Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Travel Tips: Involving the Kids

On our road trips this year, we have gone over our plans for the day with Ethan every morning, so he knows what to expect, and included fun stops along the way to break up the monotony.

Children love routine and predictability. Discussing the plan for each day at the beginning of the day can help them know what they can expect and deal with the change in their normal routine and environment.

One way to make this more tangible is to get a map or Trip Tik and talk about the route you plan to take and any stops you will make.

Include older children in the planning and the progress. During the trip assign one child to be the navigator, providing him with maps and a compass. Assign another to keep track of expenses, equipping her with a notebook, pencil and calculator. Even if they are too young to understand these tasks, children love to pretend and imitate adults.

Whenever possible, give your children choices. Children like to have control of their lives and make their own choices. When you take them out of their routine and familiar environment and sit them in a car for hours on end, it can help tremendously to offer choices. You do not have to provide a lot of options, just two is enough. For example: grapes or carrots; read a book or play a game; do you want to sit by the window before lunch or after lunch and so on.

What are your favorite ways to involve the kids? Share them in the comments.


Gymboree Lake Oswego

It's Gymboree Play + Music time again. I will be photographing during most of the classes at the Gymboree in Lake Oswego, Oregon during the week of July 31 - August 5. Get more details here. If you've never attended a Gymboree class before, I encourage you to try it out. You can attend a free preview, just contact the Lake Oswego Gymboree for information and available classes.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Photo Tip: Capturing Fleeting Moments

Anticipating the action and pre-focusing (at the bottom of the slide, for example) can help you capture the excitement at the end of the ride.

One of the most common complaints I hear about digital cameras is that it is impossible to photograph children because of the delay from when the shutter button is pushed to when the camera actually records the picture. This delay is called shutter lag and can be maddening when trying to photograph children (or other fast moving subjects). I had to use an old digital point-and-shoot camera on our recent trip to San Francisco and got lots of shots of the back of Ethan's head and Ethan walking out of the picture (I was so frustrated I bought a new one as soon as we got home).

Here are a few suggestions to help reduce shutter lag:

Turn your camera on before you need it.

Pre-focus: Press the shutter button half way down and hold (this allows the camera to focus, but does not take the picture). Wait for the right moment then push the shutter button the rest of the way down. Note: if the subject has moved closer to or further from the camera, you may have to refocus.

Anticipate the action: Try to anticipate where your moving subject will be when you want to take a picture. Pre-focus on that area and be ready to push the shutter (press a little sooner than usual). If you want your child to be looking at the camera, position yourself in front of her, pre-focus, then get her attention and press the shutter button. If you let your subjects know when you're going to take the photo by counting down from three, press the shutter on "one" and keep counting to three.

Better yet, don't worry about posing, smiling or looking at the camera, just capture your child doing her thing.

Get a faster memory card: Your camera may not take advantage of the fastest memory cards available, but slower cards can definitely slow down the recording of your pictures, increasing the amount of time before you can take another picture.

Turn off the display: Instead of using the display on the back of the camera to compose and review your pictures use the optical viewfinder and edit your pictures later on your computer. The camera will be a bit faster since it does not have to recreate the picture on the display and you will conserve the battery allowing you to take more pictures.

Charge (or replace) the batteries: Cameras need power to reset the sensor, focus on the subject and record the picture. Batteries that are low can slow down the process. Batteries can go bad after years of use. If yours isn't holding a charge for very long, it may be time to buy a new one.

Upgrade: There is only so much that these tips can do to decrease shutter lag. If you have an old digital camera, it may be time upgrade. Digital cameras have gotten much faster over the last couple years. Need help choosing a new camera, check out our list of camera review sites. These sites can help you choose the right camera for your budget and needs.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Travel Tips: Travel Tunes

Ethan singing at the bowl. Whether in the car or at a stop along the way, music is an important part of our travels.

Our family loves music. We love listening, singing, playing instruments and dancing. So naturally music is a huge part of our road trips. Our recent favorites are by Laurie Berkner. Laurie's songs are fun, interactive and adult-friendly! Parent participation and "choreography" got Ethan excited, involved and distracted from the hours of sitting still.

A few other things that made our music experience great:

We filled up an mp3 player with all of Ethan's favorites, (you could also burn custom CDs) so that he could request a song and we could deliver. We included lots of new songs to keep things interesting.

We included a block of sleepy songs to help encourage napping.

Sometimes we listened to music that wasn't created exclusively for kids.

We made a car guitar (a small box with rubber bands stretched across) so that Ethan could play along. Tip: create other instruments - a shaker out of one of the snack containers filled with peanuts (or other snacks) and a horn out of a toilet paper tube. Personalize them with drawings or stickers. Trade instruments after each song.

We took a few audio books. Some stories Ethan was familiar with and a couple were new. We had the actual book to look at with one story, but the rest he just listened to and used his imagination. I was surprised at what a big hit they were. Download stories for free from Project Gutenberg, download audio books at or get tapes and CDs at your local library.

More Favorite Travel Tunes:
Sesame Street Platinum: All-Time Favorites
They Might Be Giants - No! (and many other songs off various TMBG albums)
VeggieTales - If you like to talk to tomatoes, if a squash can make you smile
Parachute Express - If you've ever gone to Gymboree you know their songs. If not, check them out
Putumayo - World music collections for all ages

What are your favorite travel tunes? The first four people to enter their favorites in the comments will receive three of our favorite Laurie Berkner songs FREE via iTunes. Be sure to identify yourself in the comments so we know where to send the songs.

Don't think your thirteen year old will appreciate "I've got a song in my tummy?" Let us know and we'll send a gift certificate so you may choose the three songs.