Storytelling Game for Kids: Interviewer

Create memory making moments and build storytelling skills for kids this summer. Breaks from routines give us more time together, and what better way to use that time than by encouraging our kids to tell and share stories - their own, ours, and our families.

Try this games on road trips, around the campfire, back at the house after a long day at the beach, or during an afternoon at home when you start to hear the murmur of “I’m bored.”

Interviewer

Kids of all ages love to hear what the adults in their lives were like when they were their age. Gather around (or sit down with your kiddo if it’s just the two of you) and have your child ask the adults some interview questions about what life was like for them.

Questions to Ask

When you were my age, what was your favorite song?

What was your favorite thing to do when you were my age?

When you were my age, what did you do on summer vacation?

What was the hottest topic in the news the summer you were my age?

If you could choose to be a kid now or when you were growing up, what would you choose? Why?

Document Stories

Encourage your kids to record the answers. Write them down or set up the phone to record audio like a “real” interviewer.

Consider turning the interview into a project. Your kids could write up an article, prepare a presentation, or come up with other creative ways to document the stories family members share with them.

This shouldn’t feel like a have-to-do homework assignment. There are so many fun ways to get excited about documenting family history and family life. You will all be surprised to see the kind of connections, excitement and ideas a simple game like this can create.

Happy storytelling, friends. And happy story sharing, too!

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 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 Telling My Own Story Taught Me about Portraits that Move

Recently I shared special memory of mine on the Portraits that Move Facebook page, my interview on NPR's Only Human by host Mary Harris.  Reading the reactions of friends and clients prompted me to dig a little deeper into what the experience of being interviewed was like for me, a person who has spent her career on the other side, asking the questions that help others tell their stories.

What I discovered in my own experience confirmed the importance of telling and sharing our stories, and the very real ways in which that act can be healing for ourselves and for our relationships.

Parents and children

My father joined me for the interview to discuss his role both as a doctor and a father of a child with health challenges. Having my father in the room while I was being interviewed was very moving. On one hand, I felt protective of him and was aware of a desire not to say anything that would hurt him or my mother in any way. At the same time, it was an incredibly healing experience. We had the opportunity to talk about how my health affected both of us, which was something we had rarely done before.

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It gave me an important window into how both parents and kids must feel during
the interview process when I create our Portraits that Heal films in particular. Parents feel a need to be involved, to listen, and to be part of the experience. For the children we work with, both for Portraits that Move films and Portraits that Heal films, sometimes having a parent present for the interview process may be comforting, but often they may feel more free without a parent in the room listening to them answer our questions.

I often wonder what I would have said if the interview was with just me. I would
have likely felt more vulnerable and would not have had the opportunity for
connection and healing that occurred. When I interview kids now with their
parents in the room, I look at it as an opportunity for connection, for what we are
doing to be a conversation starter. I hope that after I leave the shoot they keep
talking and never stop.

Switching roles

Having been through the experience of being interviewed about personal aspects of my own story, I think I am a more gentle interviewer now. I go into each shoot with fewer specific expectations. In the case of the Only Human interview, I think both the host and I had a specific plan for how the interview would go and the final story is different than what we both imagined. This was only possible because of the openness on her part and the level of honesty on mine. We were both willing to go where the morning took us. I think the best experiences and stories happen this way. Ultimately, it is important to me that our families enjoy the experience of creating a Portraits that Move film. When they do, that joy is apparent in their video.

Talking about health and healing

Since the Only Human interview two years ago, I am even more sensitive to creating space for children who are living with health challenges to tell me their stories in exactly the ways they want to. Every illness is different and every experience is different. Kids deal with their
health in all kinds of ways and however they want to talk about that is up to them.

I feel grateful - even more grateful now - to share in their stories. Telling mine was an incredible exercise in vulnerability, but it was something I felt called to do. The way in which I told my story was specific to me and to where I was at at that particular moment in time. I believe our Portraits that Move videos and Portraits that Heal videos reflect a similar intention to capture the present moment in the way feels right for the people we are documenting.

Maybe the fact that we can't slow down time is not a bad thing

Often as my son heads back to school, I am reminded of the "what I learned on my summer vacation" assignment.  Since I am always looking for new ways to tell stories and learn lessons from my experiences and the experiences of those around me, I explored the question for myself.

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The answer might be a bit surprising, and I am excited to share it with you and to hear your thoughts.

What I learned on my summer vacation is this: maybe the fact that we can't slow down time is not a bad thing.

