3 Things for Busy Moms to Do this Spring

Spring is almost here, in spite of the chill in the air here in NYC. So we’re sharing a new approach to Spring Cleaning, tailored for busy moms like us.

This spring, we’re finding ways of celebrating the every day, because “every moment matters” is more than how we describe our work, it is how we live our lives.

Stop asking "how was your day"

Avoid this question if you really want answers!

To really connect with your kids, and to get the conversation going, try some of our tips from the start of the school year.

Are these strategies working for you? What are you doing to start quality conversations with your kids? And how are you finding the time?

Choose one simple way to connect with your kids

You don’t have to be Mary Poppins to create special moments for your kids. And you don’t have to plan elaborate vacations or custom play spaces to enjoy some time together.

In fact, even small interactions like cooking a meal together, sitting around the table (it doesn’t have to be a holiday!), watching their favorite TV show with them, or listening to them describe something that they love - a hobby, sport, art project or video game) - can go a long way.

Take some time for self-care

Remember the advice they give on planes to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others when things get hectic.

Photo by  Becca Tapert  on  Unsplash

The spring season is often full of family events and major milestones (Mitzvahs, graduations, weddings). In all that excitement, and during all that preparation, the small moments that matter can get lost, especially if you’re not finding little ways to remind yourself that you matter. Practice self-care when you’re busy, not just when you feel like you have the space to carve out “me time.”

Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

We are big fans of Thanksgiving at Portraits that Move because it brings together our favorite things - family and gratitude (and food!).

There is nothing like gathering together around a table to share stories and relish in the small moments that make our lives, especially our family lives, rich and memorable. But, as natural as it is to have conversations with our loved ones, the conversation doesn’t always flow naturally.

Thanksgiving Conversation Starters.png

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get the conversation started and keep it going this year at your Thanksgiving table. Try these tips for a fun, stress-free Thanksgiving for families of all ages and sizes. Our conversation starters and Thanksgiving table games are guaranteed to bring joy to your table, and to teach you things about your family that you never knew.

Make the Alphabet Game the Gratitude Game

I’m thinking of something that begins with the letter…

We all know the popular road trip game, where you work your way through the alphabet, guessing something that begins with each letter of the alphabet while the person who is “it” provides clues to the guessers.

Customize this game for your Thanksgiving table. Take turns going clockwise around the table (or starting youngest to oldest). The first person who is “it” says “I’m grateful for something that begins with the letter A.” Each person around the table guesses what that is based on hints.

This is a fun, easy, and interactive way to share what you are thankful for. It is also a natural way to start a conversation around gratitude, and to teach you what little things matter to your loved ones.

Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters

Craft stick conversation starters are one of our favorites! We have a complete DIY guide to creating these fun, reusable conversation starters that are perfect for Thanksgiving table games and throughout the year.

DIY Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters for Kids and Tweens
What you need:
2 mason jars
1 pack of large craft sticks
markers (we chose brightly colored and metallic Sharpies to make it extra fun)
a list of creative questions for kids

diy conversation starters for kids mason jar craft stick.JPG

See more suggestions and tips for creating your own craft stick conversation starters. For Thanksgiving, you can customize the colors, add festive stickers and coordinate your sticks to go with your table and decor themes. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in holiday prep and to keep their hands busy while you are finishing up your last minute cooking and decorating!

Favorite Things and Follow-Ups

After everyone is seated at the table, instruct them to put their place cards in a hat (or a pumpkin, cornucopia or Thanksgiving themed cup!). The person at the head of the table pulls out one name at a time and asks that person to name one of their favorite things.

After that person shares a favorite thing, encourage everyone else around the table to ask questions about it so they can learn more. Questions can include “has that always been one of your favorites?” “What makes you like that so much…”

Other favorite things follow-ups should include things like “That’s a great book! When I was your age, my favorite book was…”

This is an easy way to learn more about each other. Favorites and follow-ups is a particularly good game if you have tweens and teens at your table who want to share but don’t always know how, and who sometimes feel too on the spot when they are barraged with questions. The key to getting kids to talk honestly and openly is to create space in which they feel comfortable, rather than exposed.

