Little girl smiling with eyes closed

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

Teddy Bear Picture

It never fails, it is picture day, you have invested so much time and money (planning and new outfits) into this day and your child spills chocolate milk all over their newly pressed outfit right before you walk out of the door!  Picture day can be stressful, whether you are heading to a studio for family portraits or sending your child to school for that classic school picture.  Here are a few helpful tips that can help reduce stress and make portrait day a success.

  1. What colors should I dress my child in?Fancy or casual?
    1. Fancy or casual, will depend on the type of portrait you have in mind and where you want to display it. Depending on the photographer you may be able to do both!
    2. Unless you know what the background will be, solid colors work best. Patterns can contrast with the background.
    3. Try to use colors that compliment your child’s features.
    4. When siblings are being photographed, dress them in complimentary colors, they don’t have to match, but simply complement each other. Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green and red-purple and yellow-green on a color wheel.
    5. School portraits are normally taken in the morning, this will help ensure that clothes are free of stains and the children are fresh and happy. If their portrait attire is dressier than their normal attire, you may want to pack an extra set of clothing to change into after portraits have been taken.
  2. Should they dress for the season?
    1. If you know the background ahead of time, it is ok to dress for the season.But keep in mind, some holiday backgrounds may not include traditional colors and your child’s outfit could clash.
  3. Should my child wear his/her glasses in her portraits?Or show his/her braces?
    1. Glasses are a part of your child’s personality, and should be worn for portraits. Although it is perfectly acceptable to ask the photographer to take portraits with and without glasses. Non-reflective glasses are preferred, but experienced photographers know how to avoid glass reflection.
    2. Braces are beautiful, especially on your child. Trying to hide braces will result in an awkward smile that will not reflect your child’s spirit.
  4. How should I style my child’s hair?
    1. Stick with neat and simple. If your child’s hair is straight, and you try to curl it, chances are the curls will fall flat by the time the portrait is made. Use hair products to keep styles intact, but try not to overdo it.  You want your child to look natural…like your child, not a “dressed up” version.
    2. Try to avoid having your child’s hair cut in the week prior to the photography session.
  5. Should I encourage my child to smile for the camera?
    1. Too often parents coach their children to “smile” or “say cheese” when there is a camera in front of them. Even though parents have the best intentions, doing this will result in a forced, un-natural smile that really doesn’t show your child’s true personality. The best expression is a genuine one.  Photographers that work with children specialize in gaining natural expressions and capturing the true nature of a child.   Simply encourage your child to put on their listening ears and have fun.
  6. What if my child is scared of “picture day”?
    1. For the child that is a little shy or scared, try packing a “lovey” or favorite blanket to help them feel more secure. It also brings a special personal touch to the portrait.
    2. If you are stressed or anxious about your child’s performance during picture day, your child will feel it as well and it may add to his/her fear. Try to be upbeat and let your child know how much fun they are going to have playing with the “picture person.”

The best advice is to keep it simple, and your child’s natural beauty will glow, regardless if their hair is a little out of place.

 

 

 

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Teaching your children to be kind to others holds value that he or she will carry on throughout their lives.   A good starting point is to practice this yourself and set the standard for your child. Often called leading by example, this is a fun way to teach your child the value of doing kind things for others and you will reap the benefits of a do-gooder as well!

Here’s a list of items to help you get started:

  • Open doors for others.
  • Let someone go in front of you in the grocery line.
  • Allow a car to go ahead of you.
  • Help an elderly neighbor with shopping or yard work.
  • Volunteer your time with a local non-profit.
  • Donate canned goods to your local food bank.
  • Make a birthday card for a family member or friend.
  • Say “please” and “thank you” often.
  • If someone drops something, bend down and pick it up.
  • Compliment someone – just say something nice.
  • Pay for the person’s lunch that is behind you in the drive-thru.
  • Adopt a soldier and write letters with your child.
  • Start a neighborhood beautification effort and go out walking and pick up trash in your neighborhood or local park.
  • Visit your local animal shelter.  Even if you don’t adopt a pet, you can offer to distribute treats or take a dog for a walk.
  • Donate $1 to your local charity at the check-out.
  • Start a can collection for a food drive and enlist your child to help.
  • Go through clothing with your child to donate to the local Goodwill.
  • Teach your child to write “thank you” letters just to thank someone for being a good friend.
  • Have a lemonade stand to raise money for a local charity.
  • Share a snack with someone.
  • Take blankets to a homeless shelter.
  • Volunteer to ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
  • Visit the elderly in a nursing home.
  • Have children bring toys to your child’s next birthday party for donations.

Once you start practicing “giving”, it is truly contagious.  You’ll find your child adopting those habits and incorporating them into their own lives as they grow older.  And, you’ll be so proud when you see them practicing those acts of kindness and teaching their children!

Storing Your Digital Photos

Everyone takes pictures using their phone these days, and with so many precious memories being stored on your phone, you need an alternative storage for all those pictures! We have some great ideas to share with you on how you can store the pictures on your phone in a safe place.

If you have a computer, that’s a good place to start. Plug your phone up to your computer and transfer your pictures to your computer. Another way to store your photos safely is to upload them to the “cloud.” If you’re not familiar with this term, we’ll explain it.

Cloud Service: The “cloud” is where photos can be stored online and accessed from anywhere, anytime. Several cloud services offer limited space at no cost to you. However, other services may charge you according to how much space you need. Here are 10 cloud services that you can check out. Cloud Services.

Online backup service: You can also choose an online backup service. These services require you use their software so they can regularly perform automated backups of your devices for you. You can store your photos or any other data you want backed up.  The price range can be anywhere from $10.00 a month to $500.00. We found an article that will help you narrow down your search at Computer World.

USB flash drives and Discs: If you are looking for long-term storage, this is a good choice; however, they are limited because of how easily than can be damaged. Regardless, it is still better than having nothing at all. You can store all your data on DVD’s, CD’s or a flash drive, the choice it is up to you.

External Drive: Some folks opt to purchase their own external drive, which you can find at any radio/media store in your local area. These devices hook up to your computer and will automatically sync up to your computer and store everything on your computer for you. You can set the parameters in how often it will back up your data.

Did you know that Teddy Bear Portraits come with a 100% lifetime guarantee? That’s right! We archive and store all portraits digitally for you! Giving you a safety net, as well as peace of mind—knowing that your printed portraits will be replaced at no cost in the event of fading, discoloration, adhering to glass or if they are lost due to a natural disaster. When it comes to the pictures you take using and storing on your phone and/or computer, we hope we’ve given you enough information to start your own research in what you think would best suit you and your family and protect those precious family photographs! Here is one site we would like to leave you with, The Guardian. It gives a run down on everything we’ve mentioned in this blog and more! You are off to a great start!

