Tips to Manage the Back to School Transition

No matter how the child feels about returning to school, you can help with the transition by doing a few simple things.

Summer flew by and it’s almost time for school. Some children are excited to meet new teachers and reconnect with friends. Others don’t like the school environment and want it to be summer forever. No matter how the child feels about returning to school, you can help with the transition by doing a few simple things.

Re-establish Routines

Beginning a couple of weeks before the first day of school, children should get adequate sleep, nutritious meals, and add a few academic activities. It is critical for learning that children get the recommended amount of sleep. If the child’s bedtime needs to be adjusted, begin early. Determine when the child needs to leave for school and back up to allow for dressing, brushing teeth meals, and other morning preparations. Set an alarm clock and let the child know they should get dressed and be at the breakfast table by a certain time. You may want to do this gradually if a significant change from the summer schedule is required.

Re-establishing routines isn’t just about sleep – making sure the children get accustomed to meals and snacks at certain times helps. Children like to know when they get to eat and their bodies function better on a set schedule. It is also important to add a few academic activities to the daily schedule to get reacquainted with homework. Interspersing lower energy activities such as reading, crafts, and puzzles with higher energy activities such as soccer, jump rope, and dancing helps the child can mimic the school experience.

Get the Necessary Supplies

It’s frustrating when you need something, and it isn’t available. With the mad rush for school supplies, it helps to start early. Some families make a big deal out of back to school shopping for new clothes. It can be a one on one with each child or an entire family shopping trip. Others simply buy new clothes when needed or just focus on one or two outfits to begin the school year. Either way, the first step should be to review the child’s wardrobe and determine what they already have int heir closet and drawers. Make sure to try things on – as clothes that fit at the end of the school year may no longer work. Some schools require uniforms or limit what children can wear – be sure and know the rules for your school. Don‘t just focus on outer clothes, be sure to check underwear, socks, and shoes.

Supply lists are often provided by the schools and it’s best to fill this list before the first day. Let the child accompany you and make age-appropriate choices for their supplies, lunchbox, and backpack. If the child will take their lunch – begin to discuss what they would like to have in their lunches and make sure you have the necessary containers and ice packs.

Learn the New Environment

Most schools have an orientation or other back to school activity prior to the first day of school. Meeting the teacher prior to the first day of school can alleviate a lot of the child’s anxiety, especially in younger children. The sooner the child and teacher can begin to build a relationship, the smoother the transition. If your school doesn’t provide this opportunity, be proactive. Most teachers are working a few days before school starts. Many of them will be open to a 15- or 20-minute meeting with you and your child. Of course, be mindful that there is a lot of work for teachers to prepare, so respect the time allocated – arrive on time and don’t linger.

If possible, take the child to their new classroom so they can get the ‘lay of the land’. They may not know which one their desk or seat will be, but they can see how the desks or tables and chairs are placed, where the teacher sits, where their backpack and lunchbox should go, and where books and other items are located. Also, walk the halls and point out the bathrooms, cafeteria, library or media center, and any other common spaces.

If the child will walk to school or be dropped off, take them to the doors they will use and show them how to get to their classroom. Also, let them know what to do after school – walk home or go to a designated area for pickup. If the child rides the bus, show them where the bus will drop them off in the morning, how to get to class, and where to wait for the bus at the end of the day.

Create Designated Areas

Looking for a shoe or lunchbox as you run out the door to catch a school bus is very stressful. Have a designated place in the home for everything the child needs as they walk out the door. Their backpack and shoes may be right by the door (along with their coat in colder weather). Their lunchbox may be in the refrigerator in a specific spot. Part of the child’s routine should be to gather these items in a timely manner, so they are not rushing at the last minute and begin their day by feeling behind.

Many children have homework. Families may differ on when homework should be done – some think children should play and ‘unwind’ before tackling more schoolwork while others feel the schoolwork should come before play. Working parents may not have a choice as their schedules are limited and homework time may occur right after dinner. No matter when the homework is done, there should be an area set aside for each child to complete their homework. Younger children may need adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement so the best place may be a dining room table. Older children can typically work more independently and may have a desk in their room or in a quiet area in the house.

Be Positive and Encouraging

Children are often anxious about change. It’s okay if they are a little nervous about new experiences as this is normal. Parents and caregivers should acknowledge their feelings and model confidence and optimism.

