3 Questions to Ask Your Kids to Connect to Nature and Each Other

The weather is beautiful in NYC today! Take a moment when you can (or even when it’s so busy you feel like you can’t) to ask your kids these three questions. They’ll help you connect to the beauty around you, and to each other.

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So power down those screens, and encourage your kids (littles and bigs) to look up, down, and around. They’ll discover the beauty, the simplicity, and the power of the natural world around them. And you are very likely to be reminded of the beauty, simplicity, and power of the children you are raising. It’s all about those small moments that matter, friends, as we head into Earth Day, and EVERY DAY.

Look Up - What shapes do you see in the clouds?

This one never gets old, but how many times do we stop and ask it? Finding shapes in the clouds is the first step to creating and sharing stories. '

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Before you know it, your kids will be scanning the sky for characters to add to their tales. And you will be joining right along with them. Suddenly, the walk home from school, or the trip to run errands won’t have you feeling so sluggish. You, and your kids start to feel energized by the stories you are creating, the world you are discovering, and the nature all around you that provides an endless source of inspiration.

Look Down - How many sprouts do you see?

Have no fear, city moms, this question is just as much for you as it is for our friends in the suburbs and out in the country. Get your kids to look down at the base of trees as they’re walking along the sidewalk. Ask them to peek in people’s front yards (no matter how small), and even the cracks in the concrete.

How many sprouts can your kids see? Are some of them crocus plants, are others grass? Have them guess what is growing, how big it will get, what color it will be.

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Let their imaginations run wild! Is that little weed you see growing between the sidewalk cracks going to grow up to be a tree? If it did, and we climbed it, where would it go, what would we find? How many birds would call it their home?

With a mix of imagination play and nature learning, you will be amazed by how much creativity and joy you awaken - for your kids and for you!

Look Around - How does this street look different today than it did yesterday?

The world around us is always changing, especially during springtime. Try to catch as many of those moments as you can by taking stock of the space around you and recognizing all the little changes that happen in such a short time.

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This exercise is a great way to get conversations going with your kids, and to challenge them, and you, to really LOOK at everything around you. At first, you may not notice that there are more blooms on the tree, or that the petals are starting to give way to summer style leaves, or that the buds have started to turn into flowers. But when you ask about it, and start to look for changes, and talk about what you see, you and your children will realize everything that happens in a day, and just how lucky we are to be able to experience it.

And that, friends, is a moment that matters.







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.

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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

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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.

3 Ways to Create Memorable Moments that Build Confidence and Communication Skills

Every moment matters, and during the summer, we (ideally) have a little more time to share moments and make memories together.  To celebrate the official start of summer in New York City, we are sharing three ways to create moments that foster conversation, engage creativity and create space for your children to connect with you and with others, and to share their stories and ideas with confidence.

Write to a Summer Pen Pal

Sit down with your child to choose a pen pal to write to throughout the summer.  Your child might opt to write to a friend from school who is away at camp or on vacation, a grandparent, a cousin, or someone special in their lives.

Writing to a pen pal, whether it is through snail mail or email, gives your children the opportunity to express themselves, to share their stories and relay their observations.  Receiving mail (especially traditional mail) is exciting for kids.  It gives them something to look forward to, teaches them about delayed gratification, and shows that someone took time to listen to, care about, engage with and respond to their words.  This is a powerful gift that builds confidence and helps your children develop their voices.

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Make sure that you know and trust the person with whom your child is communicating before embarking on a pen pal project.  If your child is corresponding by email, review cyber safety rules before logging on, and confirm that your child has the correct address for his/her pen pal.

Start a Family Book Club

A family book club is an ideal way for kids to connect with parents and siblings.  It gives you a shared activity to do together that revolves around observation and communication – key elements of meaningful moments shared through stories (both those you read and those you tell).

Take turns selecting a book for the family to read and discuss.  Let your kids pick the books first so that they can share something they love with you, and can lead the initial book club discussions.  A family book club helps with skill building during the summer (we see you, Summer Slide) but even more, it creates a pathway to conversation.  Book clubs are safe spaces to connect over ideas and events that you read about.  Inevitably, this gives your children the comfort and the confidence to talk about issues or concerns they face in their own lives in a way that feels more natural, and more open, than direct questioning about how they are doing or what they are feeling on a given school day afternoon.

