10 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

posted in: Notes | 10

10 Ways to Decorate Easter EggsOne of my favorite parts about spring is celebrating Easter.  And with Easter, comes the necessity of making Easter eggs.  Over the years, I’ve enjoyed decorating eggs a number of different ways — but the traditionally dyed hard boiled eggs, along with hand-blown eggs, are my favorites.

I’ll get into the details of how we do things in a little bit, but first I wanted to help inspire you for the Easter egg decorating season.  So I’ll be sharing some images of Easter Eggs decorated in ten different ways!

But first, a little teaser about what we’re doing this year with our Easter eggs.  This one is my own concoction — and I’ll be sharing in more detail (with pictures) sometime in the next few weeks.  But, it’s actually not too complicated to adhere a photo to an Easter egg.  And if you combined this with the hand-blown egg process, it could be an adorable Easter gift for grandparents to receive!

Each of these ten different ideas for decorating was actually based on a different stock photo that I came across while looking for some images to use — and once inspiration struck, I couldn’t help myself.

So, rather than recreate each of the photos myself, I decided to share these “found photographs” (which are, of course, used with permission from Pixabay.com).

Now, without further ado, let’s get onto the 10 ways you can decorate Easter eggs!

1. Decorate Easter eggs with seed beads.

I haven’t done this myself, but I loved the look of these Easter eggs that had been decorated with seed beads.  What a unique and creative way to decorate Easter eggs!  Now, this activity might be suited for older kids or adults, but I could see adapting the activity to be suitable for younger kids by using pony beads or sequins.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with beads.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

2. Use pearls and silver cording to decorate Easter eggs.

This option also caught my eye as an alternate Easter egg method.  I imagine you’d use hot glue or something to easily adhere the pearls and the silver cord (or ribbon).  This activity would be doable for younger kids, although you might want to leave off the cording (or maybe put that on prior to having your kids get started.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with cording and pearls.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

3. Tried and true – just dye your Easter eggs.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dying Easter eggs solid colors.  When put together, they look fantastic and add cheer to any Easter basket.  I’ve always used either an Easter egg kit or normal food coloring to dye Easter eggs, but I hear there are some fun natural food dyes you can use as well.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Simple dyed Easter eggs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

4. Crochet Easter egg decorations.

If you or your kids likes to work with yarn, you could always try your hand at making crochet Easter eggs.  This intricate lace egg ornament caught my eye, and I imagine it took quite a lot of time and skill to create.  But, there are simpler patterns for eggs made from yarn too.  Here is a pattern I found on Amazon for Elegant Easter Eggs (#afflink).

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Crocheted Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

5. Make hand-blown Easter egg ornaments

This is one of my favorite ways to do Easter eggs.  You poke two holes in a raw egg (one at each end), and gently blow into one hole…and the raw egg will come out the other hole… giving you a hollow eggshell you can decorate in any way you like.  You could dye the shells, paint them, the sky’s the limit.  If you want, you can also thread a slim ribbon through the holes in the eggshell to make an Easter ornament that can be hung anywhere!

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Hand-blown Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

6. Draw wax patterns on Easter eggs.

You can paint intricate patterns on an Easter egg, of course.  The wax application will keep the dye from taking in certain areas, allowing subsequent dips in dye to add to the different color patterns.  The ones in this photo are on the simpler side, but still reminiscent of pysanky (extremely intricate Hungarian eggs that can take 80 hours to complete).  Last year, we used white crayon to draw on the eggs before dying them — Toby’s pattern at that point was an abstract squiggle. It still turned out to be cute (at least for anyone related to Toby!).

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs with intricate wax designs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

7. Write words on plain eggs.

I found this photo with words written on eggs — they’re in German, and in case you’re wondering, the words are the names of different colors (green, red, blue, etc).  I thought a neat extension of this would be to write each child’s name on a set of eggs before hiding them for the Easter egg hunt.  You know, to make things more fair.  But you could also write Bible verses or other things of significance too.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs with words on them.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

8. Make smiley face Easter eggs.

I thought this one was really cute!  Especially with the googly eyes, don’t you think?  The facial features could be painted on or drawn with crayon/marker.  I think this take on Easter eggs could be a great activity for kids of any age.  Use glue for the eyes, or maybe frosting if you wanted it to be more food safe.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs that have been dyed then decorated with smiley faces.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

9. Paint intricate designs on Easter eggs.

These eggs are somewhat similar in intricacy to the wax resist eggs, but only require one session in the dye bath.  Then you would use paint to add in all the other traditional detailing and patterns.  Younger kids could make simpler patterns, or even just stripes of paint.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with traditional painted designs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

10. Make ribbon-wrapped Easter eggs.

I love this concept.  It’s easy to do, and looks really classy.  Plus, there’s no need to work with messy dyes or paint.  You just need some lengths of ribbon and maybe some glue or frosting to stick things together.  Don’t these look neat?

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with ribbons.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

What are your ideas?

If you have more ideas on how to decorate Easter eggs, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments section below!

Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Easter Activities for Kids

This post is part of the Creative Activities for Kids monthly blog hop.

Learn about Flash with 3 fun activities!

posted in: Learning | 4
Learn about  Flash with 3 fun activities!              Camera Flash Activity Find-The-Differences Game Flashlight Find-It Fun
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

This week for our ABCs of Photography series, we’re learning about flash.  Yes, like the flash on your camera.  Since we learned about existing light for the letter “E” …it only seemed fitting to learn about an artificial light source like flash for letter “F” …right?

Anyway, Dictionary.com defines flash photography like this:

photography using a momentary flash of artificial light as a source of illumination.

I’m not sure I can really simplify that definition any further, but here goes.  Flash is a burst of light that you add to the scene when you take a picture.  You’ll likely be most familiar with the on-camera flash built into your camera (there are off-camera flashes too).

I have three activity ideas for today.

Camera Flash Activity

You can adapt this exercise for older or younger kids as needed.  The simplest version of the activity?  Go around the house and take pictures of things with the flash on and off.  See when your camera automatically turns on the flash, and talk about why that happens.

Why does that happen?  Your camera determines that there is not enough existing light to adequately expose the image (take the picture).

Your older child may enjoy overriding the flash mode and seeing how the images change.  Have them pull up the images on the computer, side by side, and see how the quality of the light changes.

You could also print them out.  Which leads me into the next activity…

Find-The-Differences Game

Print out two images of the same scene — one taken with flash, one taken with existing light.  It could be a set of images taken by the same person, or one image taken by each person from different angles…go with the flow!

Give everyone a piece of paper and pencil.  Set a timer and have everyone spend 2-5 minutes jotting down all the differences they see between the two images.

Then, when time is up, go through your lists one at a time.  As each person shares, cross off any items that someone else noticed. The winner is whoever ends up with the most items left!