Cheers to comfortable spaces, laughter around tables, and conversations that create memories well beyond the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Three Questions to Ask Kids after Practice

It’s the season for sports and music and art classes. Back to School is in full swing and kids’ schedules are getting busier and busier. With that, comes more opportunity for good conversations and memorable storytelling that improve kids’ confidence and strengthen your bond.

Here’s a rundown of how to create those kinds of conversations, starting with a reminder to carve out time to talk to kids about their experiences, motivations, and emotions. When we are shuffling from activity to activity while trying to meet our own deadlines, finding time and space to have those conversations is hard.

Remember, it doesn’t take a long time to have a good conversation. Grab your moments and be intentional.

Start by asking these three questions when you pick up your kids from their next soccer practice or orchestra rehearsal.

What was the best part?

Focus on the positive. Asking your child to identify the best part of soccer practice encourages her to look for positive experiences, even if (especially if) the practice didn't go as smoothly as she wanted, or didn't live up to her expectations.

Photo by  Jeffrey Lin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeffrey Lin on Unsplash

Taking a moment to assess an experience and find the good in it helps your child practice balance, gratitude and hopefulness. When you encourage your child to do this through conversation, you are helping them through the process and reminding them that they are not alone – you are there with them to celebrate and to support.

 “What was the best part” is the perfect first question because it gives your child something to celebrate, something good to share with you. It goes a long way to creating a safe, comfortable space for kids to talk to and connect with you.

Asking your child to share the best part of orchestra or soccer practice gives them a launch pad for a story and a path for a meaningful conversation. It gives you a glimpse into what matters to them, and what they value. This is the heart of real conversations. And it often makes for a great story!

How do you think you played?

This second question moves into the topics that are more difficult for your kids to talk about, but even more necessary for you to dig into together.

Be careful how you frame this question. If kids feel like they are being interrogated or judged, they shut down. Your conversation, your relationship, and their confidence suffer. 

This doesn't mean that kids don't want to share their challenges with parents - they do - but they want to do so in a way that does not make them feel more judged, or more embarrassed, than they may already feel. Sometimes your child leaves practice feeling vulnerable. If she ran into another player because the coach said "go right" and she went left, she may have been hurt, and she may have been laughed at. Don’t compound her negative feelings about herself or the situation. Let her take the lead in explaining the experience from her point of view and walk through how to address it together, carefully and respectfully.

Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash

“How do you think you played” creates space for kids to communicate. It signals that you are interested in how they are playing because you care about them, and you care about the things that matter to them. You are not looking for a scouting report. Their answers don’t change how much you love them or how proud of them you are.

Everyone wants to get better - that's why they practice. Let your child know that you are not asking these questions because you want to see immediate results. He does not need to master every note in his orchestra piece today. You are engaged in the learning process, warts and all. You are present for their stories and you are ready to help them achieve their goals.

Part of achieving those goals is discovering what they need to work on. That’s why “how do you think you played” is a good way to help kids evaluate where they are and where they want to be without judgement or pressure. It is much more productive – for your conversation and for their development – than “what did you do wrong” or “why was the conductor yelling at you.”

It also gives you, as a parent, the opportunity to share your own stories. Kids love to hear about what parents were like when we were their age. If you can share an embarrassing story, or an example of how you faced a challenge, your child feels less alone and more encouraged. Remember, when you are sharing your stories, this is not the time to take over the conversation, to air out old grievances, or to show off. Let your child take the lead.

What are you looking forward to next time?

Look-ahead questions create interesting and honest conversations. When you ask your child what she is looking forward to next time, you are encouraging her to move on from disappointments and build on successes. And you are doing that without commanding her to “move on” or “work harder.”

Photo by  Fede Casanova  on  Unsplash

Even more importantly, a look-ahead question like this signals to your kids that you are with them for the long haul. You did not start this conversation so that they could deliver you a report that you can file away. You did not ask them to open up to you simply to fill the time on the way home. You are engaged with them and supportive of them. You are in this together.

