easier, grab a length of rain gutter at your local building supply. Add water and go!
  2. Make pretty scented playdough. All you need is flour, salt, water, a little oil, and of course, packets of colored Kool-Aid. Not only is this playdough easy to make, it smells yummy too. Want to know how to mix up the colors? Here’s a
  3. Hand out crazy straw gifts at preschool or just for fun. At the end of swimming class or camp, hand out a little gift. Attach a package of Kool-Aid to a dollar-store crazy straw with the free printable “have a kool summer.”
  4. Ready for some summer science fun? Make some Rainbow Eruptions! Put a packet of Kool-Aid in a small container, and add one heaping spoonful of baking soda. You don’t need vinegar for this experiment since Kool-aid contains citric acid. If you want more intense color, add a couple drops of food coloring, too. Then take a squeeze bottle of water, add a few drops of water, and watch the fizzy foam erupt.
  5. Last but not least, be sure to snap some shots of your kids and their Kool-Aid mustache, and share yours on our Facebook page.

Will you be near Hastings, Nebraska, in August? Check out the annual Kool-Aid Days, a family friendly festival celebrating Nebraska’s “official soft drink.”

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The dog days of summer are perfect for whipping up doggone good treats for the two- and four-legged cuties in your backyard. These snacks are easy to make and will add fun to your next cookout on the deck.

Doggy buns

Ordinary fare like hot dogs rise to meet the occasion in these cute dog-faced buns, from Wonderful DIY. These are a snap to make, especially with a bread machine. All you need is dough, cooked black beans, and sandwich fillings of your choice.

Shape bread dough into hotdog-sized buns. With a knife, make two cuts near the round end of each bun to create dog ears (should look something like a 1970s telephone in profile). Press in three beans for the eyes and nose. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. When cool, slice open and stuff. If your kids turn up their noses at these, it will be to take bigger bites!

Chocolate puppy cupcakes

We found these adorable cupcakes, complete with floppy ears, at CupcakePedia. No time to bake these from scratch? No worries, because we think you can get this homemade look from all prepared items. Whether you buy or bake, you’ll need chocolate cupcakes, chocolate icing, Nutter Butter cookies, vanilla wafers, M&Ms, and icing in a couple of colors in cake-decorating tubes.

Nutter Butter cookies are ears, icing makes big puppy eyes, and a vanilla wafer becomes a muzzle to hold a grin and M&M nose. Walk these cupcakes on a short leash to the picnic table, or they may run off before you get there.

Doggy ice treats

Pricey doggie ice cream hit the market a few years ago, but you can make your own for less with this recipe from Desert Living Today, with ingredients on hand. Your kids will love serving up frosty goodies to Fido next time he’s melting down, especially if they help make them.

Swirl together yogurt, peanut butter, ripe bananas, honey, and water in your blender, and pour into ice cube trays or cupcake pan to freeze. Garnish with dog favorites like grated cheese. If you make these often, add to the fun by using a pan with dog bone shaped molds.

The dog days of summer come but once a year and your kids will never be this age again, so don’t forget to paws, er pause, to snap some photos of your kids and dogs cooling off with these cute canine-themed treats.

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What are your favorite family summer traditions? Going to a family reunion or spending a weekend at a campsite are old favorites. But despite activities like these, the dog days of summer can drag on, especially for little kids. They can easily become bored, and the lament for “something to do” soon follows.

New family summer traditions to the rescue! And that can include taking a unique summer family photo every year.

Kick off some ideas for new traditions by scanning this great list of family traditions from Parents. Ideas include holding your own family Olympics, creating an outdoor chalk mural, or hosting an outdoor movie night for friends and neighbors. Creative ideas for preschoolers include inventing your own summer holiday, such as the summer solstice, the first day the thermometer climbs to 100, or — especially for the little ones — Backwards Day. Backwards Day is a date like the 11th that reads the same forward and backward. Celebrate with eggs sunny side down and wearing clothes backwards, and whatever else you come up with.

Create a classic family photo

Whether you’re adopting new traditions like these or stopping at the same scenic spot your family visits every year, consider snapping a family photo as a new tradition. For fun, come up an unexpected element in the shot like having everybody wear funny glasses. Repeat next year, maybe with a variation; for example, instead of lining up like soldiers in front of scenic view, wear fake moustaches one year, and silly hats the next.

Other variations on this idea:

  • Photograph the whole family wearing the same color or same style outfits.
  • Have everybody strike a funny pose.
  • Shoot from an unusual angle or perspective. For example, celebrate Backward Day with a shot of everybody taken from the back.
  • Take the shot at the exact same time, date, and location every year.