Flashlight Find-It Fun

While a flashlight is most definitely NOT a momentary burst of light, you can use it to illustrate the concept of flash for younger kids.  Hand each kid a flashlight and then turn off the lights in a dimly lit room.  Talk about how the shadowy forms are revealed by the light of the flashlight, making it so that our eyes can “properly expose” the image and see things “the way” a camera uses flash to see things in a picture.

You can leave the activity at that, or if your kids have the attention span, play a game of “Find-It” or “I Spy” with the flashlights.  Ask them to find something:

  • specific color (e.g. what can you find that’s red?)
  • particular shape (e.g. are there any rectangular objects you can find?)
  • certain texture (e.g. what do you see that looks fuzzy?)
  • motion (e.g. do you see anything that is moving? like a ceiling fan)

As an extension activity, you could even experiment with different objects that cast light to see how they make items appear different.  Toby enjoyed doing this with glowsticks in the dark.  His pictures, by the way, had the auto flash on, so we did have a nice compare/contrast conversation starter.

Toby taking pictures (in the dark) of glow sticks


Any more ideas?

Hopefully these three activities will give you and your kids several fun options for exploring camera flash and learning about how light is used to expose an image.  I’d love to hear of any activity extensions you come up with to learn about flash!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter G (learn about gray scale). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about existing light (with a free scavenger hunt printable).

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Things In Our House Board Game

posted in: Learning | 12

Things in Our House Board Game (a book-based activity with free printable!)Toby loves reading. And Dr. Seuss books are no exception. So in honor of Read Across America day, we put together a board game based on the Dr. Seuss classic, “In a People House” (#afflink).  And, to help you join in the fun, I’ve created a free printable board game template for you to print out and design your own custom board game too!

We actually made our board game on a piece of cardboard from a cereal box, but you could print the printable out on cardstock or something nicer if you wanted.  Or, just print it out on plain paper and glue it to a piece of cardboard from your recycle bin.  Whatever works.

Personalize Your Game

Once you have the board game layout ready, it’s time to have some fun!  Toby and I filled in the squares with things you’d find in our house (many of which were also in the text of “In a People House” #afflink too).

Some of my toddler’s favorite things?

  • popcorn
  • buttons
  • ball
  • teapot
  • piano

You might notice that the printable doesn’t look exactly like the board game we designed — and you’re correct.  I did refine a couple things and rename it since you’ll probably want to add things to the board game that are in your house (and might not be in the book).  If your child is learning to read, you can write the words for the objects in the squares too.

Older kids will be able to fill in the squares with their own drawings, but you may want to help younger children.  This game was the perfect length for my toddler, and a great introduction to the world of board games!

Other things you’ll need:

  • dice (1 or 2, depending on how high you want to count and how well your kids share)
  • multi-colored buttons or other play markers

You don’t have to fill in every square with objects from your house; we left about a third of them blank and just colored those spaces a solid color.

Game Rules

Once you have decorated your game, it’s time to play! Here are the rules we used, but feel free to adapt and change things to fit your own game play needs.

  • Youngest player goes first (or whoever lost, if playing a second time).
  • If you land on a space with “thing” from your house, you talk about that object (the sound it makes, how to spell it, etc, depending on the age of your child).
  • Optional for quicker game: If you land on a solid colored space, you can roll again.
  • Whoever gets to the house first wins!

I’d love to hear your variations on game play if you end up changing the rules; it’s always fun to see how other people adapt things!
And because I can’t help but share some pictures of how our board game turned out (the rough draft, beta version, or what have you)… here you go! I’ll admit that I had lots of fun coloring in the squares and drawing the pictures for each of the items Toby chose. Feel free to make your board design simpler. Or, you could identify the items using words to help a beginning reader… ooh, the possibilities are endless!

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Make Your Own!

Ok, I bet you’re dying to get started.  Here’s the printable.  I’ve made PDF and JPG versions — use the links below to download and print out your very own board.  And, in case you don’t already have a copy of the book, here’s a link to “In a People House” on Amazon (#afflink).

Things in Our House Game (Free Printable)

Download Things in Our House Board Game Printable PDF / JPG

Make sure to report back with how your board game turned out, either here in the comments section or via social media.  I’d love to hear from you!

Read Across America – Read & Play Blog Hop

This post is part of a read and play blog hop.  If you want more Dr. Seuss book-based activities, make sure to check out the links below!  Book titles are linked to Amazon (#afflinks) for your convenience!


Irish Soda Bread (with Gluten-Free Adaptation!)

posted in: Learning | 2

bphotoart-irish-soda-bread-recipe-To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we often bake Irish Soda Bread. This family recipe is one I grew up with, and I’m pleased to tell you my boys love it too.

When I take my Irish Soda Bread to potlucks or dinner parties, I’m usually asked for the recipe at least once (if not more than that). People love it. I’m not sure if it’s the crispy-crunchy exterior, or the soft dried fruit, but this Irish Soda Bread is definitely something you’ll want make again.

Plus, it’s really easy to make!

Some Irish Soda Bread recipes call for complicated processes or ingredients you probably don’t have on hand (ex: buttermilk? how many of you have that in your fridge? I know I don’t!).

This recipe uses the basics:

  • milk
  • flour
  • sugar
  • dried fruit
  • salt
  • baking soda
  • oil
  • lemon juice (to sour milk)

See what I mean when I say it uses kitchen staples?  I bet you have all this stuff in your kitchen too.

And shhh… don’t tell, but if I don’t have sour milk, lemon juice, or the time to let it sour naturally, I just use straight milk without a second thought.  Oh, and another variation that’s tasty?  Subbing out the milk for milk kefir!


Now, let’s get down to business. Toby likes to help make Irish Soda Bread almost as much as he likes to eat it. So, I’ll be sharing some pictures of what it looks like to bake with a toddler (who loves to measure and dump).  I love cooking in the kitchen (or, as is the case, baking in the kitchen) with little ones.  There are so many teachable moments, and the whole process is really a fun activity for kids who want to be “big helpers.”  Toby helped stir, read numbers on the measuring cups, measure and dump ingredients into the bowl, …you get the idea.  And, of course, what kitchen activity is complete without a taste tester?  Kids love to taste test things they’ve had a hand in making.

So here’s what we did (read the captions for each picture, or scroll to the end for the text recipe).  Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe


  • 4c. Flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. soda
  • 2/3 c. oil
  • 1 c. raisins/craisins
  • 1 c. sour milk


[to make sour milk, leave out all night or place 2 T. lemon juice in measuring cup, fill with milk, let clabber.]

Mix flour, sugar, salt, soda. Add raisins, then oil, then milk. Blend until forms a ball, shape into flat load. Brush with oil or milk. Bake at 350 F for 35-45 min.

Kitchen Tools:

None of these are required, but having the right tools for baking does make life easier.  While making our Irish Soda Bread, we tested out some kitchen utensils that I had received for review. I was pleased with how all three #afflinks: a Danish dough whisk (ingenious kitchen utensil, by the way, if you bake you’ll want to get one!), an oversized pizza cutter (I’m all for cutting flat breads and baked goods with a rotary knife), and silicone baking mats (non-stick, easy clean up, and eco-friendly. My kind of product).