Every question you ask your children is an opening for them to share their stories, to build their confidence, and to strengthen your bond comfortably and safely.

This is a busy season. We – parents and kids – too often feel like we are rushing through our lives, never taking time to look back, to look forward, or to be present in the moment with each other. Taking even a small amount of time to have an intentional conversation with each other slows everything down just enough so that we don’t miss these precious moments and we don’t rush through opportunities to connect with each other and celebrate each other.

Ask your child these questions. You’ll still make it to your next activity on time.

- Elizabeth Eames, September 2018

Elizabeth Eames is a professional communicator, a parent, and a member of the Portraits that Move Team.

Teaching Kindness to Kids in a World Filled with Anger

These are the lazy days of summer.  We're supposed to be watching our kids play on the beach, staying up late for game night, and telling old family stories, passing on our traditions and making new ones.  If we are lucky, many of us are doing this during these last weeks before the start of the school year.  But even if we are, these simple joys are competing with the very real strain of witnessing a world that feels like it is absent of kindness.

teaching kids kindness.png

As parents, what do we do?  How do we teach our kids to practice kindness in a world filled with so much anger and hatred?  How do we nurture them and prepare them to spread good in our world as a counterbalance to all the bad?  How do we do that without destroying these treasured, peaceful family moments that we want to preserve?

Moments like this are actually the foundation for teaching about and building kindness.  The more time we spend with our children, the more spaces we create for them to ask and answer questions.  We allow them to hear their own voices and to know that we are listening to them, respectfully.  This gives our children the tools they need to develop the empathy and confidence that will help them create and engage in a better world.

Kindness Begins at Home

We teach kindness by demonstrating kindness.  For parents, this means exercising a little extra patience, especially when we are busy and really don’t have the time to slow down as much as we would like. 

teaching kindness kids.png

Teaching kindness starts with respectful listening.  Listen to your kids when they ask the hard questions.  Also, remember to listen to your kids when they are telling their stories, whether they are about building Minecraft worlds or imagining shooting into the galaxy with a stuffed monkey. 

When we listen to the little things, we make time and space for their voices, and we model for our children the values of respect and empathy.  We also give them the confidence they need to speak up in defense of those who are treated unfairly, and on behalf of those who need and deserve kindness.  Remember, kindness needs courage, and courage comes from confidence.

Celebrate Kindness

When you are spending time with your kids, enjoying the last days of summer, and during the busy season of school and sports and rehearsals, always take a moment to encourage, share and celebrate acts of kindness.

kindness lessons kids.png

We have spoken about getting your kids to talk about their day, and the value of using targeted questions (to avoid the generic “How was your day?/It was fine.” conversation).  As you go through those specific questions with your children at the end of the day, during the trip home from school, around the table, or at bedtime, ask for an example of when they showed kindness.  Ask them to tell you about a time during the day when they saw someone else demonstrate kindness. 

Then remember to ask the harder questions.  Ask them if there was a time someone didn’t show kindness.  Other questions should include: Did you encounter a situation where someone needed to be shown kindness and wasn’t?  Sometimes, is it hard to be kind to others?  Why?  What can we do about that?

Share Your Own Experiences

If we expect our children to feel comfortable speaking with us about things that are difficult – and we can all agree, sometimes it is difficult to show kindness to others – we need to be honest with them. 

Tell your children about your own struggles.  Maybe you have a co-worker who frustrates you, maybe you are so tired that you feel you can’t find the energy to ask someone if they need help, or how you can do something to make their day easier.  Tell your kids about this.  Ask them if they have ideas for how you can practice kindness more often.

Keep the conversations going and let your children know that we all need each other.  In spite of the anger and the hatred that we see in the world, we can do better, if we can come together.

What My Son Taught Me About Listening

The other day I took my son to the pharmacy with me. When I got to the counter, the woman there, who has helped me many times noticed him and our relationship. "He is so cute she said, how old is he 9?" I agreed and then we got into a conversation of how fast the time goes, and how special life is with a young child.