Consider holding each of your book club meetings in a different location – the living room, in the backyard or out in a park, in one of your children’s bedroom to allow them to play host.  Changing your environment helps to set different tones for conversations and can make those conversations flow more energetically.

Put a New Spin on Old Games

Reinvent Game Night in your home by kicking up the creativity and re-imaging favorite games based on your child’s or your family’s favorite hobbies, characters or teams.  Our list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start!

Minecraft Charades

Played like traditional charades, but with categories unique to Minecraft, this serves as the perfect way to bring your kid’s screen life into real life.  Your kids will be happy to take the lead on this one, sharing their insight on their favorite game.  You will learn more about something they love and why they love it.

Giving children the opportunity to be experts on something creates memorable, enjoyable moments for your family.  It also gives them the chance to flex their leadership skills, to build confidence, and to realize that they have things to teach you and that you are willing and open to learn from them.  That is the hallmark of open dialogue and good conversation in families.

Character Tic-Tac-Toe

Create a tic-tac-toe game that replaces the Xs and Os with your child’s favorite storybook characters.  To make the pieces, your kids can draw or print out images.

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During the making and playing process, you will be amazed to see how your child begins to talk about the characters and the stories, why they like them, what happens in the stories, and how they connect to their own lives.  Children are natural sharers and they love to welcome us parents into their world.  The busy pace of life often makes that difficult, but slowing down even for a moment to share a simple project and play a simple game like this can be the missing piece of meaningful, simple connection that we often struggle to find.

Build Your Own Chess Set

Ideal for older children or larger families, building and playing with a customized chess set can be a fun, creative summer long activity full of moments for the whole family to enjoy.  Using items found around the house, from the recycling bin to the craft closet, build a chess set around a theme your family enjoys.

You might make a set based on rival baseball teams, characters from favorite TV shows or movies, or places that are special in your family history.  Once again, the act of making the pieces and the game board is full of opportunities for communication and connection.  Working on a creative project together forges your bond as a family and builds your child’s leadership, listening and teamwork skills.

This summer, take as many moments as you can to try activities like these to give your children the space they need to connect and share with you, and to give yourself the gift of time well spent.

- Elizabeth Eames, June 2018

What Do Our Children Really Think about the Holiday Season?

Busy parents are a whole new kind of busy when the holiday season kicks into gear.  We have all seen that mom - or been that mom - who is running around to holiday shows, parties, picking out gifts for teachers, wrapping late into the night, and baking... and baking... and baking.

By the time we get the chance to sit down and enjoy a meal or a party with our family, those of us moms who have been running around since the week before Thanksgiving making lists and checking them more than twice, are ready to drop.  In our quest to create seasonal magic for everyone around us, we have exhausted ourselves.  And we have to wonder, have we exhausted our kids, too? 

Is there any joy left to the season, or did we schedule and plan our way out of it?

It's time to rewind and slow down before our kids become as overwhelmed as we are and the first step to doing that is by asking our children.

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Asking the right questions and creating space to really listen to our children helps us to determine what traditions matter to them, and what we should skip this year.

Their answers might surprise you.  Maybe they enjoy doing a holiday craft or taking out ornaments with their baby pictures on them.  Maybe they look forward to watching a favorite movie because they like how you sing the words to all the songs and, more than anything, our children want to see us happy.  They want to know that they can bring us joy and we can share joy with them.

The gifts, the parties, the Instagram-ready decorations and desserts can be wonderful, but ask your children what moments really matter to them, what moments they think of when they consider what the holidays mean to them.  The moments might be smaller than you think, and far more special.

From all of us at Portraits that Move, we wish you a season filled with the small moments that matter, with the people that truly bring you joy.

A Gift for You

Purchase a Signature Portrait by December 31, 2017, and receive a 20% discount with code HOLIDAY2017.

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Road Trip Tips for Great Conversations with Kids

Now that we have kicked off the unofficial start of summer, we are planning ahead for road trips, vacations, and summer travel with kids.  Travel with kids can be the perfect time to reconnect with them and to start meaningful, fun, creative conversations.

Our Portraits that Move Team put together three easy and fun road trip games that get the kids - and you - talking, sharing, and laughing.  We know that every moment matters, and we are here to help you enjoy and document yours.  Here's to good times, good talks, and a great summer!