 

 

Mobility concept, Instagram, Vina, Smartphone, Iphone

Have you ever been interested in making movies? No lights? No camera? No problem! The Pew report states that 56% of American adults own a smartphone. Chances are, you have one too! A smartphone can be more than just a device to play games on, make phone calls or send emails. You can capture and share creative videos of your child with your family and friends. Two great apps that allow you to create and share videos are Instagram and Vine.

What is Vine?
A free app by Twitter that is available for iPhone and Android that allows you to create and share videos up to 6 seconds long.

What is Instagram?
A free app by Facebook that is available for iPhone and Android that allows you to create and share photos and videos. Instead of 6 seconds or less like Vine, you are able to create videos up to 15 seconds.

Both have their advantages, so make sure you give them each a try and see which one you like best. I personally prefer Instagram over Vine due to photos and 15 sec video clips, along with more editing options and creative image filters. It may be best to find one that most of your friends and family are on so you can share with them. If you are worried about the general public watching your videos, be sure to change your privacy settings. You can manage your permission setting and only approved people will be able to view your videos.

What should I video?
The most important thing to remember in any video is to have fun. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to pretend to be an expert. Make it exciting, from videoing you and your child cooking or reading their favorite book, have some fun! Capture the moments you want to remember and you will enjoy sharing with others.

One advantage to a smartphone is the accessibility and ease of use. You do not have to worry about missing that special moment! Most phones have the camera feature readily available. This helps to eliminate stress and worrying about having to set up and allows you to video those special moments on the go. Both Instagram and Vine allow you to stop and start the video. You can video one action for a couple seconds and stop, and then you can start again from a different location. Take advantage of it.

10 video ideas to help get you started:

  1. 15 Sec cooking show
  2. Your child’s favorite toys talking (puppet show)
  3. Tour of your child’s room
  4. Singing
  5. Dancing
  6. Vacation moments
  7. Baby’s first (walking, talking, etc.)
  8. At the park
  9. Fashion show
  10. Saying “hi” to grandma and grandpa

Remember to have fun! Make your videos creative and exciting. Don’t be afraid to try new things; you can always delete a post. If your child is old enough to use the phone, let them make their own videos. Instagram and Vine have both made it extremely easy to use. Go give it a try!

135384711 Little Girl with Camera for BLOG

Children have a natural curiosity and a unique view of the world. More often than not, they are noticing things not on the adult radar, so teaching your child to take portraits is an opportunity for you to see the world through your child’s eyes. It’s also a great time for you and your child to bond and connect, as well as a learning opportunity.

If you don’t have a camera for your child, no worries! There are plenty of cameras out there to choose from and we are providing a couple of sites that will help you in your search. We made 2 separate checklists that will give you ideas on what to look for in cameras, as well as how to teach your child to take their own portraits. Let’s get started!

When considering cameras for your preschooler, you will want to consider these things:

  1. How old is your child? Cameras will specify age on the packaging.
  2. What features are you looking for in a camera that will be appropriate for your child?
  3. Do you want to purchase a digital camera or film?
  4. How much do you want to spend?

We found a couple of sites that will assist you in your search for purchasing the right camera for your child. The first site is at Adorama. The article on this site lists features to think about when purchasing a camera, as well as points to think about when teaching your child how to take portraits. The other resource is actually a page on Google that lists quite a few kid friendly cameras. Both of these sites will give you “food for thought” so you can find the perfect camera for your child!

Tips on how to give your preschooler some direction and encouragement:

  1. Take time to train your child on how to use their new camera, let them practice at home first before heading out into the world. You don’t want to stifle them, but giving them a good start, by knowing how to use and hold the camera, will be helpful to them.
  2. Give your child some ideas on what to photograph, give them a little direction to kick start their creativity. They will appreciate this!
  3. Show them simple techniques, like how to center an image in the frame and how to be still when pushing the button.
  4. If it’s a digital camera where you can see the pictures they are taking, encourage them, tell them how great their picture looks, inspire their creativity!

Bottom line is, keep it simple—making sure it’s a positive experience for them. Once you get back home, sit down with your child, and together, pick the perfect portrait or two that you would like to frame. Hang it in your home, put in your child’s room, or in the family room. Your child will be proud to see their portrait displayed, and the memories that go with it, will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

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When the school bell rings, it can get expensive quickly. Check out some money saving tips for this 2014 back to school season!

Wait To Start Shopping
We all like to jump ahead with our shopping sometimes, but we all know how fast kids can grow. The closer your shopping is to your local school start date the better your children’s clothes will fit and the better deals you will receive. Plus, if your child is already into trends and likes to play a part in their wardrobe, you might have an interest in waiting to see what is popular when school starts.

Place a “Bid”… Shop Online
Today’s internet can serve as an awesome international yard sale. EBay is a platform for retail merchandise. You can find great deals on clothes, jackets, and shoes. I have found that parent’s auction off their kid’s best items that were most likely for a special occasion and usually only worn once. Don’t forget to check out online coupon codes- at most retailers you don’t have to have a printed coupon, you simply need the code you can get from a quick search on your smart phone. You can also add your email to your favorite retail stores list and  have coupons sent directly to you. Some states offer a “tax free Holiday” that mainly applies to school supplies and clothing.

Buy in Bulk
A simple way to save money is by buying in bulk at warehouse stores. This is a smart way to stock up for the many lunches you will be preparing. I have found great deals on snack food and school supplies as well. If you would like variety, find a friend or neighbor that wants to split the bulk purchase and lower the overall cost per serving.

Stick to the List
Many early education centers provide parents with a supply list prior to the first day of school. Do NOT over spend on school supplies that are not on the list and in today’s economy no one wants to waste money. If you simply feel the urge to indulge, talk to the teacher about their favorites or all year round essentials… maybe you can help supply paper towels, cleaning sprays or other classroom must haves. Another suggestion is to reach out to a family through a community center or church that might be struggling and offer to pick up their school supply list for them. You can also utilize your city’s website and find a backpack drive for you and your children to participate in.

Homemade Secrets
Juice boxes and pre-packaged snack foods can add up. Invest in some plastic containers and seal-able drink cups that are child friendly (they can open them themselves) and fill them up daily with their favorites. In the long run it will be more cost effective if you bake cookies, make pudding, slice cheese and lunch meat, than to buy pre-packaged servings.  Not  only will you save money, you will reduce waste.