The speed at which time moves, which seems to feel even faster for parents, as we all can attest, reminds us that these moments are worth preserving, remembering and returning to for glimpses at what was and clues into what is to come.

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On our annual trip to Cape Cod, it struck me how much my son has grown over the year since we last visited our favorite place.  His observations, insights and interests have changed so much.  It made me nostalgic for the moments we have shared - the times when he needed to hold my hand on our hikes, the times before he was able to swim on his own.  At the same time, I felt proud to share this life with him, proud of who he is and who he is becoming. 

I can picture him now bringing his own family here, telling me stories and making me laugh, as he has always done so brilliantly.

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This is why, for me, documenting moments so that we are able to return to those stories, those jokes, those moving images of our lives up to this point is such a unique and beautiful gift.  All of those moments have led us to the here and now and they pave the way for the future.

As I celebrate change and look ahead to growth and opportunities for my family, I am all the more grateful to have small, treasured moments in time that I am able to view and to share.  I see now so clearly that our story is woven with what was, what is, and what will be, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to leave even one chapter of that story undocumented and uncelebrated.

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.

On #GivingTuesday

We love #GivingTuesday. We love it because it highlights so much of what we are about at Portraits That Move. Sharing in joy, being generous, helping others and telling important stories are all things that we talk about every day, but especially during the holiday season.

We are giving our time (and our resources) to a number of organizations this year and we wanted to tell you about them, in the hopes that you may be inspired to do the same.

Here is our list: 

Kids in Need Foundation

KINF gives school supplies to children who cannot afford them. The organization has many important programs including backpack drives and a Second Responder Program. We have helped KINF tell their story through making a video about Jayshaun. 

 

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation is an organization that supports funding for fighting childhood cancer. They do so both by raising money for scientific research and by helping families who are living with cancer.

Through Portraits that Heal, we create Hero Stories for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Meet Maggie, whose story we recently had the opportunity to share. 

 

Ronald McDonald House, NYC

Ronald McDonald House is a national organization that supports families of children suffering with chronic illness. They do this by providing an affordable place for families to stay when children are hospitalized for long periods of time.

We shared our experiences with Ronald McDonald House and how it helps to promote gratitude every day.

City Harvest

City Harvest provides food for New York’s hungry. This time of year it is especially important to help take care of the hungry and homeless in our city.

Portraits that Heal

We would be remiss in not mentioning our own Portraits That Heal. We accept contributions towards our work of telling stories of children suffering with childhood illness.

Learn more about Portraits that Heal and let us know if you know about an organization or an individual whose story needs to be told on #GivingTuesday and every day. 

If you know someone who has a sick child whose story needs to be told, tell us and we will do our best to tell it. All children have stories and the legacy of kids with childhood illness is valuable. Help us tell more of their stories. 

Power of Storytelling: Moms Need to Tell Their Own

I was interviewed for an article published in Forbes featuring Portraits that Move and talking about "how to capture the best moments of your life."  Through the interview process and seeing a piece of my own story - and the story of Portraits that Move - in print, it reinforced how powerful the act of telling your story is.  And, also how many stories each of us has to share.

The Forbes article on Portraits that Move focuses on my life as an entrepreneur mom.  It tells of my inspiration for the business, my work, and my commitment to the families that trust us to share their stories, to share their children's voices, observations and experiences with them.

Reading about Portraits that Move in Forbes Magazine, I see the story of moms and dads who, like the article's author, Carrie Kerpen, want to shine a light on the fleeting moments of childhood and family life, to return to those moments, to celebrate and share them, and to live them to the fullest. 

So share your stories, in some way, every day.  And allow us to help you be part of the story not watching it from behind the camera. We want to give the gift of presence to you, with love, with joy and with celebration. 

My Challenge to You: Connect with Someone You Have Been Missing

Here on the blog, we have written about tips for staying connected and keeping in touch with your children while away on business travel.  As working parents, we understand how important it is to feel connected to our kids when we are away from home, and how much we treasure any and every moment of connection that we can carve out of hectic schedules.

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What we have not discussed quite as often, are the challenges of connecting with extended family - from parents and siblings to grandparents, cousins, and treasured friends.  Our busy schedules at work and at home, along with the distance that often separates extended family, make connecting in a real way difficult.  At the same time, these difficulties reinforce for us just how important these people are in our lives and how much we want, and need, to commit to them.

