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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!by
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?by
#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.
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.
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.by
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Glue each print to the backing.
- 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?”
- Hide the photos in locations appropriate for the kids’ ages.
- The hunt is on!
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.by
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?by
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.by
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!by
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.
What’s your top goal this year? Have you challenged yourself to do something unique? Tell us about your dreams for 2015.
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.by