Once a child adapts to the new routine and gets to know their teacher and new friends, the anxiousness should abate. If a child had an unfortunate experience the previous year (such as bullying or poor academic performance) and is concerned it will recur – discuss the concerns openly with the child and help them formulate ways to cope. If possible, talk to their teacher and/or other schools professional one on one and let them know of these concerns. Reassure the child that you are there to help them have a better experience.

Sometimes the first few days of school can be trying. Some children react negatively in the morning at drop off by crying or clinging to parents. Others get over-tired and over-stimulated resulting in crankiness and acting out at the end of the day. Parents and caregivers must not overreact. Always reassure the child that they are loved. If a child is clingy during drop-off, gently reassure them, give them a hug, and leave. Teachers are trained in methods to help children adjust and many children are fine the minute the parent is out of sight. Children who act out after they come home need to be reminded of the house rules and expected behaviors. Granting them a ‘pass’ because they are adjusting to school will usually result in bigger problems down the road. Let them know you care, but that there are expected behaviors.

Humans are creatures of habit and can struggle when adapting to change. While we may enjoy new experiences, we are generally anxious about routine changes. Transitioning to school is a great time to teach children discipline and coping skills as changes are inevitable. Transitioning back to school is one way to begin these lifelong lessons.

8 Halloween Safety Tips for Trick or Treating

As pirates, princesses, and zookeepers hit the streets, remember these important safety tips.

Trick or Treating is an American tradition where kids get tons of candy while dressed up in a fun costume. As pirates, princesses, and zookeepers hit the streets, remember these important safety tips.

1. Make sure the costume fits the child properly. Although a long tail or a tight-fitting mask may look amazing, make sure all pieces of the costume fit and are comfortable. Keep skirts and pants at a length that does not cause tripping, and ensure the costume allows for safe shoes. Costumes should also allow children to have their full range of motions for arms, legs, and head to prevent an injury in the event they fall. Masks should not obscure vision as children need to be able to see clearly.

2. Use makeup and hair gel instead of masks. Replace heavy masks with creativity that allows for easier movement and normal fields of vision. Creative makeup easily replaces superhero, animals, and other masks.

3. Add reflectors, headlamps, and glow brackets or necklaces. These help drivers and other people see the child to avoid accidents and also helps families and friends keep track of each other.

4. Be mindful of younger kids. Often, trick or treating starts just before sunset and this is the best time to take younger children. Toddlers and preschoolers, with their parents or guardians, can be the first trick or treaters and gather their candy before the scarier costumes are out and about. If a younger child gets scared of a costume or home decorations, they may bolt in fear and can easily get hurt running down the street.

Baby girl (12-15 months) wearing flower costume, looking away5. Never allow the children to enter a home. Trick or treating should be done on the porch and/or driveway but not in the home. Some neighbors may create haunted houses and ask children to go inside. Unless this is a well-known neighbor and friend, do not enter – it’s best to stay outside.

6. Trick or Treat with friends. Older kids who are participating without direct adult supervision should travel together and tell their parents the route they plan to take. Cell phones can be used to check in periodically. Make sure every child knows the time they are expected back home.

7. Limit your area. Just because you can get a full pillowcase of candy from your neighbors doesn’t mean you should. Trick or treating is fun and getting candy holds great appeal for kids but don’t feel like you have to hit every home in the neighborhood. Set the expectations for younger children on how far you will go. Also, set time limits for older children. Respect that some homes may not participate, so only visit houses with the porch light on, respecting the privacy and property of those who may not be home.

8. Inspect all treats. Before letting children eat any candy, go through their loot and throw out any items that appear to be opened, damaged, repackaged, or homemade. Also, if children have allergies, inspect the ingredients of all candies and treats.

Trick or treating has been a tradition since the Middle Ages, but these modern tips will help keep our children safe.

Childcare Tips with Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval, Psychologist and Adjunct Faculty Member

Dr. Formy-Duval has worked with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, and is currently in private practice.

Dr. Formy-Duval has worked with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, and is currently in private practice. As an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, Dr. Formy-Duval is the faculty instructor for the Understanding Children, Positive Discipline, Stress Management, and Self-Regulation courses.

With years of experience in psychology helping children and families, what made you interested in teaching 4 classes at Amslee Institute?

Dr. Formy-Duval: I know how hard it can be to find good nannies as I myself have 2 children and work. I wanted my kids in my home with one person and it was hard to find the right person; we went through several people. I had a hard time finding quality people and when I heard about Amslee, I agreed with the goals of being able to help Nannies have the qualifications families want in order to watch their children. I thought these courses were a good match with my experience and training.