 

 

Social Media pin board

These days, everyone, including their Mother is on Facebook. Social media has quickly become a major part of our everyday lives. Pair social media with an iPhone, and your employees can capture and broadcast to the world almost any moment, good or bad.  Society as a whole has grown accustomed to sharing and sharing quickly, almost without thinking.

Sometimes, definitely without thinking.

Child care operators just got a big wake-up call about the perils of social media misuse—by truly thoughtless employees. In August, headlines shouted the story http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/20/us/instagram-day-care-photos  of Virginia child care workers who were fired after they posted photos and derogatory comments about kids in their care. A policy was in place and the employees were dismissed. But the damage to parent relationships and the established trust between the families, children and the center’s integrity had been compromised. How did this social mistake impact their overall business… who knows?

Yes, social media is great at keeping us connected and can be a powerful business-builder. People today enjoy the convenience and constant access to conversations from the businesses they like to do business with. They seek out your Facebook page and eventually become brand advocates. And if you’ve ever posted an impromptu picture of a child, you know the joy that can bring to a parent’s day, closing the gap between the office and a not-to-be-missed moment expressed on the face of their child.

Have you addressed the use of social media with your employees? Clearly, hiring respectful people with good judgment who love what they do is your best bet, but having a policy and communicating it is essential. In addition, like distracted driving, social media gadgets can present a safety issue, pulling attention away from kids.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a social media policy template http://www.ericschwartzman.com/pr/schwartzman/social-media-policy-template.aspx  that complies with the 2012 National Labor Relations Board Guidance. And here are a few short take-aways:

  • Employees have rights, including the right to use social media on their own time. But when social media use at home or work impacts their performance, co-worker performance, or business interests, an employer can step in.
  • Employees represent the company and should always be respectful of others. Their communications should reflect the core values of their employer.
  • Employees do have legal responsibilities, which can include refraining from posting about customers, vendors, and co-workers.
  • In case of emergency, social media can be extremely useful to get the word out quickly about what to do and help people find each other. This has been proven by CNN, The Red Cross, USA Today, the United Nations and other large networks as well as local news media.

If you haven’t already done so it may be time to consider the recent headlines as an opportunity to bring up the issue of social media with your staff, and remind them of your current social media policies or get some new policies in place that will reflect  well upon others and your business.

cooking, meals, meal, family, quick, preschool, recipe, cook, kitchen, food

Quick Casseroles kids can learn to like!

Many young children have a natural resistance to food like a casserole that is “all mixed up.” Some kids won’t eat an item that has even come near something else on the plate, much less touched it. Do you have one of these picky eaters? If you do, you know the struggle and may even go to the trouble of preparing different meals for different members of the family. Most kids seem to outgrow this over time, but it may leave you wondering when and how you can move on to more mature cooking.

It can be easy and fast to put together hearty casseroles once you master the basic ingredients. But as you know, not all children are willing to give casseroles a try. So here are 18 kid-friendly recipes, along with a key strategy for getting your kids to give them a try.

The number one tip to get kids to try casseroles is to incorporate a favorite food. The point is to create a route through their resistance to get them to try a “mixed up food.” Once they overcome their resistance, you can use casseroles as a pathway to pack in veggies, whole grains, and healthier options over time.

There are lots of great ways to encourage kids to try new foods. Here’s another. When you have time to supervise, get them involved in cooking by giving them some responsibilities, from planning to prep to serving and cleaning up. If they participate, they’ll take much more interest in trying out the result of their efforts and also learn important life skills.

You can add to the fun by purchasing a few kid-safe, kid-sized kitchen utensils. We found some at smallhands. If you have a youthful chef in your family, we’d love to hear about it. Here also are some important safety tips for kids cooking on their own  –  useful information to keep  everyone safe in the kitchen.

 

 

 

Grandparent getting a gift from grandson

Grandparent’s day is just around the corner, September 13th to be exact! Have you thought about what gift you will give your grandparents? What about a photo gift idea, using photos you have at home? We came up with a few ideas for gifting your grandparents!

Framed photo refrigerator magnet: With a photo magnet, there is no need for wall space to hang a photo, just place it on your refrigerator or a filing cabinet at work. Choose your favorite photo and upload it to our Teddy Bear store. You can start your order now by clicking here! Teddy Bear Portraits Store/Portrait Magnets!

Photograph inside a Christmas ornament: Here is another great gift idea for grandma and grandpa. This creative photo ornament is a gift that keeps on giving, year after year. It can also be a project for you and your family to do together! You could even recycle an old Christmas Ornament and place your favorite photo inside. To see how to make this snowman ornament, go to our Pinterest Snowman Ornament page.  

Gift-wrap this year’s Christmas gift with photo tags: Put a different spin on how you wrap your grandparents Christmas presents this year, and add a photo tag! Find a photo, and print it out on your computer, or go to a local copy place and have them make a copy for you. Cut it into any shape you want—punch a hole in the top with a hole puncher and you will have a beautiful photo tag! Check out our Pinterest Photo Tags page for ideas!

A painted jar with a photo attached to the front. You could paint a mason jar, or any jar, and glue or tape using ( double-sided tape), you could tape a photo of the entire family or just your child onto the front of the jar. Place some beautiful flowers in the jar and you have the perfect gift for Grandparent’s Day! For a good visual of this, see our Pinterest page/Jar with a Photo.

Portrait framed with cup cake liners! Using cupcake liners, green scrapbook paper, and a picture frame—place the photo of your child inside the cup cake liner, glue the cupcake with the picture onto the front of a portrait frame, and make a stem from green colored paper! What a great gift and a very different gift for your grandparents! To see how to create this, go to our Pinterest Cup Cake Photo Liners page.

We love you to pieces, photo frame! This is another clever idea to gift your grandparents. Take an old or new photo frame and purchase a puzzle with big pieces. Write one word on each puzzle piece, making it say “We Love You to Pieces.” Then glue each puzzle piece around the picture frame. To see how to make this clever frame, go to our Pinterest page/Puzzle Photo Frame.

Don’t forget to stop by the Teddy Bear Portraits store for more gift ideas. Make this best grandparents day ever!

 

 

 

 

 

Sneezing Girl

Your child is bound to get sick from being in daycare, but not to worry!  There are several things you can do to prevent, or at least reduce the chances of becoming ill. Here are some informative tips to help protect preschool children from nasty bugs such as salmonella, MRSA, influenza and the common cold.

