Tiny Artists: The Importance of Building a Portfolio of Work


The other week, B and P went with John and his dad, the girls’ Papi, to the Baltimore Science Center to see DINOSAURS!  Huge.  Deal.  There was so much to do, we are going to go back so we can see the rest of the place.  Nearly everything was interactive and designed to engage with young audiences in a way that will spark curiousity and hopefully a lifelong pursuit of asking, “Why” and “How” and “Let me try.”

What was equally important was an experiment that John set up for B, who is exactly 2 and one-third years that day, which involved her taking photographs of her very own.

John gave her his Nintendo 3DS for the day (normally logjambed with his Zelda game and my Professor Layton) to take photos to post to her private webpage.  She took over 60 photos and here are a few that I love the most:

Why have a toddler take photos?  Other than the obvious entertainment value (Papi’s shoes look funny!) and memory making for her (I remember when we went to the museum!), I am interested in B developing her own artist portfolio.  This online record of her photos will be an invaluable resource to develop her aesthetic eye, pay attention to details, learn beauty and create composition.  It will be a starting place for conversations about art, society, patterns, urban planning, nature, human behavior, and everything that exists in the physical world.

It is her first step creating work that is her very own.

Yes, we will still have fingerpainting.  In fact I hope her fingerpainting is inspired from her photography.  We will still have coloring and handwriting and image making other than photography.  But photography, now, as her language skills develop, is yet another way to communicate with her, like signing, without words.  Beyond text.  Instantly.  With ART.

B’s photography portfolio will serve as a record of her personal delvopment and relationship to the world.  A place to say things she does not yet have words for.

And I can’t wait to see what she will say next.


Stay tuned for more work from our little B!  What work are you proud of from your children?  In what ways are you working to cultivate an appreciation for art?  Keep the conversation going!  Leave a post below.  B would love to read comments about her photos!



Little People, Big Words

It snowed this morning.  Again.  We think it’s beautiful.

B especially likes playing in the “snowflakes” with Daddy.  Getting bundled, however, is a chore.  There are layers, plastic bags between socks and boots (The Fuentes Way) and more layers.  It’s like the scene from A Christmas Story when he couldn’t put his arms down.

Tights, socks, plastic bags, boots, snow pants, onesie, two shirts, jacket, socks on hands, more plastic bags, mittens, rain coat, hat, and scarf later, B stands at the top of the stairs.  Seeing John in a similar getup she says, “Daddy, you look ree-dick-luss like me!”


She’s right.  The two of them together look warm, if not slightly like a rummage sale, wearing what appears to be 80% of their wardrobe at once.  But it’s the words and the sentence construction that catch my ear.  She correctly used the word RIDICULOUS.

It’s one of the 30 million words that kids need to hear and use before entering school to prove successful over their lifetimes.  “How parents interact with their children is of great consequence,” according to this Rice University study.  Whenever John or I are being particularly verbose, or use a word not commonly heard, we are fond of saying, “That’s one of the 30 million words” reminding ourselves of what we are positively exposing our children.  Check out the study!  Update your vocabulary lists, Home Schoolers!  Raise the level of discourse!

Enjoy the weather, keep warm, and keep talking to your kids!


What words have your children surprised you with?  Thoughts on the 30 Million Words Gap of the Rice University study?  I would love to hear from you.  Leave a comment below.  Let’s keep the conversation going!


The Telltale Heart: A Valentine’s Day Lesson for Both of Us

Learning to Love the Perfect Imperfections of Toddler Art

Learning to Love the Perfect Imperfections of Toddler Art

Today B (2 and a half-ish) and I began making Valentines for close friends and family. I LOVE making Valentines–really any handmade, post-bound object–and I had everything planned out. I had beautiful
paper, stickers, glitter, potatoes and paint for making stamps. B has been practicing signing her first initial. My imagination (and Pinterest board) have been running wild with cute toddler-made pink
and red cards for months. We were ready.

Until my toddler made something I never expected.