What things should families do with children during the summer when the kids are out of school?

Dr. Formy-Duval: A lot it depends on whether you are a parent who works and has a nanny or one who can stay home with their kids. It also depends on the age of the children. Changing the schedule can be stressful, but summer can be a really fun time to reconnect with your children in a way that is less structured. Children can struggle with the transition of not having the same packed schedule they have in school where they are told where to go and what to do. The free time of summer or summer camps can lead to boredom. The kids complain, and parents feel they need to entertain their kids. But, boredom is developmentally good. Give kids time to be bored and they will creatively fill the time. It may take a few days of enduring the complaining but send them off to play or give them options of what they can do.

What roles do social media, being on the phone, video games, and chat rooms have on their behaviors?

Dr. Formy-Duval: Electronics are embedded in our day to day life and we are welcoming technology in our homes in so many ways. It can be hard to understand how much exposure to technology is too much or if it’s bad. There is a wide spectrum since some families allow unlimited access while others have strict rules. It’s unrealistic to think our children won’t be exposed to and use technology. It can be great for entertaining and web-based education. I think the key is to figure our how social media and electronics can be used as a tool but don’t use it to replace healthy physical and educational activities. It’s a matter of moderation and for older kids, being on the phone is a great way to stay connected through text messaging. I do really caution parents about social media apps like SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook. A lot of kids can’t manage the social nuances of these apps – that is, arguments and fights can be viewed by 300 people and blown out of proportion. As adults, we struggle with context and have a hard time with it too. I am really cautious with social media and believe they should be limited to older children. However, but messaging and face timing can be a lot of fun at younger ages too.

What are some ideas for parents to re-connect with their kids?

Dr. Formy-Duval: Most of our time with our kids is spent on instructional actions – telling them what to do like brush their teeth and get their shoes on. One of the best ways to reconnect with our kids is sitting down and asking them to tell us about something they are interested in. Now, this might mean that you have a 10-minute conversation about Minecraft or Pokémon or Daniel Tiger or something else you aren’t interested in, but it is worth it. Take the time to put your phone down, make eye contact, and listen to what they are saying. If parents pause and pay attention, it’s a great way to reconnect and only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day. Actively listening really goes a long way.

In our culture, parents and kids are stressed. What can we do to help?

Dr. Formy-Duval: We are a stress society and kids inherently feel the stress from their parents. We need to share stress management tools like helping kids take deep breathes, pausing, counting to 10, and being physically active (running, going up and down stairs, doing jumping jacks, or stomping feet). I really encourage parents to teach our children more ‘feeling’ language (“tell me how that made you feel” and “it sounds like that made you feel frustrated). When we feel stressed there is usually something around us that needs to change. We have to help kids understand what is going on inside of them, so they can use coping skills. We also need to make sure they have really good habits like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, having balanced meals, and getting enough physical activity to proactively manage stress.

If you can share one more thing, what would it be?

Dr. Formy-Duval: In this day and age of 24 hours news and information, I really want to caution parents and childcare providers to remember we have our phones on all the time and often televisions are on in the background. We should focus on allowing our kids to keep their innocence. Children don’t need to know about mass shootings and other adult events on the news. As parents, we are anxious in many ways about the state of the world and many parents are reacting by holding their kids close. Kids need to be allowed to play and to have some freedom. Research shows that our kids are safer today than ever before so let’s shield our young kids from traumatic events that they may not understand. Kids who fear danger at any moment may have anxiety and we want our children to preserve that innocence and enjoy childhood.

Thank you, Lauren, for this session as our first Facebook live video!

To learn more, an Understanding Children course is available with enrollment in the Basic Childcare program.

5 Communication Tips for Busy Families with Nannies

Communication is critical in maintaining family routines and minimizing stress.

child on bikeFamilies today have busy schedules and the larger the family – the greater the challenge. Playdates, school, work meetings, cooking, sports, and summer vacations are just a few of the family activities and commitments that can create a hectic schedule but strong communications between families and nannies can help child routines go smoothly. Communication is critical in maintaining family routines and minimizing stress. Here are 5 tips to help busy families and nannies better communicate.

1. Face to Face Conversations. In this day of cell phones, texting, and emails, the benefits of a face to face conversation are sometimes overlooked. Taking a few minutes when transferring supervisory responsibilities can make a world of difference. Nannies can communicate the highlights of how the children were feeling and behaving while in her care and the family can share the key activities for the day. Remember to make eye contact and be aware of how your body image impacts the meaning of your words. Speak clearly and listen attentively. If you are receiving a lot of information, take notes and then restate the information to make sure your comprehension is accurate.