Hygiene
This is very basic. Wash your hands and oversee the hand washing of every child who uses the bathroom, picks his/her nose or handles anything unusual. It has been proven that 90% of bacteria can be killed by simply watching your hands with soap and water or by rubbing anti-bacterial gel briskly into your hands.

Clean Surfaces
By using a bleach-based moist towel to clean surfaces such as desk or table tops, counters, phones, computer keyboard tabs, toys, door handles and computerized accessories, you can kill such the germs which develop ecoli or MRSA (staph).

Don’t Forget the Feet
Little feet like to kick off shoes and let them fall wherever they may drop. Don’t let that happen. Clorox wipes can kill bacteria on the surface and bottom of shoes just as well as it may anywhere else.

A Note about Flushing
When flushing the toilet after use, be sure to close the lid first. A closed toilet lid allows the waste droplets to be contained and not slung out of the toilet by the swirling action of the flush.

 

 

 

Director, ECE, Preschool

Hello Directors! Grandparent’s Day is just around the corner, September 7th to be exact! Have you thought about how your school will celebrate this day? What about creating a photo gift for your families, with the Teddy Bear Portraits FREE Pack O’ Photos, which is our gift to you? There are so many different gift ideas you can create with these photos, here are a just a few of the ideas that we came up with to get your creative juices flowing!

Glass Photo Magnet: Using your FREE Pack O’ Photos, you can make these cute glass photo magnets with your pictures. First, you will need to purchase the following items. You can find these supplies at your local hobby store.

1. Magnets
2. A nesting punch (chose one that is 1 ½ inches in diameter)
3. Mod Podge
4. A Mod Podge Brush

The first step is to take the picture and punch a hole around the area of the picture you want showing through the glass. Next, take the picture and place it up against the glass, so you can see the picture through the other side of the glass. Next, using your Mod Podge, you will gently swipe the Mod Podge across the back of the picture until the picture adheres to the glass. Let dry. Next, you glue the magnet onto the back of the picture, and that is all there is to it. You have just created a beautiful and lasting glass photo magnet to gift your families for the upcoming Grandparents Day, or for any up-and-coming holiday! To view this wonderful gift idea, visit our Glass Magnet/Pinterst page. If you want to see a video on how to use a nesting punch, as well as the different types of nesting punches you can purchase, click here, Nesting Punch Pinterest page.

Photo Tag Gift Idea: Directors, you can use your FREE Pack O’ Photos to make a precious memory photo tag! Using a regular hole puncher, punch a small hole in the top of the picture. Then lace the picture with a ribbon or string or any kind of decorative lacing to create this one of a kind photo tag to gift your families for grandparents’ Day, or for any holiday! Check out our Pinterest Photo Tags page to see a visual for this idea!

Cubby Personalization: Directors, here is another idea for using your FREE Pack O’ Photos for your children’s cubby! You can create an identification photo to personalize your child’s cubby. They will know exactly where their cubby is located when they see their picture! To view these FREE downloadable picture frames that you can place your child’s picture in, go to our Pinterest page/Cubby Photo Frames.  

DIY Photo Holiday Cards: You can make these easy DIY photo cards to gift your parents for any holiday! This could even be a class project! You will need the following supplies: Construction Paper, glue, cup cake liners and your FREE Pack O’ Photo picture! For details on how to create this card, go to our Pinterest Page/DIY Holiday Cards.

We hope we’ve given you some great ways and ideas to use your FREE Pack O’ Photos for this up and coming Grandparents Day! You can use these for gifting your parents, with all the above gift ideas! Call your local rep to find out more about how to get your FREE Pack O’ Photos today! And don’t forget to stop by the Teddy Bear Portraits store for more gift ideas.

 

 

 

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Were you lucky enough to have one special friend in childhood who truly “saw” who you were as a person? Childhood friendships can be pivotal in shaping who we become as adults. Because these friendships are so important, consider using these strategies to help keep your kids connected with their friends during the summer.

1. Make plans

Contact the parents of your child’s friend. Share contact information and make plans to meet periodically so your children can maintain their relationship through the summer.

Ideas? Check out local movie theaters for special summer movies at reduced prices. Plan a get-together after watching the movie and share an afternoon. This allows children the opportunity to reconnect and parents to get acquainted.

For very young children, plan regular play days. A sleepover with school friends is a great way to stay connected. Pitch a tent out in the backyard. Plant a child’s garden. If you have a good relationship with the other family, you may want to plan some activities where you meet for a day trip, for instance, going to the zoo or even a joint vacation.

2. Get technical, with limits

Most children and teens have cell phones. Your child may want to spend the entire summer texting with their friend, which is one a way to maintain a friendship, but don’t let it prevent actual connecting in person. Set ground rules about using cell phones to create openings for other activities and relating in person.

Many families have email and Facebook accounts, and these are helpful tools to coordinate activities with families whose kids are friends with your kids. Exchange email addresses or connect through Facebook. Educate your kids on Internet safety and stay close when they are online to monitor what’s happening.

Another idea? Online games such as Club Penguin, Bean Babies, ToonTown Online, Neopets and Free Realms. These games are set up so children can connect with old friends and make new ones in a safe virtual world. If you are wary about these games, start playing them yourself, and allow your child to play only when you are playing.

3. Rediscover the tried and true

If your children aren’t ready for high-tech yet, remember ‘good ol’ Ma Bell’ or whatever telephone service you use. You may want to set up times for calls to encourage connection, or if needed, set limits on telephone time.

Finally, if your child is serious about staying connected with friends, suggest that they send postcards or letters, especially if you family’s traveling or visiting special places in your area where you can get fun postcards. Not only will they keep in touch, but they will also improve their writing skills.

 

 

 

 

parenting, mom, kids

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived lives of the parents.”  Carl Gustav Jung

The family unit is busier today than ever before, and we wanted to share with you five ways to make parenting a little less stressful.

1. Keep a gratitude journal – Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal reduces stress by reminding you of all the good things in your life. We found a list of books to get you started at Good Reads.  You don’t need a fancy journal—it could be a spiral bound notebook or any kind of writing journal. However, if you want something a little fancier, check out this site at  Baby Zone.

2. Schedule time for relaxation and fun – For those busy moms, here are 11 secrets to getting better organized found at Good House Keeping.  Scheduling time with your family for fun and relaxation has many rewards. We found a site; Growing Weisser  that lists a variety of activities you can do this summer with your family and children. So you can relax together!

3. Exercise with your kids – We found this awesome site at Cure Joy  that lists 7 tips in what exercises you can do with your children. For all you busy moms out there, this site gives you options on how you can (de-stress) your day, and spend time with your family.