Feel free to use my Amazon affiliate links below… and check out some of the other reviews if you want to get a more well-rounded idea of how these kitchen tools measure up.

  • BakeitFun Silicone Mat – use a silicone mat on your cookie sheet for easy clean-up and as an eco-friendly alternative to parchment paper. I love how versatile these mats are — you can use them for everything from baked goods to roasted vegetables… or even in the freezer!
  • Pizza Cutter – you’re probably familiar with a pizza cutter’s standard purpose, but did you know it works really well for scoring cracker dough, cutting flat breads like this recipe, or even brownies?  I kid you not.  This oversized 3.5″ pizza cutter is sharp and rolls smoothly 🙂
  • Danish Dough Whisk (mixing by hand) or Kitchen-Aid 6-Qt. Stand Mixer – With a more robust dough like in this recipe, you’ll probably want a stand mixer to blend things into submission (we love our Kitchen-Aid).  But if you’ve never tried a Danish dough whisk, you should give one a shot.  I was actually thrilled with how well it blended the ingredients — even though this Irish Soda Bread dough is kind of “tough” to stir by hand, with the dough whisk, it was much easier.  I doubt I’ll bother to get out the stand mixer next time, but intend to reach for the dough whisk — and that should tell you something.

A Bit of History

So, if you’re wondering the history behind Irish Soda Bread, it became popular during the potato famine, apparently.  I was inspired to share one of our favorite kitchen activities (baking Irish Soda Bread) thanks to Vicky at Mess for Less – she shared their version of Irish Soda bread (which is much fluffier!) along with an anecdote about how the cross on the bread was meant to ward off evil.  Things I did not know!

Update: Another Variation

I have successfully tried a few other variations of Irish Soda Bread.  Sometimes my substitutions are logical, like spelt flour for flour.  Other times, it’s more of a recipe re-invention.  And that’s what this one below is.  I was out of flour and oil (woah, crazy!), but had a box of gluten-free bisquick in the pantry…and we always have butter on hand.  Since I’d promised to bring Irish Soda Bread to a potluck, I decided to give things a shot, after googling “Bisquick Irish soda bread” and finding this Bisquick Irish soda bread recipe.  So here’s my adaption.

Gluten-Free Bisquick Irish Soda Bread


  • 2 c. gluten-free Bisquick
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 6 T. butter, melted
  • 2/3 c. sour milk
  • 2/3 c. dried cherries


  • Combine Bisquick and sugar in bowl.
  • Separately, combine butter and milk, then add to Bisquick mixture.
  • Add dried cherries, and mix well.
  • Press into flattened oval shape on silpat covered baking sheet.
  • Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

I tasted the dough before putting it in the oven, and aside from the textural difference from gluten-free flour, it definitely had the characteristic Irish Soda Bread taste.  I’ll update this post (again) once I know how well the finished product goes over.

Note: I received one or more of the products mentioned in this post for free in exchange for an honest evaluation and review.  The opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Activities for Kids Monthly Blog Hop

Below you will find fabulous creative activities for kids– this month’s theme? Creative St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Kids.

Learn About Existing Light (Scavenger Hunt with Free Printable!)

posted in: Learning | 4

learn about existing light scavenger hunt (with free printable!)I decided to mix things up a little bit for our ABCs of Photography and depart from the logical choice for letter “E” — exposure. That gets a little more into the technical aspects of photography that I was envisioning for this series. So instead, we’ll learn about existing light (also known as ambient light or available light).

Dictionary.com defines these three terms as follows:

the light surrounding an environment or subject, esp. in regard to photography and other art work.

What is existing light? Well, it could be all natural light. But it could be artificial light too. When you take a picture, you are either using existing light or adding light (like a flash). If you don’t add any light to the scene, then you’re taking a picture using existing light. If you add light, whether it be a flash, a flashlight, or a glow stick, then it is no longer existing — it was contrived, planned, created by you — the photographer.

So what’s the activity for today? An “I Spy” game of sorts. Take a few minutes with your kids to search out different light sources you have in your home, outside, or even on the road. Light is everywhere.

What are some light sources you might find? Here are a few ideas:

  • sunlight
  • moonlight
  • car lights (interior or headlights)
  • standard household lights
  • light from a gas pilot flame
  • LED lights on electronics or DVR players
  • Christmas tree lights

As you might know, I like to hand Toby a camera and let him take snapshots of whatever he deems interesting. This could easily be turned into an “existing light scavenger hunt” much like our outdoor photo scavenger hunt, or our more relaxed nature photography activity.

These are some snapshots Toby took around the house using existing light.  The light from our kitchen light fixtures, the sunlight streaming in through the windows… it was already there.

Now, since I mentioned a scavenger hunt for existing light, I think it’s only fair to send you on your way with a free printable!  Here’s the scavenger hunt checklist:

Learn About Existing Light Scavenger Hunt Checklist

Download Existing Light Scavenger Hunt Checklist: PDF / JPG

I’d love to hear about the results of your existing light scavenger hunt!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter F (learn about flash). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about double exposure.

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Nature Photography For Kids

posted in: Learning | 4

Nature Photography... for Kids!Getting kids excited about nature doesn’t have to take a lot of planning or prep work.  It’s as simple as heading outdoors.  Or, if the weather isn’t conducive to being outside, as simple as finding a window to observe nature!

Toby and I have had a lot of fun observing nature, and talking about the intricacies of the world in which we live.  I enjoy these moments, and the unplanned nature (haha, unintentional pun!) of our nature activities leaves the discussions open-ended and interest driven.

While Toby’s photography skills leave a “little” room for improvement (hey, come on, he’s still in preschool), I decided to share a sampling of the world from a child’s eyes.  The tiled series of images are all created by my son, without any direction or assistance from me.

Yes, I hand him a camera and tell him to have fun.

Are the pictures always in focus?

No.  Nope.  But does that matter?  He’s excited about photography.  He’s excited about nature.  He loves looking at the pictures he took.

And he’s finding nature everywhere — indoors, outdoors, …places we adults have forgotten to look for it.

This camera may be beaten and manhandled in the process, but it’s honestly really fun to scroll through the pictures on Toby’s memory card.

Just one note to the wise – you’ll save disk space if you reduce the image file size …kids take A LOT of pictures, as you might remember from my post where Toby took a plethora of selfies on my phone camera.

Trust me, these are just a sampling of the photos.  He took many selfies on his camera too.  Lots of pictures of our house, and his baby brother.  Some candid photos of the cats… need I continue?

But there are gems in there.  Reminders of what it’s like to experience life as a kid.  So I challenge you to let go, give up a little control, and see the world from your child’s perspective.  Giving them a camera is an opportunity to do this.

