How to Start Preschoolers with Photography

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Summer is here and warmer weather means more outdoor time with kids. If you haven’t thought about introducing your preschoolers to photography yet, you may be missing out on lots of fun — it’s a portable activity that goes anywhere.

Photography builds motor, visual, and creative skills — all as it opens small eyes to the wonders of the world. Digital cameras also give kids just the instant feedback they love, for a quick boost in confidence as they learn and improve.

How to get started

Start by teaching kids how to hold the camera. Kneel to their level to look at the view screen with them. Show them how to click the shutter. If they have problems holding the camera still, rest it against a doorway, windowsill, or chair.

If kids need more help understanding the idea of framing a picture, use an empty picture frame, holding it up so they can see how to fit objects and views inside. For first shots, keep it simple. Flowers or favorite toys are good subjects. Review the shots with the child until they get the hang of it.

Time for photo adventures

After they master the basics, young photographers are soon ready to go on assignment. Take them on photo hunts for favorite colors, clouds, birds— you name it — or they do! Take cameras on outings like a visit to the zoo or to a grandparent’s house. Older kids might ask grandparents about objects that are special to them, such as something given to them by their own grandparents that they’d like to have photographed. The act of photography itself can open a door to family stories, all while making new memories with the youngest generation.

Be sure to find ways to use children’s photos: in crafts, framed and hung, as gifts, as cards, screensavers or in scrapbooks. Kids can use their photos to write stories, whether on paper or digital devices. Encourage them to create a memory book that journals the world through their eyes at various ages, which they can share with their own children in years to come.

However kids’ photos are used and enjoyed, photography is a rewarding way for even very young children to explore their world and share their vision with others.

Photo Gifts for Father’s Day

By | Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers, Portrait Photography | No Comments

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Father’s Day is just around the corner and that means it’s time to hit the craft table! This holiday is the perfect opportunity to let your child be artistic while creating a meaningful gift that’s sure to be cherished for years to come.

We’ve found some great DIY Father’s Day gifts for you and your child to work on together. Use your favorite portraits of your child or your Teddy Bear Portraits school pictures for the perfect personalized gift. Be sure to allow your child to help choose the pictures used. Letting them assist with the creative details will add that personal touch.

  1. Photo Key Chains

    These key chains are a perfect gift for any Dad out there. The ideas are endless! Your children can be super creative with it, starting with choosing the picture, to decorating the backside with fun scrapbook paper, stickers, or sayings.

  2. Photo Messages to Dad

    This blog shows great examples of various ways for you to photograph your children holding up messages to their father. This is great for siblings, but will also work perfectly for an only child. If you can, have your child help write the message you choose, this will help include them in the process. After your photo shoot, just create a collage, and pick out a nice frame.

  3. Customized Picture Frame

    Creating a customized picture frame allows you to display your favorite picture of your child in a personal way. You and your child can work together to decorate the frame with something they think their Father will enjoy. Have fun with it, don’t be afraid to be creative.

These ideas are guaranteed to make any Father or Grandfather smile this Father’s Day! Don’t be afraid to let your child participate, their personal touches are what makes these gifts so wonderful.

 

 

Teddy Bear Portraits Sales Profile: Michelle Garrison

By | Daycare and Preschool Photography, Photography and Portrait Sales, Professional Photographers | No Comments

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When it comes to embodying the spirit of Teddy Bear Portraits, Michelle Garrison has led the way. She has invaluable insight into how Teddy Bear Portraits became the industry leader in preschool and daycare photography. Michelle happens to be named among the many that have been with Teddy Bear Portraits for over 30 years! Let’s tap into her expertise when it comes to being the epitome of our core values: enthusiasm, effectiveness, trailblazer, loyalty and competitiveness.

When asked about her experience, Michelle exclaims “I enjoy working for a company that cares about their customers and strives every day to give great customer service, produce quality portraits and stands behind their word given to each and every account.”

Michelle started in October of 1987 and navigated her way through various production positions. From there, she moved into receptionist and office manager positions, made her way to the operation team and then landed in the fast-paced, forward thinking sales department.

For over 17 years, along with her colleagues, Michelle has been instrumental in hiring, training and growing the sales team into the prosperous group it is today. Before moving into an executive sales role, Michelle spent time as a field sales trainer. “When selling our program, I enjoy the relationship building and being able to promote an innovative program that stands out from all others,” she explained.