Then something else happened, the woman started opening up to us. She told us that she had never had her own children, but had a nephew. She had been unemployed for the first year of his life and had been very involved in his care. He was very dear to her, almost like a son to her. She was deeply connected to how fast he was growing up, how short the time is and how precious each moment is. The conversation went on for a good ten to twelve minutes.

Eventually, we paid and left the store. After a pause, my son said to me, “Mom, she really wanted to talk to you today. She had a lot of things to tell you.”

I hugged him and said, “That’s true honey, but sometimes the best gift we can give someone…” He interrupted me: “I know mom, the best gift we can give someone is to listen because everyone has a story to tell, right?”

My eyes filled up with tears. I was so grateful that he knew this intuitively. He was open to her and to listening. My son showed me that he values storytelling and, more importantly, human connection. As parents we often wonder if we are doing a good job. We question whether the life lessons are sinking in and making sense. On this day, I was thrilled to realize that my son, had things to teach me.

And I was grateful that I was able to listen.

This week, take an extra moment to listen to the stories of those around you. Most importantly, take a moment to listen to your children, and to find those opportunities where they can teach you.

Keep the Conversation Going: How to Communicate and Connect with Kids from Wherever You Are

This morning I boarded a plane for a work trip to Orlando to attend a board meeting for the Kids in Need Foundation. I was looking forward to the trip. I am proud of the work we do and I always leave our meetings feeling inspired and energized.

Still, I felt sad as I said goodbye to my son. I hate missing time with him. And even though the tasks of parenting can sometimes feel monotonous, I enjoy making his lunch, our walks to school and our evening routines.

This morning he seemed a bit quiet which made me feel that he was having similar feelings. At nine years old, he may not be able to express them, but I think any time we are separated from our children there is a slight amount of discomfort for everyone involved. And perhaps with children of divorce this may be even more so. 

It got me thinking about how to stay close to him while I am traveling. How can we both stay in tune with each other when we are hundreds of miles away? I think technology is an amazing tool we can use. I will facetime to connect with my son when he gets home from school. I will show him my hotel room and encourage him to do the same for me. I’d like to see his homework sheet, his dinner, the smile on his face. 

And we can stay close by asking some good, deep questions. Here are some questions that evoke answers that go beyond yes or no:

  • What was your favorite part of your day today?
  • What was the worst part?
  • Did someone do something for you that made you feel really special?
  • Who did you have lunch with?
  • What is new with your friends (and name them specifically)?
  • Did you learn something today that made you feel excited? If so, what was it?

I will also tell my son details about my day, the same way I do at home. That way he has a sense of where I am and what is happening. I will do the same tomorrow, all the while, reassuring him that I will be home tomorrow evening. It will be great to be reunited and in the meantime, we will stay close and our conversations will continue.

 

Overcoming Shyness: Tips for Working with Kids on Camera

People often ask me what happens if their child is shy or does not want to participate on the day we arrive to film their Portraits that Move video. I always respond with complete sincerity that this is not a problem at all.

Our main goal for the film shoot is to create an open, loving space for the child to be who they are. If they feel pressured, pushed or coerced in any way, it will not work.  We want your kids to know that we love them exactly as they are.

working with kids on camera tips

We recently did a holiday shoot for two girls, Savannah and Derby. For the second year in a row, we documented the sisters for their family's Holiday Video Card. We had spent time with them last year, we cherished them and the entire family loved their first video.