The lesson for her: The plan was to work on them over several weeks, in stages, with each part aimed at a different skill I want B to work on. There’s shape and letter recognition, writing her first initial, stamping with rubber stamps and Mommy-carved potato stamps, following directions, and how the postal system works, not to mention the gift giving itself. I had a comprehensive activity and we were ready to get it done. Step One: using paint, stamp with the two-heart potato in the upper right hand corner of the envelope. Here we go.

B was excited, her little hand gripped around the freshly cut potato, as she swirled it thoughtfully in the light pink paint. I appreciated the seriousness, her devoted concentration, her little tongue at the corner of pursed lips as she delicately, so delicately positioned the stamp over the paper. I smile inside because I know I am in the presence of the next Frida Kahlo, and then PLOP! SMEAR! And what I envisioned being a precisely-painted Valentine heart turns into a pink puddle on soggy paper. “Mommy, Mommy, I did it!”

And here’s the lesson for me: She DID do it. She did exactly what I said. With the materials I provided. And my first thought was that it was terrible.

Expectations... and Reality.

Expectations… and Reality.

Okay, that’s harsh. Let me be more specific. It was aesthetically displeasing. It was a mess. It was not the cute little pink duo of hearts I expected.

And yet, as B climbs down from her chair to read a dinosaur book in victory, I look over the matrix of pink envelopes, each with their own mush mark in the corner, and I can’t help but smile. Each one is perfectly executed, to the best of her ability. She had a great time doing it. The recipients will cherish them.

So I let go of my adult preconceptions, my impulse to start over, or add something more so people know what it’s SUPPOSED to be. Because what it’s supposed to be is evidence of a moment well-spent, a good try, and a skill in process.

I’m sure next year’s Valentine’s will be “prettier” and “neater” and “more artistic.” But these are perfect for who B is and where she is at this moment, now. And I heart them.

Rock, Make-up, Scissors: Allowing Exploration of the Sometimes-Bazaar


“Wok, Mommy! Here ‘go!” says my daughter B as she hands me a beautifully smooth tan rock from the front landscaping of our house. This is, and I’m not exaggerating here, the fiftieth or so toddler-fist-sized rock that has been relocated from the front stoop to the toy bins.  My husband John even cautioned that we will have to trek out to Home Depot to get more if her obsession with stones doesn’t cease.

What does she do with them? Her collections defy Machu Pichu with their mystery. She stacks them.  Lines them up by size. Piles them by color. Sorts them by texture. And then what does she do? She decorates them with a layer of make up so thick it would make a drag queen blush.

She prefers an old purple and pink palate, gifted by Mommy, and a purple brush, to oh-so-gingerly apply healthy amounts of rouge to each defenseless rock. It is difficult to appreciate the subtly of her work, but I know it is important work, none-the less. B is so proud to show off her accomplishments.

And as her parents, we are proud to receive them.

I wonder, as I gaze at her creations, what skills this self-directed activity will garner for her later in life.  Besides the obvious shape/color/texture sorting (pattern recognition) and the painting itself (fine motor skills) there are greater lessons here that are more difficult to quantify.

Perhaps these are baby steps toward a career as an artist, and she will paint great masterpieces for an adoring public. Or maybe she will study to be an archaeologist, spending hot summers brushing away thousands of years of dust to reveal fossilized skeletons of great beasts. Perhaps landscape architecture is in her future, arranging boulders in pleasing patterns to define manicured outdoor spaces.

Or maybe none of these. Maybe she will do something I cannot currently fathom because gazing at her now, wandering our yard in search of more pebbles, all I can do is marvel at her innate curiosity.

And I realize, even at the tender age of two and a quarter, that the most important skill my child has mastered is the ability to explore. With this fundamental tool, B can do and be anything she wishes. It is an immeasurable, un-assessable, yet essential part of education. It is the core of our curriculum.

For now, though to an outsider it may look like an unimportant task, the collection of rocks will surely continue to grow, and there will certainly be more makeup “ruined”. She’s working on something important. And something very special, indeed.