I Spy a Story

Try this new take on a familiar game.  Have each person in your car take a turn describing something they see.  

The next step is where it gets really fun.  In addition to describing it, have your child invent a story about it.  When it is the next person's turn, have that person do the same, using the thing they spy as a new character in the story that you are creating together.

vacation videos portraits that move

If I were...

This is another game that involves taking turns, using imagination and telling stories.  Go around the car, to the right, starting with the driver.  

Have the first person say to the second, "If you were a..." and pick a person, place or thing.  The person whose turn it is then has to answer a series of questions from that point of view.  Ask three or four questions to each player.

Example:
Mom: "If you were a monkey, what would your favorite food be."
Sam: "Banana ice cream!"
Mom: "If you were a monkey, what would your favorite color be, and why?"
Sam: "Brown, because it matches everything and it makes it hard to play hide and seek."
Mom: "If you were a monkey, what would your favorite song be?"
Sam: "Hmmm...."

Twenty Questions

This old favorite is a good way to build communication skills and to learn how your child understands the world around her.

Each person takes a turn thinking of something.  The other players ask questions (up to twenty) to determine what that person is thinking of.

All of these activities do more than pass the time while you are traveling with kids.  They help to connect you to each other by strengthening the bonds of communication.  You are sure to laugh, to go on some wacky tangents, and to discover new things about each other.  And isn't that what time away with family should be all about?

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.

 

Activities with Kids that Spark Conversation

Engaging our kids in activities that make them feel comfortable, creative, inspired and open encourages them - and makes them feel comfortable  to have good, honest conversations with us.

Because celebrating the real voices of our kids, their insights, dreams, observations, and joy is so much a part of our mission as filmmakers, we have come up with some ideas for fun activities that create conversation.  These are great things to do over summer vacation and throughout the year.

Play Outside

The outdoors is full of inspiration for kids and adults. As stimulating as the out of doors is, it is free of the distractions of home.  You won't be tempted to try and put away all the toys in the playroom or check your email "just one more time" when you are outside, immersed in nature. 

activities with kids

Playing a game of catch, going on a nature walk, collecting shells, or searching for the perfect shady spot in the park all provide opportunities to ask and answer questions about the world around us and to get insight into what is on our children's minds and in their hearts.

Go For a Walk

Again, you are limiting the distractions that try to steal attention away from our kids, and you are limiting the distractions that prevent kids from focusing on their thoughts and engaging in conversation with us (it's pretty difficult to answer a question fully when they are indulging in some screen time).

take a walk together stop and smell the roses

Walking together gives your child the chance to fill you in on his or her day.  If possible, walk home from camp or from school.  Ask a mixture of precise and open-ended questions to remind them of different moments in the day, and to get a sense of what they enjoyed, what they didn't, and what those moments made your child think about and feel.  

Questions like "what was the best part of your day" or "who did you sit with at lunchtime" are easier for kids to answer than "how was your day."

Build Something Together

When we work on something together we need to communicate and to focus.  All of this helps to create a comfortable environment for conversation and for sharing.  We feel connected when we are working on a project together and kids gain confidence and feel proud when they are able to build something from start to finish. 

build something together

Get out some puzzles, look through craft books and science experiments and find a project that is challenging but not intimidating, that is collaborative and fun.  Talk with your kids first and let them help you choose what project you want to do together.  Talk about why you are choosing that project and talk, as you go, about what comes next, how the steps connect, and who should do what to make your project work.

Learn Something Together

It's good for our kids to see that we can still learn something.  Kids feel less shy when they see that we also need to go step by step and they feel excited, right along with us, as we make progress to learn something new.  

learn something together

Learn simple sign language, or try another new language (especially if your child is taking lessons in school or through an afterschool program).  Discover facts about animals or regions of the world, try out some new dance steps, or go to a music class together.  Learning something new together gives you a sense of shared accomplishment.  You can practice together and discover together, all the while nurturing an environment of communication, trust and support.

