5 Ways to Make Toddlers Smile

One of the most challenging things I face during a photo session is making a toddler smile. If they aren’t “feeling it” that day it can be super tough to change their attitude. Unlike us adults who have to stay nice even we aren’t feeling like it. 😉 I though I’d share a few of my tricks for winning over toddlers.


1. Treat them like adults. Sometimes we tend to brush them aside and focus on the adults but let’s be honest, the kids are the ones who control how the session will go. I ask them their name, how old they are, or what grade they are in. These things are a BIG deal to any child. If they are treated with respect, things go a lot more smoothly.

2. Get on their level. I photograph a lot of timid children and the one thing I have noticed is how they change when I get on their level. Sometimes I even sit “criss-cross apple sauce” just to make them feel more comfortable. Adults can look really tall and intimidating to children so if you make yourself look smaller they tend to feel more comfortable.

3. Kids love competition-even the little ones. Lots of times I’ll have the parents stand a distance away and ask the children to see who can get to them first. This produces squeals and smiles all around. If it’s older kids, ask then to arm wrestle; then wait for the laughs after one of them wins.

4. Sing the wrong words to a familiar song. Little children love nursery rhymes. You can sing “twinkle twinkle little sun” and they will crack up every time. They love feeling important and correct you any chance they get.

5. Incentive versus bribery. Bribes work some of the time but half of the time they are disastrous. I prefer incentives. Lots of families promise ice cream if all the kids behave well after a session. Then there isn’t any candy stains to deal with and the kids will keep each other accountable so they don’t all miss out on the treat.  If they are given something at the start or middle of a session they usually are finished right after they receive it. A few good on-the-spot treats are balloons, stickers, and tick tacs. Things like M&Ms or lollypops get sticky and stain the mouth and clothes quickly.

tip: If you ask children to laugh as hard as they can, the first few seconds look fake but be ready-the genuine smiles are sure to follow.

Children are way smarter that we give them credit!

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