Still, when we arrived to shoot the video the next year, one of the girls, Derby, was not into us being there. Initially, she refused to talk to me. She did not want to do anything we asked of her and, at one point, she even hid from us.

tips to overcome shyness on camera filmmaking tips from kids director

I showed Derby love at every turn, letting her know that her feelings were normal.  I assured her and made her feel comfortable with the filming process in the following ways:

  • I let her know that she could show us and tell us what SHE wanted. All of her answers were up to her.
  • We loved her and smiled at her even through her protest. It is a weird situation to have a camera there - we acknowledged that, and we acknowledged her feelings.
  • We encouraged anything that would bring her comfort. You will see a purple stuffed snake throughout the video. She wanted it close to her, and we agreed.
  • When she said it was over for her, we wrapped it up. There is no reason to push a child beyond the point they are willing to go. Safety and comfort are most important.  Children need and deserve to feel in control of their own experience. After all, how can our kids show us their best selves if they feel uncomfortable?

Ultimately, the film captures Derby’s spirit beautifully. She is sparkly and loving and filled with fun. I loved spending the afternoon with her. I hope she felt the same. 

The Joy of Watching Our Children Grow

This year we have had the great blessing of working with some of our Portraits that Move families for the third year in a row. It is an incredible experience and all that I hoped it would be when I started Portraits That Move.

It is fantastic to talk to our children about what moves them, inspires them and motivates them. I love hearing about all of their feelings and observing how their interests and passions change from year to year. I am able to see the incremental change in a way that you as their parent may not always recognize. I think it is also fun for the kids. They are excited to tell me things - to show me how they have grown.

I am a person that has a heightened sense of the passage of time. As a result of the health challenges that I have had, I have always had an intense awareness of the fragility of life and the quick passage of time.  I want to preserve moments in time for you, for your family and for your children’s children.

The families that work with us year after year love having a personal catalog of our work. They enjoy both the process and the final family videos. I feel grateful for the trust they extend to me to listen to and connect with their children. I am grateful to parents for inviting me to capture the passage of time, to give the gift of time back to them, and to their children.  

The work we do, creating custom documentary quality videos of families, is a gift to each of us as Portraits that Move filmmakers. As we enter into the holiday season, I look forward to giving that gift to all of you. 

What the End of School Year Means for Parents

There are few moments when the passage of time is felt as acutely as it is at the end of the school year.  Surely, we are all looking at (and posting) the side-by-side First Day of School/Last Day of School photos on social media and remarking at how much our children and our friends' children have changed over the course of a school year.

Likely, we are also thinking in our more quiet, private moments, about how fast the time is going, how different our kids are from when they started the school year, and anticipating, already, how much they will have changed by the end of the summer, by the end of next year...

Celebrate these moments, mark these changes.  Listen to and look at your children as they are right now, carrying with them what they learned over these past few months, hearing their dreams for vacation adventures and all that lies ahead of them. 

Schedule a Portraits that Move portrait video session today, to honor the now, to preserve this moment, this year, this child of yours.  It doesn't need to be a holiday in the traditional sense, and it doesn't have to be a formal gift to a parent or grandparent.  Let this be your time to celebrate your children, their accomplishments, this moment, right now.

What the Huffington Post #TalkToMe Series Teaches about the Power of Conversation on Film

We have been closely following the Huffington Post #TalkToMe Series in which luminaries and entrepreneurs are interviewed by their grown children.

Interviewees include Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Laura Bush and many more.  For us at Portraits that Move, we are captivated by the ways in which these individuals, all of whom have been interviewed countless times before by the best in the business, open up when they are speaking with their children.

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

With this seies, we are witnessing, again, the beauty of conversation between parents and children and the power of film to bring those conversations to life.  The children in these cases are adults who are accomplished in their own right.  As part of the Portraits that Move filmmaking process, we interview children when they are young and just beginning to discover their dreams - and their voices.  But we see, and we know that you all do, too, that the same bond we develop with our children when they are babies grows and develops just as they do.

The bonds we create with our children through the conversations we have with them - time spent listening as much as speaking - help to empower them to be leaders, just like the subjects of these wonderful interviews. 

What conversations are you having with your kids?  Try some of our conversation starter ideas today.

See Portraits that Move in the Huffington Post.

Things Kids Say

There is nothing like a conversation with a child, or an overheard observation, to put a smile on your face.  One of the daily joys of documenting the lives of children for their families, is getting to interact with kids and hear their take on the world around them.