Cook a Meal

Integrate conversation and special time with your kids into your daily life.  Cook breakfast or dinner together.  Let your child help you choose what to make and include him or her in the preparation process.  Reading recipes and measuring ingredients helps younger kids build literacy and math skills and making a meal together sets the stage for good conversations.

cook together.jpg

If you are making breakfast, talk about your plans for the day.  If you are making dinner, talk abut your favorite moments of the day.  Talk about ingredients, flavors, and family traditions.  Preparing and eating food is a time honored way of connecting and sharing with others.  Using this time intentionally with our kids passes along traditions and infuses an everyday task with joy.

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.

Peek at Our Filmmaking Process

We talked with Max and Julian about video games, superpowers and what they love about mom.  We talked about how it feels to have a brother and to be one.

Throughout the Portraits that Move filming process, we asked Max and Julian questions independently and together.  We gave them space and time to really talk to us, to do more than introduce themselves and some of their favorite books and keepsakes (Harry Potter, a panda photo). 

Our questions and the environment we create during a Portraits that Move film shoot, allowed these adorable, imaginative boys, ages seven and nine, to tell us about some of their aspirations and their concerns. And as always, we got some priceless responses.

"growing up makes me scared because I have to pay taxes and make money"

"I appreciate my family because they're nice to me and they care about me.  I love them."

Like all of our portrait length and snapshot films, we as filmmakers and the family who received the final product, developed a new insight into children's lives.  And what a gift that is!

Discover your own Portraits that Move Portrait or Snapshot.

Lessons from My Son in Honor of Mother's Day

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I have always loved kids and have enjoyed being around them.  As a teenager I babysat and was a camp counselor. I am very close with my mother and have admired her and emulated her. I have found mothering with many other women in my life and have consistently sought it out. Intuitively, I knew that mothering would come easily to me and that I would enjoy it.  

mothers day portraits that move mother and son lessons

Motherhood has, however, been wonderful in ways I did not expect. In the past eight years I have learned so much about myself, and about life in general, through the lens of parenthood. In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share some of the surprises that have come along the way:

  • Meaning can come out of the mundane ~ I walk my son to school every morning and in the 9 minutes it takes to do that, we often have profound conversations. I cherish this time with him and the fact that we both know it is something we share. Before I was a parent, I would never have guessed that something so routine as a walk to school could be so important.
  • Joy is everywhere ~ My son loves to laugh, tell jokes and be silly. He can find something funny in almost any situation or setting. I am a more naturally serious person, so seeing life through his eyes has opened me up to much more fun.
  • Things can be healed quickly ~ When there is an issue between my son and I or when I witness one with his friends, I notice that he has the ability to get over things quickly and easily. I have learned from him to let things roll more easily, to focus on the closeness and the positive rather than the negative interaction.
  • Asking for what you want is critical ~ Kids have the ability to be clear about what they want and need and to ask for it. As adults we are much more clouded by what we think SHOULD happen and the rules around that, so we often favor manners over directness.  It has been eye opening to admit that asking for what we need feels good and is the route to honest relationships and deeper fulfillment.

This weekend and always, I celebrate all of our client who are mothers and all of the special women in my life who have mothered my son and me in all kinds of ways. I tell my son every day that I am grateful to be his mom. He laughs it off, but I believe he knows I mean it.  I love this life we have together - the lessons, the surprises and the fun.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Give the Gift of Portraits that Move

Celebrate your family and the lessons you learn and share with your kids this Mother's Day.  Give the gift of a Portrait or Snapshot Film to a mom that matters to you - or to celebrate yourself! 

I Never Want to Forget these Moments

Parents tell our Portraits that Move producers all the time that they never want to forget the precious, fleeting moments of their children's early years.  These moments are not limited to the milestones - the moments like the first day of school, graduations, and other celebrations.  For the milestone moments you, or a professional is at the ready with the camera. 

socer sibling photo portraits that move

But those little moments, those blink of an eye, moving moments are harder to remember.

What moments do you never want to forget?

When my daughter got her first tooth.

When the silly pronunciations and made up words disappeared..

family videos moments to remember

When my daughter made her baby sister laugh for the first time.

 What they were like on any given day, last year.

memories videos for families

When my son climbed the monkey bars for the first time. 

What do you want to remember most?  Tell us the memories - and the moments - you most want us to preserve.

Share your answers in the comments and on facebook.

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.

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

Share Your Stories with Us
Join us on facebook and share your photos, questions, answers and video clips!  We would love to hear about all the fun you have creating conversations with your kids.