Here are the nature shots I found.  Some blurred abstractions, many focusing on the clouds.  Some from a civil war reenactment (his grandparents are reenactors).  Nature as seen from the car. Nature as seen from the house.

Nature photography doesn’t have to be created “off the beaten path.”  You can find nature wherever you are.


While these Instagram photos aren’t taken by Toby, I wanted to share some views of nature as we get to enjoy it on a regular basis.  This first one is the view from our family room — we get to see a glorious sunrise every morning.

One morning, Toby ran to wake me up, exclaiming, “look at the beautiful sunrise!”  What a precious moment.

#sunlight #sunrise #snow

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

And my toddler is fascinated with videos. He regularly asks me to take videos on my phone.  This one was of the snow falling.  There’s something gorgeous about snowflakes floating towards the ground — something we adults often miss in the hurry to be off to work and down the driveway.

Snow falling…. A video posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

And who can forget the joy of a snow day in their childhood?  I know Toby will enjoy his memories of getting outdoors, out in the snow.  Maybe he’ll remember the time he had me stomp through the 15″ deep snow drifts in my snowshoes to make giant hearts for Valentine’s Day (during which I lost my phone).  Or maybe he’ll cherish the independence of being allowed to “shovel” the driveway for me (before taking a break to climb snow mounds).

I’d love to hear ideas on how you help your kids learn to appreciate nature! Please share in the comments below!


Learn About Double Exposure

posted in: Learning | 2

Learn About Double Exposure in 5 minutes or less with this easy activity!Well, I was going to spend today’s post talking about digital, or depth of field, but then I thought of something more exciting – double exposure! So, let’s get the ball rolling and learn about double exposure for the letter “D” in my ABCs of Photography series.

Now, what’s a double exposure?  According to Dictionary.com, double exposure is:

1. the act of exposing the same film, frame, plate, etc., twice.

2. the picture resulting from such exposure.

So, in the film photography world, it’s the creation of a negative with two pictures overlaid on top of each other — the film was exposed to light more than once.  In your box of family snapshots from the film days, you might find a couple of pictures like this — usually due to failure to fully wind the manual film advance.

Another way to create a double exposure was to take two completely separate negatives and expose the film paper twice.  You’d achieve a similar look, but the effect was created in the darkroom instead of in the camera.

So, to sum things up, a double exposure is where you have two separate pictures, which are overlaid on top of each other.  And that’s what our craft is going to do today… overlay two separate images to create one new one!  But first, let me share a few double exposures so you can have a few visuals.

I can still remember the first double exposure I did with my in high school with my SLR camera (aww, I remember my Nikkormat fondly <3 ). It was probably also my first self-portrait created as a student of photography.   It was created by exposing the photo paper to light twice (once for each different image).

Double exposures are a fun way to experiment with abstract imagery, and many photography students create double exposures when they’re learning about exposure.

Ahh, the good old days of high school, with the darkroom and its red glow, the enlarger, the chemicals — the whole process took time.  And you got to experience the thrill of seeing a photograph materialize on the exposed paper right before your eyes.  Today’s high schools have gone digital, sadly, so there is a whole generation of photographers being raised up who have never known film.  Modern day double exposures can still be created in camera (you’ll even find some apps that create double exposures for you), or in the digital darkroom… also known as the computer.  Here are several I created a number of years ago, when I was taking undergraduate classes.

This double exposure was created digitally, using an image from an aquarium and a studio still life.
This double exposure was created digitally, using an image from an aquarium and a studio still life.
The digital darkroom makes it easier to merge multiple images in the style of a double exposure.  Here's a college assignment I created with numerous images layered on top of one another.
The digital darkroom makes it easier to merge multiple images in the style of a double exposure. Here’s a college assignment I created with numerous images layered on top of one another.
A double exposure featuring Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and a field of sunflowers in Northern Michigan.
A double exposure featuring Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and a field of sunflowers in Northern Michigan.

I’m sure you’ve gathered from my earlier posts in this ABCs of Photography series that I’m not going to examine these photography terms or techniques in minute detail.  There are plenty of resources on the web for that.  I’m more interested in sharing ideas to help kids (young or old!) understand and appreciate the art of photography.  …I always loved those books in our library that detailed exactly how things work.

Double Exposure Activity

This activity is really simple, and you probably have everything you need in your kitchen!  You’ll need:

  • parchment paper
  • scissors
  • markers (yes, we keep markers in the desk drawer of our kitchen)

Using your scissors, cut out two pieces of parchment paper and set them both out on the table.  I invited Toby to color on two pieces, and kept two pieces for myself.  Toby had fun coloring on the parchment paper with his markers (caveat, they may smudge and smear!).

Once my designs were done, Toby commandeered one of them (the car, big surprise), and then put his second piece of paper over top.  He enjoyed drawing “over” the car (an interesting take on double exposure, no?).

Anyways, the intended flow of this activity is as follows:

  1. make two separate drawings, one on each sheet of parchment…
  2. stack the parchment pieces together and admire your “double exposure” …
  3. (optional) tape both overlaid images to window for to show off what you learned!

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Learn About Cameras: Make a Camera Obscura

posted in: Learning | 2

Learn About Cameras: Make a Camera ObscuraI’m really excited about our activity for the letter C in my ABCs of Photography series: camera obscura.  Yes, we’re going to make another cardboard camera today!  I promise it’s pretty simple.

Now, in case you’re thinking: “camera whatzit?”  Bear with me a minute.  The term camera obscura is from Latin, and means “dark room.”  Camera obscura is defined by Dictionary.com as follows:

a darkened boxlike device in which images of external objects, received through an aperture, as with a convex lens, are exhibited in their natural colors on a surface arranged to receive them: used for sketching, exhibition purposes, etc.

It’s basically a pinhole camera but without film… a pre-film camera or projector.  A giant eyeball, if you will.  The camera obscura demonstrates perfectly how a camera captures images and flips them upside down.  And you can make one without too much trouble!

Now, I thought about showing you how make a fancy camera obscura… but the fact is, many such tutorials already live on the web.

  • How To Convert Your Room Into a Giant Camera Obscura – this link is really neat, it talks about how you can make a room-sized camera obscura!  You’ll need a room, and a bunch of cardboard (enough to cover the windows).  Probably some tape too.  And this would work best in a room that faces north.
  • Creating effective camera obscuras – I have to tell you, this page has a lot of neat ideas for creating a variety of camera obscura models.
  • Create a Camera Obscura – This PDF by Getty walks you through how to make a camera obscura from a cardboard box.It’s a little more advanced than the method I’ll explain shortly, as it uses a lens to focus the image.

So I decided, once again, to keep things simple. Because simple is easier, and therefore better.  And, chances are better you’ll actually work up the energy to try this activity yourself if it’s not too complicated!