2. Communication center. A communication center provides a place to help the family and nanny share information. A communication center can be a physical location such as a bulletin board, refrigerator, or cubby hole. It can also make use of today’s technology and be a group email list or a joint electronic calendar. The crucial element is that every family member has access and regularly checks the communication center. Nannies and Families must have access to the communication center. Sharing key information about activities and events with their locations and times help the nanny know when and where to care for the children so she can do the job successfully.

daily log3. Daily logs. A daily report may be a one-page template or a quick written note highlighting the activities and key points from the day. The contents of the daily log will differ based on the child’s age and the desires of the parents. It may include feeding, toileting, activities, completed homework, and any household management duties completed during the day, among other things. Unusual events such as symptoms of an illness or a fall at the playground, as well as any actions taken by the nanny such as administering medication or getting medical assistance should be listed. The daily log should be shared in the communication center. Of course – an emergency must be handled appropriately and then summarized later in the daily log.

4. Expense reports. Nannies should have access to money for childcare-related expenses – whether it is petty cash or a prepaid card. An important part of the job is communicating how that cash is spent. There should be a defined process to track finances. A weekly report which includes all receipts for expenses is usually sufficient. The report should list the date, location of purchase, items purchased, and total amount spent. For family assistant positions that include shopping such as picking up dry cleaning, groceries, and putting gas in the car, the weekly report should list all the receipts with a general summary of the items purchased.

5. Work agreements. Each nanny position is unique with respect to job duties and expectations. A work agreement is a great tool that lists the job responsibilities and expectations which allows the families and nannies to align on expectations. Work agreements are developed between the nanny and the family with both sides agreeing to the contents. If you don’t have one already, take a few minutes to review a work agreement. For free templates, visit which has a 30-minute video on work agreements as well as templates for Sitters, full-time nannies, and live-in nannies.

Successful communication between a nanny and the family is critical to the successful completion of the nanny’s duties. Communicating with the children can set expectations for daily activities and routines resulting inconsistency for the children. Successful communicating with family members reassures all involved that the children are receiving the best possible care.

To learn more, a Communicating with Families course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program at

About the Author. Michelle Dragalin. Michelle earned an Educational Specialist in Educational Technology from Walden University, Master of Education from the University of Phoenix, Bachelor of Art in Special Education from Old Dominion University, and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Bemidji State University. Michelle is a Texas elementary school teacher (PK-8) and has experience in Colorado elementary schools and working as a special education teacher. Michelle is an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute.


5 Water Safety Tips – Just in Time for Summer

Although this article doesn’t cover all aspects of being safe in the water, these tips can provide a safer, more enjoyable time at the river, lake, beach, or swimming pool.

Now that school is out for the summer, almost every day, my son asks if we can go to the beach or the pool. Since I also love the water, we go often but I’m always aware that drowning is the second most frequent cause of death for children up to age 14*.

To help keep my son safe in the water, I follow these 5 behaviors:

  1. Swim in designated areas with lifeguards
  2. Wear life jackets
  3. Do not get distracted or drink when supervising children
  4. Be a strong swimmer and teach children to swim
  5. Be aware of the weather (thunderstorms) and use sunscreen

Although this article doesn’t cover all aspects of being safe in the water, these tips can provide a safer, more enjoyable time at the river, lake, beach, or swimming pool.

children swimming with blow up rings1. Respect Life Guards and Aquatic Life. Whether at the beach, visiting a lake, or heading to our community pool, we always swim in designated areas with life guards. Lifeguards are employed on a 1:100 ratio and this is based on the expectation that parents or care givers will provide direct supervision of their children. Children under 10 years old must be accompanied and constantly supervised by a parent or care giver over 16 years of age.

It’s important to follow all lifeguard instructions as well as flag warnings. Different beaches and states have different colored flags and assigned meanings, so be sure to ask the lifeguard if you’re not sure what the flags signify. In general, red flags indicated the beach may be closed or there is a high hazard caused by surf or strong currents. Yellow flags indicate a moderate hazard and that waters may be rough and care should be taken if you are not a strong swimmer. Green means low hazard with calm conditions but be aware that currents will naturally push you down the shore. A purple flag indicates there is potentially dangerous marine life such as jellyfish which have been spotted in the area. Please leave animals alone including sea stars, sand dollars, and animals in sea shells. When handled by humans, even when handled gently, these delicate animals are often so severely injured, the interaction leads to their death.

