I absolutely love working with toddlers. They have a mind of their own, have deep set opinions and those little toothy grins are almost more than I can handle. From my years of experience, I have found there is a unique way of preparing a toddler for your family session. Here are some tips and tricks for the toddler years:
Preparing A Toddler For Your Family Session: Discuss Expectations
Toddlers are super perceptive, even if they don’t always understand what you are talking about. When you are talking about your family session, be sure to talk positively about it. I always encourage parents with a script like this: “We’re going to go meet my friend, Sharon, at _____. We’re going to take pictures of us having fun together! I know you can be a big helper and use your listening ears. After our family pictures are done, we’re going to go get ice cream together to celebrate how well I know you’re going to do!” This makes toddlers really excited and sets them up for success.
Look at Pictures
As adults, I think we assume that toddlers always know what we are doing when we are doing it. But some lady at the park, pointing a black square at them while they smile may be confusing! Don’t be afraid to scroll through your phone and look at specific pictures and talk about how they were made. Find a picture of your kiddo looking happy and say “I love this picture because you look so happy that the sun was shining! Can you show me that face?” Actually practice! Yes, it feels silly! But toddlers need this kind of rehearsal and they will feel more confident at your session because of it.t
Preparing A Toddler For Your Family Session: Keep Your Emotions in Check
This is probably my biggest piece of advice for a successful family session. So many times I have parents text me that they are running late to their session. My immediate response is “Please don’t stress about it!” I always build extra time into my family sessions so that we are not rushed before sunset (this isn’t true for mini sessions). When you stress in the car about being late, your child immediately picks up on the fact that this is a stressful experience. I’d rather have you be late and everyone is positive, than arrive on time and everyone is already stressed. As an adult, do your best to stay calm, positive and upbeat. You’ll be surprised how quickly everyone follows suit.
You will notice at your session that I will give your toddler the opportunity to make a lot of choices. This is because it helps empower them and feel like they are working with me. The same can be done at your house before the session. Choose two shirts that you might want your kiddo to wear and give them a choice. That buy-in ahead of time can go a long way!
Preparing A Toddler For Your Family Session: Think About Rewards
As a parent, I am not a huge advocate of bribes, treats and rewards for good behavior. But when I’m investing in a photo session, you can bet that I pull out all the stops! To me, it’s not a parenting win to stand my ground but have pictures of grumpy kids. When my kids were toddlers, I would bring the bribe with me and I would make sure it was something they REALLY wanted. I would show it to them in the car and let them know they would get it as soon as we were done with the session. If your toddler is two or younger, you may want to be careful with this and instead think about a smaller, incremental reward like M & Ms that you can keep handy and dole out one at a time.
Your child won’t be a toddler forever and preserving this time is so important. The more effort you put in preparing a toddler for your family session, the more pay-off you will see. We will work closely together to show off all of the joy and love your family has at your session.