We asked Michelle “What’s a great example of a really hard objection you had to overcome in the field or over the phone to win business?” She replied with valuable insight, “The hardest I feel is loyalty. While we definitely respect someone for their loyalty to another photography company, we do want them to use us.  We ask that they try us at a different time of year to experience firsthand our technologically advanced one-of-a-kind Same Day Program.”

She continues, “This allows the center directors and parents to experience Teddy Bear Portraits and everything we have to offer. Once they use us and realize they cannot receive the care, benefits and amazing service we offer anywhere else, they will continue to use us and be a lifelong customer.”

When asked what she thinks sets Teddy Bear Portraits apart the most from other school photography companies she states, “Staying innovative and our passion and commitment to servicing our accounts with the utmost care and quality and staying true to what we stand for.”

We’re always on the lookout for great talent to join our growing team. If so, then we’d love to hear from you. View our job openings.

Photo Gifts for Mother’s Day

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Clear off the tables, set out the glue, roll out the ribbons—Mother’s Day is arriving soon! It’s time to make gifts for mom. One way to make this year’s Mother’s Day DIY project a hit with kids and mothers is to make a photo gift featuring your child’s image.

We found a couple craft projects that do just that. Gather up your favorite photos and start planning the perfect personalized gift for mom this Mother’s Day. This is a great way to use wallet size Teddy Bear portraits from us. Be sure to have at least 5-10 images to ensure a variety to choose from.

  1. Photo Accordion Card

    These cards are darling and the variations are endless. Here’s a sweet example we found for Mother’s Day that can be used for Father’s Day or Grandparent’s Day. Kids learn to fold, glue, and decorate.

  2. Photo Bookmark

    Mom will love the surprise on the back of this bookmark! It involves photographing kids full-body front and back, so your center staff will need to be handy with a camera and desktop printer. Kids have fun posing for the photos and then glue together the project. Why not add ribbons or yarn and laminate?

  3. Popsicle Stick Frames

    Turn those Instagram photos and candid images into a gift that mom is sure to cherish. For this project, you’ll need regular or jumbo popsicle sticks, washi tape, glue, and magnets. Kids can embellish the frames with stickers, wood chips or ribbons.

These photo gifts are all keepers, sure to bring a smile to any mom regardless of errant glue, snafus, bent corners, or other endearing signs of tiny hands at work.

Teddy Bear Portraits Sales Team Profile: Don & Donna Austin

By | Daycare and Preschool Photography, Photography and Portrait Sales, Professional Photographers | No Comments

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Don and Donna Austin have mastered quality school pictures for Teddy Bear Portraits for the past two decades. Don joined Teddy Bear Portraits back in 1997. He has worked most facets of the field, from scheduling Portrait Days as an account representative, capturing memories as a photographer, helping parents select portraits as a portrait consultant to managing them all as a territory sales manager. In December 2014, his wife Donna was recruited as an account representative for the Knoxville, Chattanooga, and surrounding areas in Tennessee. Since then, they have teamed up to create a very successful business.

Donna worked as a bookkeeper for most her career and was desiring something a little different. It just so happened the local rep retired after 15 years so she jumped on the opportunity. Donna shares, “We’ve been so blessed to work side-by-side for the past couple years.” Don adds “What a wonderful, thoughtful and ambitious professional she is, and I’m truly grateful to call her my wife and partner.”

Don and Donna love their roles with Teddy Bear Portraits. They enjoy traveling through the Tennessee Valley, visiting with their directors and servicing their centers. Don mentions “One thing that has been key for us, is the company’s commitment to long term customer satisfaction.”

He continues, “After hearing the negative comments aimed at our competitors for years, it has been refreshing to know that our customers are taken care of. Taking advantage of technology is one thing, for sure, that sets us apart, whether in the photography and editing department or in marketing.”

Donna continues, “But most gratifying is the thrill of contributing to creating memories that last for a lifetime for families. Witnessing the joy of countless parents is priceless.”

Both mentioned their goal, since the very beginning, was to give their best each and every day.

Don continues, “It’s amazing how going the extra mile has paid back in so many ways, and we’re not talking about just monetarily. Being invited back to each center time and time again, at a high percentage rate has been our greatest reward.” Here’s to Don and Donna Austin and another twenty years!

Earth Day Inspired Recycling Center to Educate Preschoolers

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Teaching kids to reuse, recycle, and conserve resources is as straightforward as turning it into a fun activity. Begin by explaining what Earth Day is and why it’s important. Teaching preschoolers about Earth Day can be as simple as setting up a recycling bin, planting a garden, making crafts from recycled materials or showing the movie, The Lorax.

What is Earth Day?