4. Do something just for you – Even if it’s just once a week, or once a month, find something that you do, just for you.  This article at Elephant Journal  lists 50 things you can do for yourself. No excuse!

5. Enjoy each season of being a mother – Each season changes from day-to-day and week-to-week. This site explores how to view each season with a grateful mind-set. Abundant Moma

Parenting is the hardest job in the world. We hope we’ve given you plenty of ways to help you be the best parent you can be. Please leave your comments; we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

apps, parenting, portraits

When it comes to balancing the family and work life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unorganized. However, we may have found a solution for you! These web-based organizational sites and apps, are user-friendly and great for organizing those day-to-day tasks. Now lets get started!

The Google Calendar is a good place to start. Using your Gmail—email account; you can set-up this FREE web-based calendar and app. If you don’t already have an account, Sign up here to get a Gmail Account.  We also found this informative You-tube video on How to setup and use your Google Calendar,  to help get you started. Hosted by—Author Michael Linenberger. Michael wrote a #1 selling book on Amazon titled: Master Your Work Day Now. He will show you how to create tasks, to-do lists, and how to make this calendar work for you—in your busy life!

Signupgenius.com   is a web-based site that offers FREE and paid memberships. For parents who organize events that require volunteers—this site could assist you! As stated on their website, Sign Up Genius is a, “fully-featured volunteer management system…” is big enough to, “…coordinate massive international events, but simple enough to organize a small potluck party.” For the busy parent, this site could save time coordinating your next big or small event.

The CluckCluck App,  is a .99 cent iTunes downloadable app that assists in making it easier to communicate and coordinate schedules with your child’s caregiver. It allows you to see the caregivers schedule and even pay the sitter online, as well as talk in real time with your children. This app enables you to stay connected with your family no matter where you are!

Cozi.com  is another FREE web-based calendar. As stated on their website, this app “…Cozi keeps track of everything from school schedules and sports activities to grocery lists, meals and chores — all in one place …” If you have one or more children involved in extracurricular activities, this could be a great way to keep up with all your family activities, keeping you on track!

The pbskids.org  app, found at the PBSkids.org website, allows both child and parent to interact at the same time. You can stay connected to your child in real time and know what they are playing, watching and learning while online at the PBSkids.org website. You can even set up time limits for how long your child is online, and set up alerts for lunch-time and dinner, with messages that pop-up right on the screen for your child to see! With this interactive app, you can feel connected to your children during the day, and keep yourself organized throughout your busy day!

These are only a few of the many web-based organizational calendars and apps you can choose from. For all you busy parents out there who want to get and stay organized, it is our hope that one of these sites will work for you! If they do, let us hear from you. Leave your comments below!

 

 

 

 

Child playing laughing puppies

Summer months can be fun for your family and pets.  But, when the temperatures rise, you have to take extra precautions to keep everyone safe and cool. We need to take extra care with our pets because they have that extra “coat” of hair and can overheat faster than we can. Here are a few tips to keep your pets cool during the summer months.

Never leave your pet in the car

Temperatures in the car can easily exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of seconds. We hear stories all of the time about children and pets who are harmed as a result. It’s easy to think, “I just need to run into the store for a minute”, but think before you run that last errand, because nothing is worth your pets life.

Bring along the H20

When temperatures rise, we lose more water and so do our pets.  They need to stay hydrated just as much as we do, so make sure that you bring along an extra bottle of water and a bowl so that your pet can take a drink if you’re traveling with your pooch.  Or, make sure their water bowl is full if they’ve been in the backyard for a while and throughout each day.

SPF for dogs ?!

I know that some of you might have trouble with this one…SPF for my dog, really?  Yes, your dog can get sunburned just as easily as you do and it can result in the same damage that we can experience – redness, dry and itchy skin, and even skin cancer.  Focus on putting sunscreen on their nose, the top of their ears and the skin around their mouth for protection while exposed to the sun.

Hair, hair everywhere

We all know that dogs are prone to shedding.  So, giving your four-legged friend a shave or trim for the summer can be the best way to cool them off and save you from all of the clean-up  – at least for the summer.

Limit exposure during high temperature “peak” hours

Limit taking your dog for a walk between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the hotter days of summer.  They can suffer from heatstroke if they are out in the sun – long walks or “ball throwing” games are not a good idea during these hours.

Know heatstroke symptoms

Heatstroke must be treated as an emergency.  And, recognizing the signs is an important first step.  If your dog displays the following signs, please call a veterinarian immediately: panting, staring, anxiousness, doesn’t respond to commands, warm and dry skin, high fever, vomiting and collapse.

Our pets are like family to us and we have to take special care of them in the summer.  So, follow these guidelines and your “Fido” or “Fee-Fee” will be much happier!

Child playing sparkler house

Remember comparing your sparkler to the spray of fireworks into the sky on a balmy 4th of July evening?   The 4th of July holiday is synonymous with cookouts, beach fun and of course fireworks.  However, to make it enjoyable and safe for, here are a few fireworks safety tips from our friends at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

Some cities have strict guidelines for fireworks.  So, before you make your “plans” and especially if you’ve moved or are vacationing in another city, be sure to check out your local guidelines. Most “city” or governing websites have these listed under their “frequently asked questions.”  We want you to have a safe and happy 4th of July!

 

 

 

450718415 fourth of july 2014

 

Have kids start today on these projects for July 4th July and you’ll be ready to light up your daycare facility or deck and yard at home with patriotic decor by Independence Day!

We especially love Adrienne Vaudrin Burdine’s pinboards for preschool projects. Her picks give you hundreds of the best projects by theme. For Flag Day, President’s Day, or Independence Day, you’ll find lots to keep little hands and minds busy on her America themed board Adrienne burdine.

Here are a few to check out:

1. Patriotic kid portrait project  – This is a great way to use Teddy Bear Portraits. Or—photograph kids in a patriotic pose, saying the pledge of allegiance. Tape some white paper in a shallow box, and let kids get crazy making an abstract red-white-and-blue background to mount the photo on by rolling marbles dipped in paint on white paper. Mount the portrait on the background when dry.

2. Toddler-safe sparklers - are made from straws with a burst of narrow paper strands tucked in one end. With these, even the tiniest patriot can light up the night with a burst of energy running around the yard waving a sparkler in celebration.

3. Handprint 4th July flag on canvas - So simple, but how proud will your kids be when they can show this off? Putting the project on canvas board adds substance and permanence that help kids take pride.

4. Glitter handprint fireworks – Kids love to use their bodies to draw and the results are so reliable everybody is sure to feel successful. With glitter stripes, these fireworks sure are safe for fingers!

