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How to Prep Your Kids for Family Photos (When They Don't Know the Meaning of Sitting Still)

You can picture it so clearly: Your family photo placed prominently on the mantle, everyone smiling…and looking right at the camera. Sounds great and totally plausible, right? Well, as a parent, you know the reality of photographing your kids actually involves a lot of squirming, plenty of wrangling and possibly a few tears. Our first order of advice? Don’t sweat it: Embrace the imperfection and try to relax. Then, check out our tried-and-true tips to prep your kids for family photos you’ll cherish for years to come. (Hint: It’s equal parts planning and rolling with the punches.)

Orajel Kids parents teaching kids how to brush their teeth
Orajel Kids

1. Get Sparkling Smiles

You want your children to feel good about flashing those pearly whites as soon as you say “Cheese!” That kind of confidence comes from helping your kid establish a healthy oral care routine as soon as possible. We know, getting them to brush can be almost as difficult as getting them to stand still, but it’s both worth it and a bit easier if you have the right tools. That’s where Orajel™ Kids comes in. The pediatrician-recommended brand has all the products and tips to motivate your little one. Plus, you can feel good knowing their fluoride toothpaste formulas are made with over 99 percent naturally sourced ingredients, the added cavity-fighting power of fluoride and is free of any parabens, artificial sweeteners or dyes. See our favorite finds below.

Little boy eating snacks with mom.
Andersen Ross/Getty Images

2. Bring Smart Snacks

Hangry kids are never fun (neither are hangry adults, for that matter). Be sure everyone gets plenty to eat and drink, whether that means a healthy meal beforehand or stocking up on portable provisions for quick snacking in between shots. And if you want to use them as little rewards for good behavior, we wholeheartedly support you—but maybe keep the stain-inducing treats for after the photoshoot (we’re looking at you, chocolate).

Siblings posing with pumpkins.
Elena Pasenko/EyeEm/Getty Images

3. Plan Out Your Props

Have a theme, a backdrop or props? (Santa hats, little pumpkins, balloons…you do you.) Get everything you want in the shot ready ahead of time before you even call your kids in for their closeup. That way, your short-attention-span little ones can get in, dazzle the camera with their adorableness and get out prior to any possible meltdowns.

Little boy napping
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4. Time It Right

We can’t stress this enough: Respect the nap schedule. A tired kid is an uncooperative kid. Either schedule your photos for first thing in the morning or right after naptime. If you have multiple children whose naps don’t align, try to plan it around whichever kid is most dependent on theirs. Hey, we all need our beauty rest.

Little girl wearing a princess dress
Carol Yepes/Getty Images

5. Let Them Pick Their Clothes

You have a nautical-themed photo shoot in mind (you even bought the cutest sailor outfit), but your daughter's set on wearing her fairy princess dress. Chances are, she’ll be more comfortable (and cooperative) in clothes she picked out herself. Roll with it and snap away.

Family playing with bubbles
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6. Make It Fun

Being in front of a camera can be nerve-wracking. Help your child feel more relaxed by letting them cuddle with a favorite stuffed animal. (We guarantee you’ll look back on that time he didn’t go anywhere without Mr. Snuggles fondly.) And consider giving antsy kids something to do, like throwing leaves up in the air, blowing bubbles, playing with blocks—whatever will help them stay happy and engaged.

Boy splashing in puddles.
Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Messy

Again, some of the best photos are the ones that don’t go according to plan. Think: Your kid jumping in rain puddles, getting birthday cake all over his face or coloring outside the lines (and on himself). Try not to be too rigid with your vision.