Making a Cardboard Camera Obscura

When a delivery arrived one morning in the “perfect” camera obscura box, I knew what we’d be doing for the letter C of my Photography ABCs series.  This activity is perfect for older kids to do on their own, but for younger ones, you’ll need to do most of the creating (or at least cutting).

I took the cardboard box, which conveniently came with a cardboard insert, and poked a small hole (about the size of a pea) in one end.  In the opposite end, I cut a viewing window (the size of a business card).  In case you’ve caught on, the measurements are all relative here — go with the flow and just approximate!  If you’re ambitious, you could even convert the simplified aperture camera we made into a camera obscura, that would have been crafty of me to demonstrate, huh?

Inside the box, using the cardboard insert, I created a window panel cut out.  To this piece, I taped a piece of parchment paper.  Now, to get a crisply focused image, you’ll have to experiment with the placement of this panel and how far away it is from the pinhole (er,… pea-size hole).

Here’s a diagram I made showing how to make the camera obscura:

Make a simple camera obscura, using materials you have around the house!

I have to admit, I did initially make a real pinhole opening, but found that it didn’t let enough light in for this to be practical.  So that’s why I revised my “pinhole” opening and made it more the size of a pea.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of how everything is put together:

Bird's eye view of the camera obscura

Then you’re all done. Close up the box, and peek in through the viewing window you made earlier.

After checking to make sure it worked, I handed the cardboard camera obscura over to Toby.  He was so excited to, once again, see a “picture” of the deck — this time inside the camera obscura.

Here are some photos of our cardboard camera obscura. Note that the box is open so you can see inside — you’ll have to close it and make sure it’s somewhat lightproof in order to see anything projected inside. Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

How Does It Work?

So, onto the over-simplified explanation of how this all works.  The light enters through the small hole, which focuses the light in a way similar to how a magnifying glass (or a camera lens) focuses light.  We’ll cover how lenses work later on in this series, don’t worry!

The image is then projected onto the surface for viewing.

Bird's eye view of the camera obscura

If your kids are anything like mine, it will be worth mentioning that eyeballs work like this too.  Toby got a kick out of knowing that his eyes turn everything he sees upside down.

Well, that’s that!  I don’t want to drag this post on much longer, because you’re probably dying to go get started, right?  I have to say, for my toddler, being able to hold the camera obscura in his hands and “aim” it at different things was fantastic.  Toby loved “taking pictures” with the camera obscura and seeing life upside down.

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter D – will it be Digital? or Depth of Field? Learn About Double Exposure 🙂 If you can’t wait to find out, feel free to distract yourself by revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about Bokeh.

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Learn About Aperture Using a Simplified DIY Model Camera

posted in: Learning | 2

Learn About Aperture Using a Simplified DIY Model Camera

I’m excited to be working through the alphabet with some fun activities to help kids learn about photography!  Today we’re talking about Aperture.  Make sure to check out my introduction to the series (The ABCs of Photography).

So, let’s get started!

What is Aperture?

The definition of aperture, from Dictionary.com:

Also called aperture stop. Optics. an opening, usually circular, that limits the quantity of light that can enter an optical instrument. 

To restate that, the aperture is how wide open the camera lens is — and affects how much light gets in.

Smaller apertures have tinier openings, and let in less light.  They allow pictures to have greater depth of field (e.g. when you look at the picture, everything, from the foreground to the background, is in focus).

Larger apertures have bigger openings, and let in more light.  They allow pictures to have blurry backgrounds (e.g. only subject is in focus).

On a real camera, there are f-stop numbers that tell you what aperture you’re using.  Like f2.8 or f22.  Those numbers mean that the opening is either 1/2.8 or 1/22 of the length of the lens.  The higher the number, the smaller the aperture (since that’s how fractions work, right?)

Now, on a real camera lens, the aperture is very complex.  There are moving parts, and everything is elegantly designed to be self contained.  I’m not going to teach you how to make one of those.  I’m going to help you make a simplified conceptual aperture.  One that is perfect for younger children to manipulate and use to understand the concept of aperture.

For some more resources on aperture, you might check out the links below:

These may be helpful for your older child if you want to go more in depth than I’ve done here.  But I just wanted to get you started.  To help you understand the concept of aperture — simplified as much as possible.  Hopefully I’ve done that!

Making a Model Aperture

If you have older kids, teens, or want to try your hand at making one of the more complex apertures, don’t worry.  While brainstorming how to create my simplified model camera, I did find some resources for making your own model aperture.  You can google “how to make an aperture” or something along those lines for more tutorials, but these ones seemed pretty straight foward (despite the complexity of the build):

Yes, those ones are more complicated. depending on the number of moving parts, they will take a long time to build.  That’s why I designed a simpler conceptual model to demonstrate the theory of aperture.

My Simplified Aperture Camera

It took me under an hour to make this model, including my mistakes and breaks for taking care of the baby.  So this might be doable in half an hour or less if you’re industrious.

Basically, my model camera lets you observe how much light can get in through different sized holes in a piece of cardboard.  Because that’s what an aperture does – it controls the amount of light let in through the lens.

Now, onto the construction process.  I’m not going to give you a printable template or anything, because we just made this camera from some shipping boxes we had on hand.  You could use whatever size you want.  Click on the photos below to enter gallery view mode, and make sure to read all the captions for more information about each of the steps.

Toby had lots of fun playing with his cardboard camera. He liked the moving parts, and being able to slide the different aperture cards in and out.  Without my prompting, he did notice that it was harder to see with aperture card that had the smallest opening.

An idea for even further simplification…

If you wanted to simplify this further, just get a cardboard box and start poking holes of different sizes in it.  Shine a flashlight through the different holes and have your child observe the amount of light that enters the box.

A is For Aperture
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Well, that’s it!  I’m already looking forward to our next activity, which will be learning about Bokeh.

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Finding Ways for Kids to Discover Nature

posted in: Learning | 6
Finding Ways for Kids to Discover Nature
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Nature is a wonderful thing.  It’s beautiful.  Sometimes pristine, usually affected by suburbia.  Regardless of whether you can find “unspoiled” natural areas near you, there are still plenty of opportunities to discover nature.  Even if you live in the city.  Originally, I’d planned to talk about symmetry in nature, and how we can find patterns and repetition in naturally occurring objects around us, but due to the cold weather keeping us indoors for the past few days, I’ll leave that as a suggestion for a future activity. And instead, I’ll share seven different posts that will help inspire you as you work on finding ways for kids to discover nature.