Book a moving portrait from Portraits that Move. 

Talking with kids, and even more so, really listening kids, gives us a glimpse into the world through their eyes.  It is at once exciting, new, precious and nostalgic.  And occasionally, it is hilarious.

More than anything, though, it is fleeting - these observations and conversations that we so often miss in the hustle of school dropoff and shuttling back and forth to activities and balancing work and home and kids and life.  Through it all, there is this desire to hit the pause button, to freeze on a moment, to come back to that conversation you had with your son that showed you who he is, and who he is becoming.  You want to go back to that evening at the dinner table when your daughter made you laugh, really laugh, and you realized this family of yours, these moments, they are what is precious.  And no matter how long these days and weeks can feel, they won't last forever.

But maybe the memories can.

 

 

Dreaming of Growing Up

One of the things that I most love to ask kids is what they want to be when they grow up. I find the answers they provide exciting, compelling and quite astute.  Kids are able to dream, they do not let limitations inhibit them. They are tapped into their strengths, their interests and what brings them joy. The world is open to them and it is incredible.

I get really excited about the idea of following our kids, as they get older to see if they hold onto the same dreams or if they change them in the some way.  I want to reflect their beauty, power and greatness to them. I want them to know that I believe in their biggest dreams.

As I child I dreamed of being an actress, a gymnast or a teacher. Although I started making video at fourteen years old, I never imagined my work would bring me to this path, this place, this moment. It is more fun, and more fulfilling that I ever thought it could be.  I wish the same for all of our kids.

Here’s to them and to the dreams ahead.

Talking With Kids: What Does It Mean to Be in Love?

I am so excited about Valentine’s Day.  I love any excuse to be romantic, generous and expressive. These days Valentine’s Day is all about my son, my family and my friends. I use it as a formalized reason to express how much I treasure all of them, how much they mean to me and how much gratitude I have for the expansive love in my life.

valentine video

This year, I got curious, about what being in love means to my son, so I asked him:

“What do you think it means to be in love?”

His response, “Being in love is about generosity, kindness, loyalty and protection.”  I was floored by his answer. What a teacher he is, this son of mine.

I opened up the question to a couple of his friends.  One friend said that, “Being in love means you have a person that cares about you that you also care about.” 

talking with kids about love

Another friend said “It means finding a person you want to marry.”  This was a common theme, another young girl said, “Being in love is when you love someone so much and they love you so much, enough that you want to marry them.  And that is being in love." All true. 

I find talking to kids about their feelings and the definitions of their feelings so enlightening. Doing so opens the window into what they are thinking and also into new ways of seeing our own emotions. 

We are showing our kids how much we love them by listening, hearing them and honoring their ideas. There is nothing more loving than that.

Wishing you all tremendous love on Valentine’s Day. Hope it comes to you in many forms, those expected and those suprising.

Why We Love February

February is a special time of year here at Portraits that Move.  We are busy creating Valentine video gifts and listening to kids talk about love.  They share what love means to them, who they love and why, and what their own special plans are for celebrating and sharing love.

That's one of the beautiful things about creating documentary style short films for families.  We have the privilege - and the responsibility - of helping kids communicate their love and joy to the people they love the most.

And we get to celebrate right along with all of you.  Through every film shoot, every hour in the editing room, and all of our conversations with kids and parents, we are living and sharing love and joy.

As we head into Valentine's Day, know that we love every one of you - our clients, friends and readers.  And we are so grateful to help you spread the love today and always.

Happy Valentines Day! 


3 New Year Goals for a Joy Filled 2016

The last few weeks have been busy filming, editing and delivering holiday video gifts to families.  Parent reviews and holiday wishes are rolling in, and we are booking portrait shoots for next year.

custom video professional video family

In the midst of all the busy-ness of work and celebration and family time, it is important to enter the new year with a clear mind and a clear heart, ready to take on new challenges and to grow professionally and personally, all without losing sight of what matters most.  So often, parents share with us that they feel like time is passing them by.  They look at videos we created for them last year and compare them to the films we made this year and realize how, in what feels like an instant, their children have grown - and changed - so much. 

custom video gifts

It is in this spirit that I am outlining my 3 goals for 2016, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

3 New Year Goals for a Joy Filled 2016

1. Celebrate and document everyday moments

Want to remember how your kids are right now?  Take a moment to snap a photo.  Write down a funny anecdote or one of their favorite phrases.  Capture moving images with us and on your own.  Next year at this time, and years from now, you will be so glad that you did.