Repeat over the years, and you’ll soon have a unique photo series that will become a true family classic and jog memories of fun times for years to come.

 

 

 

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These last summer days can be slow, making a perfect opportunity to put kindness in focus, especially with kids in the mix. Researchers in Canada have found that being intentionally kind can lead to happier, more accepting children who are also more popular among their peers. What’s more, intentional acts of kindness are a beautiful way to build family bonds while teaching children important lessons of empathy and altruism.

 

Take peek at these 22 kid-tested acts of kindness over at Kids Stuff World and surprise your neighbors and strangers with gentle gestures like these this summer:

  • Pay for the drive-thru order or coffee for the person behind you.
  • Send dessert to another family at a restaurant.
  • Find a parking meter that’s nearly expired and add change.

 

By modeling kindness as part of everyday life, you can quickly show your kids that even the smallest acts of kindness can lead to feel-good rewards for both givers and receivers.

 

Here are a few suggestions of our own:

  • So many little ones love to see the garbage collector arrive on the street. Leave a small cooler with drinks near the cans as a refreshment and sign of gratitude.
  • Collect change for a cause. Get a big Mason jar and fill it up all summer. When the jar is full, take the money and donate to a local charity, or buy grocery gift cards to give to someone without a home.
  • With the kids’ input, write affirmations and feel-good quotes on sticky notes, and place them around town for others to find. Put a note on your neighbor’s car window, leave one at a restaurant for the server to find, or simply hand a happy note to a passerby.
  • Bonds between the generations can be a source of happiness for old and young alike. Consider taking your youngsters to a senior center to work on a project or play a game. The joy a child brings to often-isolated seniors will bring happiness to all.

Need more ideas? Coffee Cups and Crayons has free Summer Kindness Calendars you can download, packed with daily suggestions just for kids. Once your little ones see how the kindness game is played, they are sure to bust out with some ideas of their own.

We’d love to hear how you spread kindness around your world this summer.

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While nothing compares to a family portrait or special occasion photographed by a pro, it’s also true that nothing compares to the photos of your family you take yourself.  We hope that includes turning the camera on you.  Too often, mom or dad is left out of the picture because they’re taking it.

Here are a few tips to help you put yourself in the picture as you also capture more everyday moments in your family’s life.  If you want to jazz up some of those takes in front of the camera, we have some neat ideas for that.

Moments and milestones

Photographing milestones is wonderful, but don’t stop there. Whether it’s the entire gang piled on the couch for movie night or a random stop for ice cream, instead of being forgotten, these unremarkable moments can become among your most cherished over the years. Revisiting them is like popping open a time capsule-a way to travel back to the exact way the kitchen light backlit your daughter’s curls (and your own unbelievable hairstyle) or that quirky diner where your son’s stubborn tooth finally let loose.

Technology to the rescue

First, start by putting yourself in the picture with a selfie stick or tripod. Mini-desktop tripods run under $10.  Use your camera’s shutter-release timer or purchase a remote. Someday, your kids will love seeing how you looked with them in your 20s, 30s and beyond. So will you. We promise.

Put a child in charge

Want to add a spontaneous feeling to your shots? Hand off the shutter release to your child and see what you get.

Stage it and set an interval timer

One option to capture more ordinary moments is to set up a shot in advance, such as reading a story to your kids in bed. If you’re into photography, put your camera on a tripod and preset focus and lighting. Go candid by using an interval timer to take lots of shots, say one every 15 seconds.

Make it unique with creative staging

Impromptu shots are great, but here are some ideas for family photos inspired by The Huffington Post to bump up the fun and interest:

  • Dress-alikes: Bare your chests to reveal your superhero undershirts.
  • Best feet forward: Shoot only the family’s lower legs as they walk or dip toes into the pool. Or shot other parts: hands together, backs of heads, etc.
  • New perspective: Take photos from the level of your preschooler’s eyes, or shoot directly downward onto little ones’ heads.
  • Ready, set, go: Have the entire family jump into the air — click! Swing kids from arms, leap into the pool, or everybody toss beach balls into the air at the same time.
  • Silly faces: Uncover real smiles by first making some silly faces. We love those silly face shots, too!

Even if the scene is as simple as your family around the breakfast table, the wonderful interior life of your family is yours alone to capture — unique moments as beautiful as they are ordinary, precious experiences that inevitably fade away.  At Teddy Bear Portraits, we know that memories matter and take pride in our lifetime guarantee, so while the memories may fade, your treasured portraits of your children won’t!