 

 

 

 

Children playing chalk sidewalk

Spring and summer are fantastic times to have back-yard parties that include family and friends.  It can be challenging creating a party for both children and adults, but if you organize it well, it can be a fun experience for everyone – the children can play with others and adults can have a little “adult” time.  Here are a few steps to get the party started:

Get the kids involved:

Decorating for a party can be fun and, depending on your child’s age range, they can be great little helpers for this task.  One idea: Take a garden table and put a tablecloth down, cover it in confetti and other stones or gems.  Another idea: Put a cover on the table and you and your child can draw all over the tablecloth to create fun, creative designs.  Or, if you want more precise designs – create the outlines of palm trees, beaches, beach balls and sand buckets.  Then, let your child color between the lines!

Create informal seating:

Add blankets, benches, inexpensive rugs, throw pillows or stools for more relaxed seating for both kids and adults – giving the yard a picnic-like feel.

Separate dining areas for children and grown-ups:

I remember sitting at the “children’s’” table as a child.  I couldn’t wait to get to the “grown-ups’” table.  Now that I’m older, I understand why we sat at separate dining tables.  It gives adults a little
“grown-up” time and allows kids to just be kids.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  You can designate separate dining areas for children and adults by choosing smaller tables and chairs or create a picnic area for the children with the dining table for the grown-ups.

Create snacking and activity stations for the children:

Allocate an area to have snacks and drinks for children that allows easy access for them to help themselves.  Try to keep the sugar to a minimum if at all possible and try to ask parents if any of their children have food allergies.  Also, if you want to keep it low maintenance, ask each parent to bring one of their child’s favorite snacks. Low maintenance and you won’t have to worry about the child having something that they like – especially for those picky eaters!

Activity stations can be spaced out around the yard.  Here are a few popular outdoor children’s activity ideas:

Chalk Art: A popular and inexpensive activity.  All you need to purchase is the chalk and designate an area of your sidewalk or driveway for the children to draw on.  Waa-la, let the creative fun begin!

Bean Bag Toss:  It’s easy to find bean bags and all you need to do to prepare is to create a target – you can easily find out how to create a base by doing a Google search for “bean bag toss” or “corn hole”.  It’s an easy, fun game for both adults and children.

Scavenger Hunt: Hide a list of items in the yard and designate teams for the hunt.  This is a fun game and teaches children the value of teamwork.  Everyone can contribute to this one!

Waterballs: Somewhat of a new item, this ball is hooked up to your hose in the yard and acts as a fun sprinkler for the kids.  Waterballs create an entertaining way for kids to cool off on a hot summer day!

Slip n’ Slide: A slip n’ slide is like a back-yard water park for your kids.  This will keep them occupied for a while.  Make sure the kids are monitored and set up a drying station with towels and plastic chairs.

Child-friendly back-yard parties can be great fun for both adults and children alike!  So, get your checklist started and pick a weekend…the summer will be gone before you know it!

Children playing camping backyard

SUMMER! What to do? Where to go? How to entertain your kids? Are these thoughts running through your head? Not to mention to find ideas that you can afford and that EVERYONE in the family will enjoy! Try creating a “Summer Bucket List”. This not only encourages family engagement, but with everyone participating and agreeing upfront on summer activities it decreases the stress involved with each activity. A “Summer Bucket List” will also help you stay organized and plan so that everyone (including parents) gets to enjoy summer! Below are a few ideas to get you and your family started.

1. Enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Summer means warmer weather. Warmer weather means outdoors activities. Consider planning weekend picnics in the park. Plan a family outing to the local swimming pool. Take a hike or ride a bike. The idea is that the weather will make you want to get outside and be active. Visit your state park or national park websites. Most of them have summer activities geared towards children and families. These programs are usually FREE and teach children about appreciating nature, while learning helpful tips such as: recognizing poison ivy, hydrate while hiking, caring for bug bites, traveling in pairs, how to use a compass and much more!

2. Many communities have creative opportunities, some of which are free or inexpensive. Summer art in the park, outdoor movies in the park, arts camps, astronomy in the park, city festivals and arts fairs are common activities families can enjoy. You may also be able to find outdoor summer theater or concert series that will give your family something to share, while providing an opportunity to be creative at the same time. A great way to learn about your community’s summer events is to visit your Chamber of Commerce website. Find their calendar and start to plan! Most of these activities will be free!

3. Plan and plant a summer garden. Think of the joy on your child’s face when they eat the first ripe tomato from your own garden! Of course, there is plenty of hard work to keep families busy leading up to harvest, but keeping a family garden is a great summer activity for the family to share. If you have a large crop, you may even want to consider selling your produce at a road-side booth or stall at the local farmer’s market. This would be a great learning experience for one and all. You could also donate the extras to seniors in your neighborhood or to a local shelter.

4. Summer reading is very important for young children. It is important for adults to be involved and encourage children to read. A great way to generate some interaction is to plan a family read-aloud for the cooler summer nights. Invite extended family members and friends over to join you. You can even have the adults read a story and let the children act them out. This could become one of the activities they remember most from the summer. As your children want to stay up late because it is summer, you have some extra hours to fill as well. A great item to add to your “Summer Bucket List” could be to add a family game night or movie night to a week night. This encourages some fun family time in the home.

5. Take your lunch outside! Kids love to eat outside! Set up a picnic table and chairs underneath a big shady tree or umbrella. Put together a basket of books and create story time at the park or the backyard. After story time, play a game! Remember the traditional game of Twister? Spray paint the game board on your backyard grass and have some fun falling all over each other. Take the games outside and enjoy the fresh air while you play Monopoly or Candyland.

6. Your family may enjoy camping out but circumstances simply forbid you from taking a camping trip. You still have options! Pitch your tent in the backyard and enjoy the same fun just a little closer to home. Remember to bring some essentials as if you were leaving for the forest! Giving your children flashlights is a simple way to add to the fun!

7. Plan a “Good Samaritan” act each month. Think of a family that has fallen on hard times or a charity that could use some help. Do random acts of kindness for people in your neighborhood – weed an elderly neighbor’s flower garden, mow a single mom’s lawn, gather canned goods from your neighbors and take them to the local shelter or food bank. There are so many good things your family could do if you just put your minds to it.