2. Wear Life Jackets. It is important to Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices or PFD’s which are also called life vests or life jackets. Since infants and children come in many sizes and shapes, the U.S. Coast Guard and personal flotation device (PFD) manufacturers urge that PFDs be tested immediately after purchase. Check the PFD for the proper weight range, comfortable fit, and especially a stable face-up position in water. You should test your PFD in a swimming pool and test it with the infant or child who will be wearing the PFD. To check for a good fit, pick the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. If the PFD fits right, the child’s chin and ears will not slip through. Some infants and children float best in one style of vest, while others will float better in another. To work as designed, a PFD must fit snugly on a child. Parents and care givers should remember that inflatable toys and rafts should not be used in place of life jackets.

asian girl in pool3. No Distractions or Alcohol. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water including in the presence of lifeguards. Thus, it’s important to make sure at least one person is fully dedicated to watching children in the water. When tasked with this responsibility, you must keep focused and not get distracted. Cell phones should be put away, ear buds should be taken out or the speaker volume for music should be set to low. Conversations with others should allow for your focus to be on the children with your chair or standing position such that you can see the children at all times. If children are not wearing a life jacket, you should be in the water with the children, no more than arm’s length away. It’s easy to get distracted with a quick call or searching for a snack in a beach or pool bag but these can be the precious seconds or minutes when your attention is needed to save a child who needs helps in the water. Remember that you are responsible for the safety of children in your care, even if there are lifeguards. Adults often enjoy the summer time and water sports with alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and liquors. For everyone’s safety, avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, water skiing, and other water sports. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children as alcohol reduces balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.

woman swimming with child4. Know and Teach Swimming Skills. Teaching children to swim can be a fun activity for both adults and children. Children ages 2 to 4 years old are coordinated enough to begin learning to swim. Kids under 4 years old and who do not know how to swim should wear a life jacket, even in the pool. Kids over 4 years old should take swimming lessons. As children learn water skills, remember that they are not yet strong or independent swimmers and still require full supervision. Don’t assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter what their swimming skills.

5. Weather (Thunderstorms) and Use Sunscreen. When planning a day of fun on the water, it’s important to check the weather conditions and use sunscreen. Adverse weather includes a high heat index or thunderstorms as they may impact water activities. As a storm or thunderstorm approaches, pools and other activities should be stopped and the water evacuated when there is a threat of a lightning strike.

Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance for developing melanoma, or skin cancer later in life. Racking up more than five sunburns at any age also doubles the risk. Thus, it’s important to keep sunburns away by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB with an SPF 15 or higher. SPF stands for the sun protection factor and is an indication of sunscreen effectiveness at preventing sunburn. Infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun as their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. An infant’s skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes and provides some sun protection. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects.

boy on paddle boardFor older children, sunscreen should be applied generously 30 minutes before going outdoors so the skin has time to absorb it. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet. Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after the child swims or exercises. This also applies to waterproof and water-resistant products. Sunscreen should be reapplied per the directions but at least every 2 hours and as often as every 90 minutes for children who are more susceptible to sunburns.

Water play is an important part of summer fun, so enjoy the local pool or head to the beach! To learn more water safety tips, enroll in the Water Awareness course offered in the Basic Childcare program by Amslee Institute at


About the Author. Elizabeth Malson is a Certified Emergency First Responder Instructor and Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Elizabeth is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies and Sitters.

*Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. [cited 2017 June 24]. Available from URL:

10 Tips to Take Better Photos of Children

To help you take better photos of children, here are ten tips.

A child’s smile is one of the most cherished images. Everyone loves capturing the cute moments, but photographing children can be challenging! As I looked through my family photos – I saw too many instances where the picture could’ve been much better. As an avid and experienced photographer, I want to take adorable photos of my grandchildren. I have learned that capturing a great image depends on a lot of factors.

Of course – all of the basic rules of photography apply when photographing children. You should know your camera and what settings to use when (although many cameras have automatic settings that novices may find useful). You should understand the basics of composition and lighting. To help you take better photos of children, here are ten tips:

1. Take lots of photos! Before digital cameras, photographers were often limited by the number of frames available on a roll of film. In today’s digital world, the sky’s the limit. When photographing children – don’t stop shooting. You never know what children are going to do next!

child carrying bucket at beach2. Don’t limit yourself to posed photos. A lot of child photography is posed. Parents and grandparents generally like portraits of their children all dressed up and beaming at the camera. However, children can easily become bored trying to sit in the same position and face the camera. If there are multiple children being photographed – it can become even more challenging to get that perfect shot. If you plan to take posed photos – try to take them at the beginning of a session when the children are more likely to cooperate.