2. Prioritize family care AND self care

The adage is true, and the advice is worth taking: care for yourself so that you can care for others.  Allow yourself to take the time you need to care for, spend time with, and support your family.  This will bring you joy, confidence and comfort, and it will do the same for your kids.

family legacy films

3. Stop to acknowledge how your family is growing, communicating and connecting with each other

Instead of hurrying from task to task and moment to moment without reflection or appreciation, in the new year, commit yourself to taking time to look at, appreciate and connect with your family.  You will be amazed to see the daily changes in your children, and inspired by how they experience the world - their ideas, the stories they tell, the ways in which they open our eyes to the world around us.

What are your New Year's resolutions?  Share with us and let's be accountable - and joyful -  together in 2016.

DIY Craft Stick Conversation Starters for Kids and Tweens

Talking with kids never ceases to amaze - and inspire - our Portraits that Move team.

This weekend, we had the pleasure of participating in the Runnin' Wild Toys Pop Up Book Fair on Court Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

popsicle stick game diy mason jar projects kids

In addition to chatting with neighbors and friends about Portraits that Move and our work making moving portraits, snapshot films and our new video alternative to holiday cards, we set up a fun activity for kids.  And as we so often find, it was just as much fun for us as it was for them.

Here is a quick rundown of our activity and some tips for making your own DIY conversation starters for kids and tweens...

DIY Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters for Kids and Tweens
What you need:
2 mason jars
1 pack of large craft sticks
markers (we chose brightly colored and metallic Sharpies to make it extra fun)
a list of creative questions for kids

conversation starters for kids diy game

How to play:
Write one conversation starter question on each craft stick and fill one mason jar.

Invite your kids to pull out a craft stick and read and answer the question.  Place that stick in the other mason jar and continue the game.

This fun activity engages kids, helps them overcome shyness, and encourages them to share their ideas and their experiences in a way that makes everyone smile.  It worked so well for us at the Book Fair and would surely be a fun addition to classroom activities, team activities and around the table during dinner or over the holidays.

Tip: Get the kids to help come up with some of the questions.  They will feel proud to hear others read and answer their questions and you will get more insight into what they like to talk about.

Sample Questions

If I could fly, I would…

When I hear music, I…

If I could be a book character I would be...

What I love most about my home is...

I am most proud of….

The hardest thing I ever learned how to do was…

The superpower that I have is….

Who is your best friend and why?

diy craft stick mason jar projects kids

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Brooklyn Author Mallory Kasdan: Our Kids Teach Us About Beauty, Kindness and Community

We are thrilled to have Mallory Kasdan, Brooklyn mom and author of the popular (and hilarious!) children's book Ella, join us today as a Portraits that Move guest blogger.

Mallory's post, which first appeared on her blog, shows how our children teach us curiosity, joy, gratitude and friendship every day, just by being who they are.

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What a Multigenerational Vacation Taught Me about the Past and the Future

We recently returned from a lovely two week vacation with my parents. It was incredible. We had amazing weather, the idyllic setting of Cape Cod, delicious food and many of the summer adventures and activities that one thinks of when they imagine a summer vacation filled our weeks.

cape cod multigen vacation

The best part of all, though, was spending that time with my parents. My family lives in Philadelphia and we see them frequently. Typically, though, it is just for a day here or a couple days there. This summer, we had the gift of more than two weeks.