These are just a few ideas of things your family can do together during the summer. Take some time to sit down together and talk about things you would like to do. Obviously, everyone will want to do their “own thing” as much as possible during the summer, but think of the benefits of spending time together as a family.  Children grow up so fast, so make this summer a season of family memories that will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Planning packing summer vacation

Planning a family vacation this summer? Are you envisioning your toddler playing in the sand at the beach? Can you picture your child’s smile as they enjoy their first ride at an amusement park? Can you see yourself giving high fives after they accomplish a wilderness hike? Are these thoughts of relaxing and exciting times eliminated quickly with the anxiety of traveling? We all want to get away this summer… in fact, according to a recent Harris Poll American travel is up 60% this summer over 2012. As parents we all dread it, the plane trip, the car ride, you name it. We don’t want to be the parent with that child that everyone is staring at! The key to traveling with children, no matter the means is planning and organization. Try to be prepared.

Make a List- This is always helpful when there are certain things, you simply cannot forget. In my house it would be “Pinkie Pie”, our very colorful stuffed turtle that sleeps with my 3 year old every night. Children do not like a lot of changes. We as parents drill in a sense of routine from the beginning. When we vacation, we are taking them out of their routine. If we are aware of this and can help to accommodate it, we can decrease the chance of fits or acting out before it happens and lower our and our children’s anxiety.

Packing- I have found that including my children in the packing process is helpful. This also allows for open conversation of where we are going and what we are doing; mentally preparing my children for the many upcoming adventures. If we are flying, I talk to them about how exciting big airplanes can be. This eliminates the scary thoughts before the trip. If we are about to embark on a long car ride, I explain the concept of a “road trip” and talk about the exciting things we will see along the way! I also mention the exciting car games! We always play car games, to keep dialogue going. We have a in car scavenger hunts, we look for “Welcome” to the next state signs, we look for certain color cars, and we play trivia.

Activity Bags- Now I know we all LOVE technology! A great way to entertain our children is to let them play with a smart phone or a tablet. I do suggest if you are going to have them watch a movie on the plane, make sure you download it prior to boarding. If your toddler loves to play games, download some new ones they haven’t seen before to keep them engaged longer. Always make sure the apps of choice are age appropriate and utilize the technology as an opportunity to learn. Also, have earphones on your list of what to pack; this will help little ears while flying and make others around you happy! If you are driving, make sure you include your children in the DVD selection before you embark on your road trip. Please remember safety first! Don’t try to change movies while you are driving. Do keep them in a convenient location so during potty breaks you can switch out movies without digging through your suitcases. For our not- so-tech savvy travelers, I recommend taking your children to the local Dollar Tree or Dollar Store and have them pick out NEW items for their own travel bags. It has to be small enough for them to carry it themselves. My children picked sticker activity books, a Crayola magic marker book (only colors on that paper), short vibrant story books, mini hand characters and travel games. My personal favorite is a mini flip book of questions for both you and your child. This creates some dialogue that brings in lasting memories. Some of the questions have included the following: “What was Mom’s favorite vacation place as a child?” “What was Dad’s first pet’s name?” “What was Mom’s favorite grade in school?”

Snacks- “Mom, we are hungry!” Remember to always pack snacks! Don’t just throw a package of mini Oreos in your purse, plan out your snacks based on your travel times. If you have to change planes, make sure you are planning your snacks around bathroom breaks. I have my children help me pick out the snacks, so I know it is something they will eat, but I give them choices. I don’t simply let them choose any item they wanted or all of their snacks would be Capri Sun! Make sure you get individually wrapped snacks and carry wipes. Kids can be messy. Water is very important while traveling and children are allowed to take their own Thermoses virtually anywhere. They make awesome insulated water bottles now with their favorite characters, they have a handle so they are easy to carry and they have a pop out straw to avoid spills. While flying it is best to fill your thermos after you have completed security. My children take them filled with water everywhere they go!

OOPS! It happens, that is why they are called accidents. We simply cannot predict them, but we can plan on them. I always travel with extra clothes for my children and myself. Sit on one flight or in one restaurant with a blouse soaked with a spilled drink or a baby’s spit up and you will pack extra too!  I don’t tell my kids I have extra clothes, as I don’t want to intrude on their self confidence, but I do like to be prepared. I also remember that when traveling with kids, my hands are usually pretty full. Try to organize your giant “Mom purse” in a way that you can easily find your keys, boarding pass and snacks. I usually try to have a separate snack bag.  Remember to take your children to the restroom before you board and before you load back up in the car. Don’t ask them, just take them… trust me on this one!

Don’t let the fear of travel keep you from enjoying your vacation. We have all been there. Remember to have those important conversations with your child about public behavior and simply explain that airplane behavior is similar to restaurant behavior. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While traveling with little ones, we tend to get so focused on other passengers, that we forget we don’t have to be “Super Parent’s” all the time. Use your stroller and check it at the gate. Ask a fellow traveler or flight attendants to hold your carry-on while you strap in the car seat.  Most importantly, try to have some fun! It is called vacation! Yes, children cry and get upset, it will happen. If we are doing the best we can, we will survive.

 

 

 

 

Teddy-Logo

What Do Kids Think of Portrait Day? Ask Chelsea

Photographer Ashley Curtis’ Makes a Lasting Impression

At every photo session, Teddy Bear Portrait’s photographer; Ashley Curtis, spoons up her own brand of silliness to keep kids smiling. However, Ashley may have ended up with the biggest smile yet, from her most recent Portrait Day at Elite Preparatory Academy in Orlando, Florida, who wrote this note of thanks in appreciation from one of the children, Chelsea.

      Letter from Chelsea
[Written Parental Consent to publish]

The entire team at Teddy Bear Portraits is thrilled that Chelsea and Ashley had fun, got some great shots, and took time to share their story with us.

Photographing children, and doing it well, takes someone who loves what they do. Ashley pours her heart into creating the kind of experience for children that make smiles come easily. Chelsea is one delightful little girl who doesn’t miss a detail and is generous about spreading smiles, too.

Blog Pic Drawing__IMG_1412 (2)Chelsea depicts the portrait table, backdrop and subject — herself!
[Written Parental Consent to publish]

How would you grab the attention of a room full of preschoolers and keep the fun rolling through a session—photographing 20 or 30 kids? Ashley has a few tricks up her sleeve, including a bit of silliness that involves calling kids by the wrong name. They quickly get the joke and join in, which in this session ended with the kids renaming Ashley as “Sally.”

Ashley makes an effort to keep kids involved in the entire shoot, so by the time they’re all under the lights, they have a high level of comfort with the entire process. Ashley says her number one trick is to “… ask the kids to say a word, like ‘turkey,’ then when they do, I say, ‘did you call me a turkey?’ that gets the laughter going every time, and we keep going from there.”