Taking candid photos allows the children more freedom and they generally have more fun. This is where you capture those genuine smiles! However, it is more challenging for a photographer. The photographer must anticipate the actions of the children. Take lots of photos as children play – some of the most memorable photos are unexpected candid shots!

3. Vary the perspective. Most cameras are designed to be held to capture a horizontal (landscape) image. This is great for scenic shots and can be very useful when photographing groups of children or if a single child is playing – a horizontal shot may be used to capture them in action.

Most phones are designed to capture a vertical (portrait) image. This results in a different perspective for the shot. Portrait images are generally good for one or two children and for any activity indicating height such as children on a climbing wall.

Cameras and phones can be turned to change the perspective from landscape to portrait and vice versa. Take advantage of this and use the perspective that gives you the image you like best.

baby4. Get Low and Close. When photographing children, you will generally get better images if you get down to their level. Photos from above may distort the child’s face. Don’t be afraid to get on the floor or ground! Getting in close can result in a more impressive image. The child will fill more of the viewfinder and image area thus reducing room for distractions and leading the eye to the desired view. It is easier to capture facial expressions if the photographer is at the same level or slightly lower than the subject.

5. Change the height of the camera. This is closely tied to the previous tip. Try taking the photos from different camera heights to see what you like best. If you take a photo of a young child from above, it may skew the child’s features or you may get the top of the head instead of the face; however, if the child is looking up, you may capture a really unique and flattering image. If you lay on the ground and shoot an image from below, you can also get a different perspective. The child may appear larger and you may be able to use the sky as a background if shooting outside.

child framed for photography6. Move the child around in the frame. A lot of novice photographers always center the subject in the frame. This may result in an acceptable image, but does not always give an interesting shot. A common photo composition guideline that may make images more interesting is known as the Rule of Thirds. A “Tic-Tac-Toe” board is superimposed on the viewfinder and the child is placed on one of the four dots where the lines intersect. For children, the eyes are generally placed at or near the dots.

7. Take advantage of the environment. One photography trick is to use other objects to direct the attention to the child in the photo. This is called framing. In outdoor photos – a set of trees, the ends of a swing set or other playground items, or buildings may be used to form a frame around the child. Even commonplace items like chain link fencing can be used to create a framed image. Indoors – a doorway, arch, furniture, or bookcases may be used to get the desired effect. Even the sides of a chair can be used to frame a child. The point is to draw the eye to the child or children in the photo.

woman walking with child on trail8. Look for and incorporate leading lines. Another technique that is used to direct the attention to the child in a photo is called leading lines. The lines can start at any point on the edge of a photo and lead the eye to the main subject. Leading lines may be straight, but they don’t have to be. Curved lines also direct the eye. In this photo – the techniques of framing and leading lines combine to direct the eye to the adult and child walking along the path. Note – the adult and child are in the center of the photo (breaking the rule of thirds), but the curved pathway and framing by the trees create a story.

9. Don’t be afraid to move around. As a photographer, you shouldn’t limit yourself to a single shooting position. Taking photos from different perspectives – sides, front, back – results in different images. Changing the light source and angles can produce a dramatic result and you can sometimes get these effects simply by changing your position. Straight on photos are good for group shots and some activities, but angled shots may be more dynamic in other cases. Remember to also vary your camera height as you move around.

boys playing soccer10. Leave room for action. It is usually a more interesting action photo if there is room “ahead” of the action. For example, if a child is kicking a ball to the right – the more interesting photo has the child positioned towards the left with room on the right for the ball to “travel”.

Using these tips, you can capture more striking images and add dynamic photos to your family album. For more information, a Photographing Children course is available from Amslee Institute.

About the Author.  Marlene Malson. After retiring as a senior cost analyst for the Air Force, Marlene dedicated herself to photography. Taking professional courses and entering local club competitions, Marlene won blue ribbons as an amateur photographer. Marlene has focused on digital photography, learning the importance of aperture, shutter speed and ISO working together, which has significantly improved her family photos. Marlene is an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies, Au Pairs, Babysitters, and other childcare providers.