Tips for working with toddlers at newborn sessions
We have all been there – you ask a two year old to do something and the exact opposite happens. You were excited for your photography sessions you but your oldest isn’t cooperating and you start to get anxious asking yourself while you even bothered. Believe me you are not alone. Sometimes a session with a toddler and a newborn can seem like complete chaos but it is that chaos that really makes the session magic. The trick is understanding where the child is at and trying to harness and redirect the energy.
Before the session has even begun, the toddler has gone through a great deal of change. It is important to recognize and acknowledge. The emphasis for the last few months has been on this abstract concept of a baby, and now he or she is competing for attention, and often loosing out.
While you might need information on how to prepare for a newborn session, this is my process for photographing a newborn lifestyle session, whether in Arlington, Boston, Brookline or the South Shore this is my process.
Ignore the baby
Think about every visitor that has come to your house. They ohh and ahh over the newborn. Can I hold him? Isn’t she cute? Etc. The other child or children feel ignored and might act out. A toddler might not have the verbal skills to express these intense emotions. My first interaction at every session is with the sibling(s). I lower my entire body and start engaging with that child asking questions. Can you show me around the house? Where is your favorite spot? Can you show me your favorite toy? This allows the toddler to warm up to me, complete a stranger, so they can feel special. The baby isn’t going to notice if I don’t say hello.
Praise the toddler
I might be over the top but multiple times throughout the session I say how I heard they are such an amazing big brother, or something similar.
Ask for help
When we are talking photos all together I like to ask the toddler for help. By giving the child a task, it keeps them engaged. Most of my questions – Can you count the baby’s fingers? or Where are his toes? – are silly but it does the trick.
Photos and play with parent(s)
Inevitably during the session, the baby will need to be fed, changed or comforted. This is often the perfect time for the sibling to have some 1-1 time with a parent, grandparent or any other adult present. I love these moments to capture something less scripted. Often it gives the parent a chance to read them a book, or play with a favorite toy or even just snuggle for a few minutes.
Take Needed Breaks
At the beginning of every session, I do my best to capture the sibling and the full family shots. Everyone is still fresh and I don’t think it is reasonable to assume a 2 year old can sit and take photos for 5 minutes let alone an hour. It is easy to tell when a child needs a break. In my experience, giving them a snack or just letting sit on the floor and play is enough. They will start to feel left out and naturally join back in.
For example, at this session it was obvious the older daughter need a break so I started to take a few photos of just mom, dad and the baby. A few moments later, the toddler joined in for a photo after feeling left out.
It is always fun to see what toddlers are interested in at this age. For some it is a toy or a book you love. For this big sister, she loved band-aides which is something my kids were fascinated with as well.