6 ways to get adorable (and stress-free) holiday pictures with your kids

By tweaking your professional photography session strategy, it can be a happier experience for everyone.

6 ways to get adorable (and stress-free) holiday pictures with your kids

Last year's holiday card featured kids running off in two different directions—and that was after a dozens of attempts and a few tears on your part. But like the eternal optimist you are, you want to give it another go.

The good news is that by tweaking your professional photography session strategy, it can be a happier experience for everyone. And, soon enough, the proof will be in that dreamy holiday picture you always wanted.

Here's what to do, mama:

1. Plan outfits plus a backup

At least for you, planning coordinated outfits for the whole family is half of the fun. But your kids may have different feelings when they are instructed to get dressed in a stuffy shirt and bowtie. Give yourself the best chance of success with your selected outfit by giving them the chance to get comfortable in it in advance. If it still doesn't go over well—or there is a last-minute stain crisis—keep an alternative on hand.

2. Limit the distractions

If your kids are used to running wild outside, wrangling them for a picture likely isn't going to be a pleasant experience for anyone involved. Consider moving the photo shoot indoors to a studio such as JCPenney Portraits, which is designed for the sole intention of capturing family photographs.

As a major bonus, an indoor session means you don't have to worry about proper lighting, which means you can schedule a time that's conducive with naps and meals. (Tired and hungry are not good combinations for family pictures. Or anything, as you already know.)

3. Pick a photographer who specializes in baby talk

Photographers who specialize in family pictures have a special set of skills. Not only are they experts in taking and editing the pictures, but they have the even rarer ability to get the most stubborn of kids to crack a smile. Working with someone who has their own tricks of the trade will only make your job easier.

4. Embrace your kids' phases

By remembering the whole point of family pictures is to documents a moment in your lives, it should be that much easier to say, "Sure, he can hold onto his favorite teddy bear." Happier kid. Happier mama. Happier memories.

A bit harder to cope with when all you really want is a picture of your kids smiling? Accepting that it may not happen. As much as this may pain you while sending out this year's round of holiday cards, know that your child's unique expression will probably grow to be your favorite part of the whole picture.

5. One word: snacks

Revisiting the point about how hungry kids don't make for the best photography subjects, bring along your full arsenal of fuel. Now also isn't the time to stick strictly to apples and carrots. If you think the promise of some fruit snacks will help them crack a smile, that seems like a worthy bribe.

6. Give kids some creative control

You planned the session. You planned the outfits. If your kid feels like they're along for the ride—and is none too fond of that—it can help to offer them choices. Allow them do pick their hairstyle or decide how the family should pose for a picture. That doesn't mean the picture they styled has to be the one hanging on the wall at home, but feeling involved in the larger session can help them warm up to it all.

To schedule your professional photography session today—book an appointment with the pros at JCPenney Portraits who can help you capture all the magic.

This article was sponsored by JCPenney Portraits. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

You will always be their safe space, mama

You are their haven. Their harbor. Their sanctuary, their peace. You are comfort. Deep breaths. Hugs and back rubs. You're a resting place, a nightmare chaser, a healer. You are the calm within their storm. You are their mother.

To your child, you are safety. You are security. You are where (out of anyone or any place), they can come undone. Where they can let it all out, let it all go. Where they meltdown, break down, scream, cry, push.

Where they can say—"I AM NOT OKAY!"

Where they can totally lose it. Without judgment or fear or shame.

Because they know you'll listen. They know you'll hear them. That you will help piece the mess back together.

Keep reading Show less

Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

From Adelia to Ziggy.

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play