  • How to Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids: This is a great way for kids to enhance their natural curiousity and hone their observation skills.  We tend to gravitate towards low key activities, so you’ll be happy to know that this post of mine was all about keeping things simple.   What did we do?  We took a camera and headed outdoors — Toby pointed things out and we took pictures of them with our cameras.  It might be fun, next time we do this photo scavenger hunt, to make a photo memory game from some of the images.
  • Learning About Bugs – observe critters or insects: you can catch real live insects if you like, or go with the preserved variety, as we did in this post.  We used bugs to learn about nature, to practice counting, tracing, and more.  Next time we learn about critters, I might make an “I Spy” game for Toby, so that he can work on observing similarities and differences between different objects found in nature.
  • Unstructured Outdoor Play: Last winter, I blogged numerous times about how Toby enjoyed playing in the snow — out on our deck.  There was no lesson plan, no objective.  Nothing for him to learn.  But despite the unstructured nature of his time outdoors, I still observed Toby learning.  He heard the sound of the wind, felt the coldness of the snow, watched it change from snow and melt into water.  The act of playing “without purpose” can be a very useful thing indeed.
  • Nature Art: An Exercise in Process Art: This activity was one of my favorites.  Toby helped me collect different items from our yard, and then he spent time arranging, ordering, and sorting them in a bin.  The activity required no setup on my part, and he learned a lot. We discussed seed pods, seeds, and all sorts of nature-related things.  And even though it’s been a few seasons since we made nature art like this, Toby still talks about his experience with process art using nature as a medium.
  • Bird Watching – Up Close!: Last summer we installed a window bird feeder in the playroom.  It was a great idea, and Toby was very excited to watch for birds. I’m not sure who has enjoyed this observation station more — my toddler, or the cats.  Nevertheless, It’s been great to have a way to hone our observation skills up close, and watch how birds come in for a snack.
  • Sundog Rainbow Sunrise: Another neat aspect of nature, sundogs are “rainbows” that form when it’s not raining.  Check out this post for more information.  Toby loved learning about sundogs, and I learned quite a big myself as we researched the phenomenon one cold winter morning.
  • Backyard Wildlife: In our semi-rural setting, we have many opportunities for observing wildlife.  Last year there was a herd of 30 deer we could watch out back.  Turkeys walked through our yard, we could hear coyotes chattering to one another in the early morning, and a mother fox had babies in the neighborhood.  One year, I even watched a fawn being birthed in the tall grass behind us.  Toby loves looking for wildlife, and maybe it’s because of our location… but even if we were in an urban area, I would do what I could to make sure we could enjoy the local wildlife.  One of Toby’s favorite tools for wildlife watching? Kid binoculars, of course.  Read the post for more.

So, there you have it. seven ideas to help make discovering nature easy! I hope you can implement some of these ideas into your daily routine; I know we’ve enjoyed honing our observation skills and marveling at the beauty of nature around us — no matter where we are!

A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!


Learning About Fingerprints

posted in: Learning | 2

bphotoart-learning-about-fingerprints-I’ve been having fun on our learning ventures lately.  Toby has enjoyed learning about bugs, and exploring empathy, and a host of other things that I haven’t had opportunity to blog about.  But this fingerprint activity was definitely a hit.  And I guess I know why — it is messy!  Well, for your fingers, at least.  Assuming your child knows not to smear the ink everywhere, this fingerprint activity shouldn’t be too much in the clean up department.

So, to learn about fingerprints, I got out our rubber stamp collection.  And some ink pads. If you don’t already have these supplies on hand, here are some ideas to get you started (#afflinks):

Ok, now we’ve got the materials covered.  Let me explain what we did.  If your child is older, and wants to experiment with lifting fingerprints from surfaces, there are a few “at home” tutorials on dusting and collecting fingerprints.  But I decided we’d focus on the concept instead.

Now, you may be wondering why I got out the rubber stamps when fingerprints are the purported subject.  Well, my son doesn’t always like to get messy, so it gave us an entry into my planned activities.  Plus, we could see how applying different amounts of ink and different levels of pressure would impact the final print.

Stamps have more negative space than a fingerprint, so it’s also harder for a toddler to smear the ink into a blurred blob.  I showed Toby how my fingerprint looked in ink — and not surprisingly, it was much clearer than his own attempts (for two reasons).  First, kids have smaller fingers.  And then there’s that smearing/precision factor I just mentioned.

So, while Toby happily dotted his fingerprints all over the paper, we talked about fingerprints.  I kept it simple, going into detail as his interest guided me.  Some things I was prepared to talk about included the following:

  • everyone has their own special fingerprints
  • no two sets of fingerprints are alike (even that of identical twins)
  • animal paw prints (hey, our cats are like family to us)
  • fingerprint ridge patterns: arches, loops, whorls (here’s a PDF about ridge patterns from ScienceSpot.net’s Fingerprinting unit)
  • repeating patterns, variations, etc

We could have ended our learning activity at this point, but since Toby wanted to revisit the next day, I decided to enlarge some fingerprints.  I printed out one the size of a sheet of paper, and then made up a fingerprint “poster” so that we had two options for coloring and even cutting up into a puzzle. Here are the two printables:


Download the “no two fingerprints…” PDF / JPG


Download the “fingerprint” PDF / JPG

Toby had lots of fun with this.  If your child is interested, the larger printable would be perfect for examining fingerprint ridge patterns.  You could even use a sheet of tracing paper (or parchment paper) laid over top to practice tracing skills.

Overall, we both enjoyed learning about fingerprints, and Toby even remembered that Zebras can be identified by their stripes, just like fingerprints (thanks to his Zoo Books magazines!).  Now, make sure to take a peek at the images below; click on an image to enter gallery view mode!


A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!

Learning About Bugs

posted in: Learning | 2

Learning About BugsToby has been itching to use his science kit (received as a gift from one of his creative aunts!).  So I thought a good way to kick things off would be to learn about bugs! No, not real bugs (like when we captured a praying mantis, or when we observed butterflies, or even like our outdoor photo scavenger hunt.

No, this activity would be indoors (it’s winter here), and with preserved specimens. I was actually excited for Toby to start examining the bugs, as my father spent his childhood years collecting and preserving many different insects, and as a child, I loved looking at all the different bugs that had been carefully captured, labeled, and mounted on pin heads.

Science Kit Components

The science kit included the following (#afflinks), and will be the perfect compliment to the critter house #afflink that we got Toby!

Other things we might add to the box?

I’m going to let pictures tell most of the story.  But, in short, I let my toddler lead this open-ended activity.

What did we do to learn about bugs?

Look at bugs up close.  

We looked at the bugs under a magnifying glass, examining their eyes, legs, and bodies. Toby noticed that some bugs had larger eyes than others, so we talked about the reasons for that, given the nature of the particular bug.

Shine lights through the bugs.

Some of the bugs had translucent parts, while others did not. Toby liked looking at the wings, and the tiny hairs that some of the bugs had on their bodies.

Stack and count the “bug blocks.”

What toddler wouldn’t want to play with the acrylic blocks as a building toy?  Toby had fun organizing them and counting… we have been working on addition skills lately so we did some simple math problems (i.e.  3 bugs + 4 bugs = 7 bugs).

Trace outlines of bugs onto paper.

While we both enjoyed this part of our activity, Toby asked me to trace at least one bug’s shadow, since his fine motor skills aren’t quite as good as mine.  But he enjoyed practicing.