While it might be difficult to explain to preschoolers this year’s Earth Day theme is Environmental and Climate Literacy, it is possible to explain the different aspects of the earth. Start by talking about the land, water, animals, stars and people that make-up the earth.

How can we Contribute?

Develop a recycling center for your school. Start by creating a list of all the items that can and can’t be recycled. Start with the basics:

  • Paper
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Aluminum

Then set-up with two bins, one labeled “trash” and the other “recycle”. Bring the activity to life by decorating the signs with crayons and stickers. Next, include a variety of items that can be recycled, and a few that cannot. Mix them all into the trash bin for the children to sort. Ask them to move the recyclable items into the recycling bin. Keep the children engaged and create a goal chart above each bin to keep track of how much is being recycled each week!

Teddy Bear Portraits Photographer Profile: Samantha Merrill-Hicks

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Photographer Samantha Merrill-Hicks has been entertaining kids and capturing smiles with Teddy Bear Portraits for the last three years. With a career background working with children and a passion for photography, becoming a preschool portrait photographer seemed like a natural career move for her.

Samantha’s favorite part about working as a preschool photographer is that she gets the opportunity to interact on a personal level with each child. She explains, “I really get to know them, even though they are only sitting with me for a few quick minutes, I can still make such an important connection with them.”

She continues, “It is just a great feeling when they know who I am. I love knowing that I have made their day… I laughed with them, I goofed around with them, I got to spend my day playing around with a bunch of adorable kids… you just can’t beat that.”

Another special part of her job is photographing the same centers each season and being able to watch the kids grow. As a stepmother and aunt, Samantha understands the importance of connecting with kids on their own, personal level.

“It is important to understand that each child is different, they are unique and the same thing doesn’t work for every child.” This is what Samantha feels differentiates the Teddy Bear Portraits staff from other child portrait photography companies. When she trains new photographers she stresses the importance of staying engaged with each child, at all times.

“Working with kids and getting their genuine personality to shine through in a portrait isn’t a teachable skill… it’s just who we are here at Teddy Bear Portraits and it’s just what we do.”

Samantha focus on balancing patience and high-energy when photographing at busy centers. “I am always talking to the kids. When I train our new photographers, I stress that you need to be constantly talking to them to keep their focus and to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”

At the end of the day, after all the portraits have been captured, it’s encouraging for Samantha to be able to see reactions from parents when they see their child’s school portrait. “Parents are amazed that I got their little kiddos to sit still, let alone was able to capture such a special moment in their lives that they can treasure forever.”

“I love my job, and that’s all I can ask for!”

Samantha proudly serves daycare and preschool centers in and around South Puget Sound, Washington. If you are interested in scheduling a Portrait Day with Samantha request more information at www.teddybearportraits.com.

Tips for Gardening with your Children

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What better way to bond with your children then to garden with them? Gardening can be a fun, educational and sensory experience for you to spend time with your children. It affects their brain, body and soul. It’s also an opportunity to teach your children about taking responsibility, and teaching them the nutritional benefits of fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Before you Get Started – Do your Homework

All plants require varying elements for survival. For example, some plants thrive in the shade while others need sunlight in order to thrive. Some plants require minimal watering while others require daily watering. It is important to do your research because it will be vital in helping you navigate through the process and make simple decisions such as the placement of the seeds and plants and creating a watering schedule.

It is time to get started on your gardening project and it should be quick and easy. Spend time as you are working to explain to your child the benefits of what he/she is doing in a way that is easy to understand.

Guidelines to Help your Children Get Involved

Engage them from the get go. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.

Start from seeds. It’s tempting to buy a starter kit, but children will learn more by seeing the growing process by getting their hand dirty and planting seeds. Don’t forget seeds need to be started indoors in a warm room and once sprouted they can be transplanted into pots until ready to set out.

Give them serious tools. Don’t be afraid to let them use your tools. Cheap plastic child’s gardening tools are worse than no tools at all!

Cheat a little. Not every garden task is pleasant, and the child may not be ready at all times for all chores. You may need to go out in the evening to pick a few slugs off the lettuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprinkler. They don’t have to know about every little help you offer – the child’s ‘ownership’ of the plot is the main thing.

Show off their work. When talking about your garden and the fruits of your labor, be sure to point out how your children helped the garden grow. Take photos, post them online and send them to the grandparents. The more attention you give them, the more involved they will continue to be.

The hope is that you have started a new tradition that your children will share with their children and be passed on for generations! The pictures you take can be shared with family and friends. They serve as a fun memory of this special garden experience together.