My son and my parents have always been close, and I am so deeply grateful that we had this extended time together. It is in the small moments of this type of time and space that the most important memories are made. My son did enjoy the miniature golf games, ice cream and sailing adventures, but if you asked him about the highlights of his vacation, he would cite reading next to my father, making ice cream with my mom and playing catch in the pond with me.

multigenerational vacation grandfather grandson boat

And with these actions comes a deeper knowing, a relaxation, an ease and a closeness. It is also with this time and its ordinary conversations that the deeper reveals happen.

My parents spoke to my son about their childhoods and mine. They imparted quiet lessons to him and most of all they just enjoyed each other and loved each other.

Frank Bruni wrote an op-ed piece about this in the New York Times and he took the words out of my mouth.

multigenerational vacation grandmother mother son

While on this multigenerational vacation, I realized again how grateful I am for the technology we have and for our ability to document moments like these.

When my son grows up and thinks about this summer, we will have photos and videos to share, along with our memories. They are gifts that will keep on giving, they give my son and I the ability to return to the wisdom, the closeness and the love of his grandparents.  

Back to School Help: A Safe Space for Everything Kids Are Feeling

This week marks the beginning of a new school year in New York and with it comes much excitement. I know my son will be thrilled to reunite with his friends, many of whom have been away most of the summer.  It is a time of new beginnings, new teachers, new school supplies, new sneakers.  There is a rush, some anticipation, a jolt of energy that comes with the back to school season.

And it is not only this way for the kids. As parents, we get excited for the year of learning ahead.  We welcome the routines and we are on the edge of our seats, hoping the transition will go smoothly and be full of ease for everyone involved.

Most of all, we cannot believe the time has flown by - they are starting kindergarten, third grade, high school. How could it be possible? They need to feel both our confidence and our questions. In feeling both, we stay connected to them, united, and close.

back to school help manage transitions talk to kids about feelings new school year


It is important to create space to welcome all of the elements of the back to school transition - the fun parts and the challenges. Getting older is hard for everyone and we need to let our children know that all of their feelings make sense, that we, in fact, have and have had the same sorts of feelings.

There is an opportunity here for parents to let our children know that the spectrum of our feelings is healthy. We can feel confident and have excitement. We can trust, yet wonder.

We are in it together with them and even though we are not the ones starting school, the renewal is so for all of us.

On Gratitude, Ronald McDonald House and Teaching Our Children

I recently did some work filming at a Ronald McDonald House in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The Ronald McDonald Organization is a national charity that provides housing for families when their children are having extended stays in the hospital.

ronald mcdonald house welcome to house that love built documentaries for healing

 

At each location they offer housing, a kitchen, and other support services for families to make the challenges of their situation a bit easier.

Their mission is to keep families together, as they believe that in doing so, there is healing for everyone involved in dealing with childhood illness.

As I spoke to some of the families, my perspective shifted. It is easy to take things for granted when our children are healthy and our families are home. The families I filmed are grateful for having a meal cooked for them, access to wi-fi, a bedroom that feels personal, and smiles from people who are familiar when they are far from home.

behind the scenes ronald mcdonald house

Listening to these families, I saw that their gratitude was deep, overwhelming and intense. It created opening and closeness.

Talking to Kids about Gratitude

I try to use gratitude in my home as a regular on-going conversation with my son.  When we focus on gratitude, it can create good feeling and closeness. Sometimes I will ask my son during dinner what happened in his day that made him feel grateful.

Other times as I am tucking him into bed, I will tell him the 5 things about my day that I am grateful for and ask him about his.

There are a lot of other ways to introduce gratitude into a conversation, to make it into a game and to keep it present.  I find that talking about what we are grateful for shifts things.  It makes the mood more positive, lighter and gentler.

Daily Awareness of Gratitude

In that spirit, today I am grateful for

  • My son
  • My good health
  • My family and dear friends
  • The beautiful morning light coming in the window as I write this
  • The gift of getting to do what I love
  • The good books I have read this summer and the joy of reading
  • The challenge and fun of writing this blog
  • The day ahead

Sharing What We Are Thankful For

What are you grateful for?

How does gratitude open a conversation in your family?