Toddlers– to know them is to love them, and I most certainly do!

They're wild and they're challenging, but they're filled with so much wonder and sweetness. Most parents of toddlers, including myself, fret about their toddler and their lack of participation when it comes to family photos. If we throw a newborn sibling in there, this is especially true.

This spring, we had our family photos taken by my mentor, Aly Carroll, and I put into practice what I preach to my clients, and it was the most enjoyable session I've had since my maternity session in 2019!

These 5 things are key:

Lower your expectations & surrender to this season

It is important to be realistic when it comes to your session. Our little humans have a mind of their own, and we as parents have to lean into the unexpected. Many toddlers refuse to smile because-- stranger danger! Others, mine included, turn into wildlings. Lean in mama. Because, at the end of the day, this is our reality. The crazy. The messy. That is this season and it is fleeting.

At our spring photos, Hattie ran around looking for sticks and rocks the entire time, and, guess what? They're in our photos, and they are some of my favorite photos. They're raw, They're real. They're imperfect and absolutely beautiful. THESE are the moments I want to remember.

When I got those photos back, I thought, "man, I'm going to miss this madness someday."

family playing in green grass and spring trees in bloom - newborn photography Kansas City

By the lovely Aly Carroll

Honor their rhythm

If possible, try and schedule your session around their nap schedule. Hungry and tired kiddos are typically cranky kiddos, and, if we are being honest, we as adults are, too! So make sure they're fed and rested. Speaking of...

Know there is no shame in my bribin' game-- as a parent or photographer!

While we can't force, we can bribe... and sometimes it works and other times it doesn't! I always bring mini marshmallows to sessions and use them to play games or as rewards! As a bonus, they are small and white and typically hide well in little hands or make for an easy snack to photoshop out. If marshmallows aren't your thing, bring snacks that aren't messy-- like fruit snacks. Goldfish, cookies-- anything of the like-- turn into crumb city with messy fingers and faces!

Make it fun

Think of things your child enjoys doing and incorporate that into your session! Remember, the goal is to document this season. Go on a nature hunt, play peek-a-boo, bring their favorite book, tell Alexa to play their favorite song! Playing "I spy" can often be a great game to initiate some stillness or find something (like a leaf) and tell them to help you by standing on it so it doesn't blow away! While I can't speak for all photographers, I can speak for most in saying anything is fair game in creating genuine smiles for us to capture!

Go into your session looking your best and just! keep! smiling!

When we look good, we feel good and when we feel good, we typically have a little more grace to extend. Work with your photographer ahead of time to plan YOUR dress first and I highly, highly recommend opting for professional hair and makeup services. As an MMP client, I take care of all of these details before our time together. So even when your toddler is acting as wild toddlers do, you can rest assured you look amazing! JUST KEEP SMILING! I swear, we are creating magic in the madness!

A few thoughts on toddlers who aren't sure about their new sibling:

Trying to force a toddler-- especially a young one-- to hold a new member of the family is often a recipe for everyone to start crying. In my experience, I've found it is much better to let the toddler come and go and interact as they please. Of course, there are things we can do to try and entice them to show their sibling some love, but, again, this comes back to managing our expectations as parents.

A few things your photographer hopes you remember:

  • If your child acts out, they surely aren't the first or the last
  • For me, I'm in this season, too, so I TOTALLY get it-- on so many levels
  • Your child's actions (or lack thereof) are by no means a reflection of your parenting!
  • I am never, ever judging you if your child is acting out. I can't tell you how many times I've thought, "oh my gosh-- they have to think I'm the worst mom!" Remember: YOU are the best parent for YOUR child!
  • I am happy to help where I can! If your toddler needs a break or a walk, I'll hold that sweet newborn or grab some solo photos.

Bonus: a pre-session mimosa never hurt anyone 😉 Cheers mama!

Here's what can happen when we surrender to the madness...

Meredith Maag Photography specializes in newborn, maternity, and family photography in Kansas City, Columbus, Ohio, and is available for travel.


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