Teddy Bear Portraits Composite Profile: Ashley George

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In 2009 Ashley George began her career at Teddy Bear Portraits as a Logistics Coordinator. Eight years and multiple departments later, Ashley is working with Teddy Bear Portraits as the Product Service Manager and overseeing composites, print production, shipping/receiving, and inventory regulation. From logistics to customer service- from training to marketing, Ashley has worked in nearly every department and left each one a little brighter.

Ashley is an employee who truly embodies our company’s core values. She has demonstrated her enthusiasm, effectiveness, forward thinking, loyalty and drive to grow in each department that she has worked in.

“My favorite part about working with Teddy Bear Portraits is they value someone who is not afraid to start working with a new department or any of the challenges that come along with it. I like working for a company that fosters career growth-whether it be position or knowledge based.” Ashley continues, “This is the longest tenure I have had with a company and this is one of the main reasons.”

Ashley is currently the Product Service Manager, managing printing, shipping and the composite department. Teddy Bear Portraits offers a complimentary framed composite to every center that photographs. This sets us apart from our competitors with regular group photography because this compilation portrait features 1 pose from everyone photographed on Portrait Day! Each school has the ability to offer individual class composites as a fundraiser if they wish. We produce an 8 x 10 composite print that can be sold for students and staff. Each center sets the price based on their needs. Our complimentary composite keepsakes can easily be turned into a fundraising event!

We are working very closely with the Marketing Department to not only give our composite design a fresh new look, but also our promotional materials that go along with it. We want the schools to be able to maximize on their fundraising profits from this wonderful opportunity. We are diligently striving to continue to improve our department’s communication with the schools, thus providing composite changes quickly for the approval to print process. Want to learn more about our composites and fundraising opportunities? Contact us directly at composites@teddybearportraits.com.

Valentine’s Day Card Crafts Made With Love

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Now that the holiday decorations have finally made their way up to the attic or down to the basement, it’s time to think about those special Valentine’s Day gifts. No one’s going to argue that chocolates are nice, diamonds last forever, and flowers are absolutely lovely. Here’s the sad truth, though: chocolates are caloric, diamonds pricey, and flowers, well, let’s just say they don’t last forever.

Hand-crafted Valentine’s Day cards with your child’s school portrait sent with love from your little loved one to their loved ones? Priceless.

One of the many, many lovely things about parenting is crafting, and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to break out the glue sticks, glitter and sequins. DIY cards are a quick, fun and satisfying way to spend an afternoon with your child. Taking it a step further, making Valentine’s Day cards with your child’s portrait is a great way to show close friends and family just how much you love them and how incredibly proud of your little one you are.

As with any good kid-centered craft, the materials for your card are easy to source and the project’s complexity and scope can be scaled to match your child’s unique attention span.

Materials

  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Heart-meltingly adorable school portrait of your child
  • Fun paper for the frame (Tip: put a green spin on your card and show your love for Mother Earth by digging through your recycle bin for brightly colored boxes to use as the foundation for your frame.)
  • Simple, unadorned paper for the card and backing
  • Glitter, sequins, stray buttons, stickers, and other assorted bling
  • Glue stick

How to Make a Valentine’s Day Card with Your Little One

  1. We recommend selecting a standard-sized envelope and using your envelope to determine the size and shape of your frame.
  2. Once you’ve decided on the overall dimensions of your frame, sketch the outer outline of your frame on your “fun” paper. To keep it simple, your outer edges should be straight lines.
  3. Next, carefully cut the internal opening that will frame and reveal your child’s portrait. A rectangular frame opening mirroring your outer edge is the most common configuration, but feel free to play around with ovals, wavy edges, circles, and jagged edges. Let your child’s personality shine through at every step of the process.  Important: Make sure that your portrait opening is slightly smaller than your actual portrait.
  4. Using your glue stick, affix your child’s school portrait to the back of your frame opening.
  5. Cut a sheet of your “simple” paper to match the outer dimensions of your frame.
  6. Glue the “simple” paper to the back of your frame, this will serve as reinforcement.
  7. After you’ve allowed your masterpiece to dry, write love letters to your loves.
  8. Decorate the frame with doodled hearts, glitter, sequins, stray buttons, stickers, and other assorted bling.

Show friends and family just how much they mean to you by sending them something made from the heart. Personalized photo frame cards with your child’s school portrait are sure to generate smiles and become much-loved keepsakes. Be sure to share your child’s Valentine’s Day card with their portrait with us on Facebook!