Let me tell you a little story about expectations vs. reality with a toddler.
Last week, on one of those gloomy, rainy days we’ve had lately, I ran out to the grocery store with Ethan to grab one quick thing that I had forgotten during our normal grocery trip (because now that we have a second car, we can do that!) While we were there, I decided to pick up a donut for us to share, a special rainy day treat.
Here’s how I imagined we would enjoy it:
We would come home from our errand, snuggle up together while the rain fell softly against the window, and share a sweet blueberry donut treat together.
Here’s how it actually went down:
Ethan cried and yelled “Dono! Dono! Donooo!” the entire car ride home. He ate his portion of the donut at the table in about 30 seconds. And then proceeded to cry, “Dono! Dono!” again, until naptime. Not exactly the sweet moment together that I’d imagined!
Why do I share this with you? Because I get it. I get the frustration of planning something fun, only to have your toddler melt down. And I get the disappointment of booking a photo session and having your toddler frown and refuse to sit down or look at the camera. Toddlers are hard to predict and often have strong opinions of what they do or don’t want to do. It can make picture day a little stressful for you and them.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are a few tips for setting up a session that’s fun for your toddler (and therefore fun for you, too!)
1) Loosen your expectations. I know Pinterest is full of cute poses and ideas and we can try a few of them, but don’t push too hard if your toddler isn’t into it! I find that we get happier, more genuine photos when we follow your toddlers lead. If they just want to cuddle in your lap, go with it! These moments won’t last forever and you’ll be glad you captured them. If they don’t want to let go of their favorite toy, let them keep it. You’ll look back at these photos and remember the season when they were inseparable from it. Do they just want to run around with sticks? Jump into the game and chase them! We can totally capture that, too!
2) Bring a favorite toy or book. Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or car? Do they ask you to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear every single night? Bring those along! They can help your child feel more comfortable in a new place, with a stranger, and we can catch some photos that capture these beloved pieces of their childhood.
3) Bring a snack or treat. I’m not necessarily advocating for bribing your child (but maybe just a little?), but it’s no secret that a fun treat can often quickly turn around a toddler’s mood! My only suggestion is to bring something that you don’t mind being in the photos since I won’t be photoshopping those out (you may find that cookies are cuter than cereal bars and fresh fruit is cuter than an applesauce pouch!) and don’t bring something messy unless you’re willing to embrace the mess of the moment!
4) Play together. I know that sometimes you want just one good picture where you’re looking at the camera and smiling (the kind that the grandparents will hang on their fridge) and I always try to get at least one of those. But most of the session I want to focus on you enjoying being together. Snuggle your child. Tickle them. Toss them in the air. Spin them around. Explore with them. As you focus on spending quality time with them and having fun together, I’ll focus on catching the sweetest, authentic photos, too.
Despite my rainy day treat backfiring, we had a little bit of donut redemption at Cider Hill Family Orchard’s Apple Blossom Festival this weekend. After we took a wagon ride through the orchard, we sat together on a bench, a warm bag of donuts crinkling in our hands and cinnamon sugar coating our fingers, watching a fire and munching on the BEST apple cider donuts (and then we wandered around the orchard, fed ducks, splashed sticks in the pond, and swung on a swing!). It wasn’t the same rainy day snuggles that I’d imagined last week, but it was a sweet family moment I’ll cherish.