Examine bug anatomy.

We discussed the anatomy of a bug, complete with diagrams and arrows, conveniently added to the bug outlines we’d made earlier.  I kept the anatomy simple, but we could have gone into more detail if Toby’s interest hadn’t waned: abdomen, thorax, and head.

Make a bug puzzle.

This activity went on the back burner for another day, but there are plenty of bug coloring pages out there on the internet — I’d planned to print one out and make a puzzle like the puzzle we made of Martin Luther and his wife.

See how we learned about bugs…

And no, the photo gallery I promised you. Toby had a great time, and was perhaps a little too entralled with his flashlight. That being said, the photos will give you a better idea of how we did the activities mentioned above.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.


A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!

the ABCs of Photography – An Educational Series for Kids

posted in: Learning | 19

abcs-of-photography-educational-series-kidsTo kick off the new year, I wanted to find a way to simplify the concepts of photography, bring some of them down to the comprehension level of a child.  Because you are never too young to enjoy photography.  My toddler, Toby, is proof of that.  And I’m sure many of you can vouch for the fact that your child has snagged a smartphone to take a plethora of snapshots, or a horrendously long candid video — of your purse.

Now, photographic education is a lifelong pursuit.  I’ve been studying photography for …gee, longer than I care to admit — and I still haven’t learned it all.  So, I figured we could just touch on the basics.  Or, some of the basics.  Twenty-six of them, to be specific.

Over the weeks to come, I’ll be covering the ABCs of Photography, designed as an educational series for kids.  There will be some suggestions about adaptations for younger children as well as older kids — but the vast majority of this series will be designed for enjoyment by all ages.

The master list of my Photography ABCs is below; I will add links as each goes live.  But you can also browse them all by the tag: Photography ABCs.  (for those interested, the web has a number of “master lists” of photographic vocabulary terms).

UPDATE: yes, we took a bit of a hiatus from this series, but it is starting up again in 2018!  Feel free to join in and follow along with us 🙂 as we finish up the ABCs of Photography learning series!!!  I am so excited to work on these with my kids.


365 Days of Light Play Challenge for 2015

posted in: Notes | 0

365 Day Light Play Challenge - BPhotoArt.comWhen I was invited to co-host the 2015 365 Day Light Play Challenge, I was really excited. As you know, photography is the capture of light. Without light, there would be no photographs. My manipulation of light is what makes an image unique.

And this 365 Day challenge is just that. Manipulation and experimentation with light through play. While I know 2015 is a ways off still, I’m excited about being able to start documenting light play through photographs (probably on Instagram).  And if you’re reading this and thinking, “wow, a photo a day, that is intense!” Don’t worry.  This challenge isn’t a by the book kind of thing.  It’s more about committing to a year of light play — if you do it several times a week instead of daily, no big deal.  Or, if you just want to follow along and see what everyone is doing for the light play challenge, you can do that too.

To participate, just share your photos with these hashtags: #LightPlayChallenge or #ULTG (Ultimate Light Table Guide).

But, what exactly counts as light play?  Well, if you can relate it to light, I bet it counts.  Light play can be:

  • Light table / Light box play
  • Overhead Projector play
  • Glow in the dark play
  • Black Light Play
  • Natural Light Play
  • Light and Mirror Play

As I mentioned before, feel free to participate as you are able, or just observe from the sidelines – there is no wrong way to do this light play challenge.You can start early, or join in the fun after January 1st.

What about the photos?  There are no requirements.. They do not have to be complex or difficult. Just a snapshot of anything you and your kids are doing that pertains to light play somehow; the photo can be new or old…. you get the idea?  Anything goes!  Plus, in December 2015 there will be a contest to end the challenge and bring in 2016.  How exciting is that?

Be sure to visit my fabulous co-hosts:

If you have a blog, you can grab the button!

365 Day Light Play Challenge


Join the board to post your light play photos. Email lighttableguide@gmail.com to be added to the board. No blog necessary, just a Pinterest account and your daily light play challenge photos!  Old or new light play photos welcome in this challenge!

There are hundreds of examples on the board linked below.

Follow Kristen (Caution! Twins at Play)’s board Light Tables, Light Boxes, Light Panels & Light Play on Pinterest.

Teaching Kids to Use Words …Not Actions

posted in: Parenting | 2

I’ve heard it said that kids express their feelings through actions.  Actions are their words when they don’t know how to express themselves.  It seems like every child goes through a stage of using their body to communicate rather than their words.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or fun, for parents!

Teaching Kids to Use Words... Not Actions.  Ideas for helping kids communicate verbally instead of physically.Some examples?

  • baby is crying — it hurts toddler’s ears.  Toddler hits baby because baby is “being mean.”
  • cat steals toddler’s toys — toddler is upset and swats at cat to grab the toy back.
  • mom is busy on phone — toddler wants attention, hits or pushes mom.
  • toddler gets pushed by another toddler — both are upset, and start hitting.
  • toddler doesn’t like that an older kid is doing something “wrong” — goes to hit bigger kid for “not listening.”

So, how can we teach kids to use their words instead of getting physical?  Is it really that simple?

Sometimes it’s not.

Kids hit and become physical for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it’s due to sensory overload, and an inability to process things because of the environment around them.  Other times, strong emotions can dominate their mind, and it’s tough to not act in the moment.

Physical communication can also be a cry for attention.  An attempt to communicate feelings of sadness, rejection, loneliness.  Other times, it may be a planned way to get attention.

Because sometimes, any attention is better than no attention.  But that doesn’t solve our problem, does it?  As we grapple with understanding the “why” behind physical communication, it’s not like we can put our response, our discipline and correction, on hold.  Toddlers who communicate physically need to be redirected.  They need help verbalizing their feelings, and learning that there are other, more appropriate ways to respond to something that frustrates them or makes them feel bad.

When a child reacts physically, it can be tempting for a parent to respond forcefully and angrily.  Especially if the action seems to be done out of malice.  But sometimes it does more good to understand the root of the problem.  Sometimes it helps to say, “come here, let me hold you while we talk this through.”  Or, maybe suggest: “if you need my attention, a better way to get it would be to use your words.”

When my son uses his body to communicate instead of his words, I do my best to talk things through with him.  If another child, or an animal, is being hurt, a stern initial reaction may be necessary.  But then, it’s time to focus in on the motivation, the trigger for the outburst.

Instead of honing in on how it is mean to do ______, perhaps the better approach is to ask, “what were you feeling when you did ______?”  If the child evades giving an answer, perhaps the emotion is not describable.  Maybe suggesting emotions could help.  “Are you sad, angry, lonely, upset, hurt….”  It’s amazing how helpful it can be to give words to a child so that their emotions can be communicated.