Blog Pic _MG_6251       Blog Pic_MG_6255 (2)       Blog Pic_MG_6253 (2)
Chelsea’s smile is enough for two!
[Written Parental Consent to publish]

Each of our photographers are trained to work with children, and each brings their own creativity into play. For example: Ashley selects props with care, as she knows kids love the intricate garden seat she uses with the tree backdrop, shown above. Ashley also ramps up interest by giving kids a voice, for example: letting them choose the color of a flower to hold, or to pose with a favorite toy, like Chelsea’s Beanie Baby; Ronnie. Sadly, Ronnie could not be coaxed to smile. (There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there?)

Ashley joined Teddy Bear Portraits last year and shared this selfie she took during her training.

Ashley - Teddy Bear Portraits PhotographerAshley Curtis – Teddy Bear Portraits Photographer

With a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography from Valdosta State University, in Georgia, Ashley wanted to use her creative talents, but also hoped to work with young children. She initially considered careers such as early childhood education or child psychology. As a portrait photographer for Teddy Bear Portraits, we think she has the best of both worlds; using her skills to capture portraits of exceptional quality and create upbeat experiences for kids — good enough to write about!

Thank you, Chelsea and Ashley.

 

 

 

 

Fathers Day __ 478386339

There is a surefire way to make any Father’s Day gift more meaningful: integrate a photo of someone he loves, to hear call him “Dad.” We’ve got loads of online gift items that fill the bill — featuring our portraits or your original photography. We also love the ideas below from bloggers and crafters for making photo gifts for Father’s Day. Have young kids join in the fun —  and get in the picture.

1. Capture several generations of fathers in one photo.

Do you have portraits of multiple generations, such as great-grandfather, grandfather, and Dad? Have the youngest or most senior family member pose with portraits of multiple generations. Head to your local photo shop or kiosk if you need help enlarging an old snapshot.

2. Photograph kids holding over-sized message to dad.

This example shows kids holding oversized letters, spelling out “ Dad,” composed in a multi-image frame. This one uses dimensional letters. Here’s another sweet variation. Have kids write out messages to Dad on small chalkboards, then photograph them holding the boards and frame as a collage.

3. Make a photo memory jar or snow globe. Pull together a few small photos and laminate them. Add meaningful trinkets that represent Dad’s interests. . . perhaps fishing lures or golf  ball? Add to a jar with glycerin, glitter and seal. Voila, a memory jar!

4. Visit our online shop for personalized gifts — perfect for summer!

Overdue for a truly special Father’s Day gift? Stop by our online store and pursue our photo gifts, personalized with a portrait . Dad will be happy to un-wrap a sleek stainless steel sports bottle featuring either a portrait taken by us, or a candid shot of yours. Other great gifts for Dad and perfect for summertime are a cooler bag or T-shirt, as well as mugs, coasters, desk accessories and more, all personalized with an image.

 

 

 

flag, memorial day, holiday, kids, learning, america

How to Help Kids Understand Memorial Day

If you have served in the military or know someone who has—Memorial Day holds a special place in your heart as the day to honor those who have died serving our country.  But in the decades since Congress made Memorial Day part of a three-day weekend, the meaning of the day has been lost for many people. For many, Memorial Day is not much more than the official launch of summertime.

We’re all for summertime, and love an excuse to get outdoors, gather with family and friends, and crank up the barbeque! But it’s important to observe the true meaning of Memorial Day, to remember those who gave everything to protect our many freedoms. Memorial Day is an opportunity to ground children in history and to anchor their lives in tradition and gratitude for those who have sacrificed for us.

What does Memorial Day mean to you? It started with honoring the fallen in the Civil War. Do you confuse Memorial Day with Veteran’s Day? Veteran’s Day, in November, honors all who have served in the U. S. military.

Here are some ways to observe Memorial Day with your children and help them understand the significance:

  • Attend a Memorial Day parade and explain why it’s important, why members of the military are participating, and what our flag means.
  • Celebrate family members or friends who have died in service.
  • Visit a local cemetery and decorate military graves with small flags or flowers. Perhaps care for a military grave that appears neglected.
  • Observe the National Moment of Remembrance: Pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on those who died protecting our freedom. Explain to kids and ask them to participate.
  • Do you know someone who has served? Have your child speak with a Veteran and ask why it was important for them to serve our country, and what was it like?

The two books below are also recommended for preschoolers:

  • Memorial Day: Our Nation’s Pride Set 2, by Karen Latchana Kenney
  • Memorial Day, by Rebecca Rissman

 

Artwork Blog Post 5.18.14

Save Memories: Ditch Clutter by Photographing Kids’ Artwork

Is your refrigerator plastered with artwork from your child’s school projects?  As the school year wraps up, expect even more paper to come sailing through the door, only to land on your kitchen counter, or any spot in your home that is a clutter magnet.

While we might love to hang onto all those, crafty, heartfelt memories, doing so can turn our homes into a cluttered mess. If we save too much, we can’t care for it, and it often ends up damaged and tossed out years later. That’s hardly a way to treasure the artwork or to remember a stage in your child’s life.

Photography is a solution that puts together the best of both worlds — toss the papers but save the memories. If you capture those memories digitally, you can even keep a copy in the digital “cloud” or on media offsite like ARTCHIVE that is specially designed to keep, protect and create gifts and keepsakes with your child’s artwork.   As a bonus you will have an archive in case disaster strikes, such as a flood or fire.

What to keep, what to photograph?

Consider keeping a few pieces of original art each year. Ask your child which ones are their favorites, and perhaps frame one or two. Talk with your child about photographing the rest and why it’s a good idea to let some papers go to recycling. Make sure this is agreeable to the artist and be sensitive to the needs of your child. Some kids may not care much, while a true budding artist may warrant keeping a larger collection. Be sure to label and date what you keep, and look into getting acid free document storage boxes to preserve the keepers.

Tips on photographing art

Our friends at About.com put together several good tips on taking photos of artwork. Here’s a summary, be sure to pay them a visit for more details:

1. Place your lens square and level with the artwork. You can mount the art at eye level, crouch, or even stand over the art.

2. Choose good but indirect natural lighting. Direct sunlight is a no-no. If all you have is artificial lighting, use at least two sources, angled at 45 degrees to the object.

3. If you have a tripod, use it. Otherwise, try to stabilize your arms against your body or an object.

4. Forget the flash. Light from a flash can wash out the color and reduce contrast, and also create glare.

Photography is a great solution not only for cutting down on artwork but for preserving memories of toys, outfits, and even the way a child’s room was decorated, when time comes to let go of the objects themselves.