Whether it's taking a vacation together, scheduling time for a phone call, or sharing photos and videos of our children - and our lives - on social media, we are committing to staying connected to our families in all forms, across generations, in spite of (and because of!) busy schedules, demands of work and children, and the distance that separates but does not break our bonds.   We are committed to helping you do the same. We want to make it easier for you to feel closeness and to be enveloped in the joy that our relationships with our loved ones provide. 

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Take a moment today to reach out to a family member or a close friend that you haven't connected with in awhile.  Share a story about your children, or better yet, let them share their own stories.  The pace of our lives will not slow down but our ability to connect is here and it's real.  Do it today- it will make your day, your week and your life better, I promise. 

 

Stories Have the Power to Heal

We have been following Humans of New York's work with Sloan Kettering very closely.  As you know, storytelling and the power of story to heal are key elements of the Portraits that Move mission, particularly in our work with Portraits that Heal.

Our team of filmmakers knows first hand the impact that the act of seeing and hearing their stories can have on children with chronic, life threatening illnesses, and on the families that love, support and share the journey with them.

Screenshot:  Humans of New York

Screenshot: Humans of New York

So when Humans of New York began its Pediatric Cancer Series telling the story of children with cancer and the doctors who care for them we understood just how special and how powerful it would be.  The series uses photos and text to tell individual stories in an initiative to  help raise money and awareness for the pediatric department of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Thanks to the spotlight that Humans of New York helped to shine on children and their individual, unique stories, $3.7 million was raised for Sloan Kettering. 

Today we ask you, how else can storytelling and image sharing help to change the world?  And what can each one of us do to shine a spotlight on someone in need - someone who needs to be heard? 

Telling My Story

In 1971 I was born prematurely with an extremely rare esophageal birth defect. I had several surgeries as a baby and spent much of my early life in and out of the hospital. It was touch-and-go for a very long time. Most of my childhood after about age 3 was healthy and my health stabilized until I was about 21.

Since age 21, I have had 3 major surgeries to repair my esophagus, hundreds of tests and several long hospitalizations. My digestion will never be “normal,” and the struggle I deal with is constant and consistent. It is at times harrowing, often uncomfortable, and extremely confusing.

I have alluded to my health struggle before without ever telling my full story. I have always known that my experience is what allows me to tap into the richness of life and that I bring that to all of the conversations we have with kids, most especially to those with illness. I am deeply aware of how short life is, how fleeting and how meaningful.

So, why now? An opportunity came into my life to tell my story as part of a show ONLY HUMAN on NPR's WNYC.  I meditated on it and decided that sharing my experience could be helpful to others. When I looked deep down, I recognized that it was unfair to ask others to share their experiences if I was not willing to share my own. 

Listen to me tell my story:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/life-medical-experiment/

I hope it makes you laugh, brings you some insight into who I am and why documentation is so important to me. I hope it moves you, makes you think, and encourages you to share.

Thank you for listening, for reading this blog, for sharing your own stories and most of all for supporting me and our work. All stories are worth telling and I appreciate your support in our mission to do so.  

Week of Giving - Portaits that Heal

Here at Portraits that Move, we have decided to turn #GivingTuesday into a Giving Week!  We are celebrating #GivingWeek because our team is excited by the idea of sharing what we do and helping families and children who suffer with illness to have a voice.  This week we are highlighting several organizations that serve and support children. The organization we have been working with most closely is Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a national non-profit that funds childhood cancer research.

Recently, we created a portrait video celebrating Zach, one of the Alex's Lemonade Stand Heroes.   Zach is an athlete, a kid who loves baseball, swimming and his trampoline. He loves feeding chickens on the farm where he lives with his family.  In telling Zach’s story, we have created a keepsake for his family and a portrait of his strength. We are also helping to share the mission and the work of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation to encourage and support an organization that does so much good for children and their families.

For us filmmakers, spending time with Zach was a huge gift. Zach's mother calls him a “High Octane Boy,” and we experienced his zest for life first hand. We loved the day we spent with him and hope that the experience of telling his story was healing to him.

Give Forward - #GivingWeek and Beyond with Portraits that Heal

What child do you know that you think would benefit from their story being told? How could we help further their healing by sharing their story?  Contact us about gifting a healing portrait from Portraits that Heal.

Can your organization advance its mission by helping kids share their stories? Tell us about the work you do and bring our professional, award winning filmmakers out to better help those you serve. 

In this season of giving, it is our great privilege to give hope, joy and voice through Portraits that Heal.