Once the emotional motivation is understood, then alternate actions can be taught.  “Instead of hitting back, next time use your words to say, ‘please stop.’  Or walk away.  Or find an adult.”  If a child is really in need of a physical outlet, then perhaps it would be good to provide an example of when such physical behavior is appropriate.  “We don’t hit people.  We hit balls with bats, we hit nails with hammers.”

Consistent reinforcement of what is inappropriate physically, as well as what an appropriate response might be, …well, it may take time for you to see results.  But don’t just focus in on the negative behavior.  Make sure to reinforce the positive communication, both verbal and physical.  “I see you are being so sweet to your baby sister, thank you for making her giggle, and for hugging her gently.”

But sometimes, kids get physical for a simpler reason. They have too much energy pent up — and need to blow off some steam.  Maybe a daily rough-housing session with mom or dad could use up some of that energy.  Or a fun time spent outside running after a soccer ball.  By finding appropriate ways to “get physical,” kids often become more self-controlled in situations where physical communication isn’t warranted.

What advice, ideas, or tips do you have for helping kids deal with their emotions and learn to communicate with their words?

Learning About Diversity

posted in: Parenting | 9

Learning About Diversity - a book -based activity We recently got the opportunity to a children’s book that was intended to spark conversation and awareness about diversity in our world.

The book, Beautiful Rainbow World #afflink, was inspired by song of the same name.  The three verse song has  been used around the world, and was written by by DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou).  Published by Multicultural Kids —  crowd-sourced, with a photo contest, and an additional verse written (by Suzee Ramirez), every book includes a free download of DARIA’s song.  Here’s the first verse and refrain:

Today I woke up to see

A beautiful rainbow world

Won’t you dream it along with me?

A beautiful rainbow world

Beautiful rainbow, beautiful rainbow

Beautiful rainbow world

Red, black, yellow, brown and white,

A beautiful rainbow world

We used the book in the context of a book-based activity to learn about diversity.  Toby loved the simplicity of the book, and I think we both found the song lyrics to be calming and contemplative, even when spoken rather than sung. Since our initial reading, this book has been read multiple times; Toby has enjoyed examining the pictures and talking about the people he sees.

And then, as an extension activity, we made popsicles.  Bear with me, this will make sense and relate to the concept of diversity in a minute.  I got these neat rainbow colored set of popsicle molds #afflink, and we filled them with raspberry kombucha.  Toby was thrilled and enjoyed checking on them in the freezer every few minutes (until I told him to leave them be for a while). As we waited for them to freeze, we read Beautiful Rainbow World and talked about how no two people look alike.  Everyone is different, some people have different colored eyes, others have different colored skin.  But despite our differences on the outside, that doesn’t change the fact we are still all people, we are all alike at our core.  Then, I pulled out one of the popsicles, and asked him — “none of these look the same, do they?”  After he agreed, I reminded him that despite their differences in popsicle mold colors, the popsicles inside were all the same flavor.  And that was our diversity lesson, simplified for a toddler.

I realize that diversity and acceptance are not a one-time discussion to be had with my child.  We talk about differences as the opportunity for conversation arises in real life.  Like when my son is intrigued by the grocery store greeter in a wheelchair.  Rather than just hushing his inquisitive nature, I’ve found it best to acknowledge his observation and help him understand that some people need help getting around.  Toby then proceeded to engage in conversation with this particular individual, and they talked about the wheelchair’s light-up wheels were neat.  Rather than trying to ignore the fact that this world contains diversity, I want my sons to realize and accept the diversity in the world around them.  I’m happy that we had the opportunity to review this book so that the topic of diversity can be incorporated into our reading routines.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinons.

DIY Buckle Toy (From an Old Car Seat)

posted in: Parenting | 12

I’m a big fan of repurposing things and finding ways to reduce our environmental footprint.  So, when one of our carseats was issued a new buckle under a recall, I was lamenting the fact that we would have to just throw out the old one.  Obviously it’s essential that the buckle not be used due to safety reasons (just like with those expired car seats) — but I still cringe when it comes time to toss “treasures” like these in the trash.

DIY  Buckle Toy From an Old Car Seat  - Betsy's Photography {BPhotoArt.com}Perhaps by coincidence, I realized we could use this seat belt buckle from the car seat to make a DIY buckle toy.  Toby has been trying to learn to buckle himself into his carseat, and while he’s mastered the chest clip, the buckle itself has had him stymied.

I used two lengths of string to attach the clips to the buckle’s metal clip… and then we were in business.  This toy took me less time to make than it took to swap out buckles in the carseat by a long shot.  I spent maybe one minute making this DIY buckle toy… easiest toy ever!

And, you are probably wondering how it went over.

Well, when I told Toby my plan to make him a car seat buckle toy for him to practice with, he exclaimed: “that would be wonderful!” and squealed in delight.

The next ten minutes were spent devoted to mastering the car seat buckle — Toby is still working on the release button (which, since recalled, is a little sticky to depress), but he quickly figured out how to get the clips clicked in.

When Daddy got home, Toby was thrilled to show off his car seat buckle toy. He proceeded to demonstrate, saying “this is how you…”

Overall, I’m thrilled with this quick and easy DIY buckle toy.  It serves a practical purpose, helps keep junk out of the landfill, and was really simple to put together.

So, next time you have to get rid of an expired car seat, consider removing the buckle components from the carseat to make your own DIY buckle toy!  I won’t suggest hoping for a recall on your buckle, because really, who wants to stress out about having used an unsafe carseat?

Alternatively, you could buy an automotive seatbelt extender #afflink for practice with an adult seatbelt, like the one to the right.

I’m probably going to use this as a busy bag activity for Toby, as it travels well.  I haven’t decided whether to allow it in the car or not… as I could see myself getting thrown off by the seatbelt clicking sound while enroute.  We’d have to have a talk about not trying to click this buckle toy into the actual car seats.

Take a peek at the images below to see the DIY buckle toy in more detail, both clipped and unclipped, as well as my toddler practicing putting the buckle together.

Click on any image below to enter gallery mode.

Martin Luther + Katherina von Bora Puzzle

posted in: Parenting | 4

In honor of Reformation day (okay, a bit early), we made a Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora puzzle!  You can see the how-to blog post over at In All You Do, as well as learn some more about Martin Luther — the ex-monk, who married an ex-nun.

I love how easy it is to make photo puzzles like this, …well, painting puzzles, in this case!  All you need is a printer, some paper and cardboard, a glue stick, and a good pair of scissors.  Depending on your child’s age, you’ll have an eager assistant for some of the creation process.

Toby was thrilled to help glue the paper to the cardboard.  Since his scissor skills aren’t quite there yet, I did that portion of the project.  Then we had fun putting the puzzle together multiple times.  Toby’s favorite section of the puzzle was Katherina von Bora — possibly because “she’s a mama” …or because her picture had more details and was easier to assemble.

Head over to In All You Do to read more about this project, learn more about the Reformation, and even download a free printable to make your own Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora puzzles.

Click on an image below to enter gallery view mode.

1 2 3 4