Toddlers love pictures (of themselves)

It’s a fact. Toddlers are vain creatures. Alex can’t handle walking by a mirror without giggling at his reflection, pausing to take a closer look. I note that there is not much this kid pauses for in general, other than the aforementioned mirrors, and choosing a snack.

I happen to enjoy looking at my cute munchkins as well, so it is my mission to put their faces on as much stuff as possible. I think it also makes them feel important, something the under-3-foot-tall crowd needs.

Below are several ideas for incorporating your kids mug shot into daily life. Some of these require only uploading a few photos and doing some simple cropping via the respective company’s customization tools. Others I made myself using Photoshop Elements, which I recommend if you do any kind of photo editing or like to dabble in graphic design. Elements is much easier to pick up than feature-heavy Photoshop, and doesn’t cost $600 (hooray!).  As an added bonus, the software license can be installed on up to two computers. Just the ability to control the dark/light levels in your photos is worth the investment, but it’s also useful for creating posters and any other printed material you can dream up. If you’re not ready to make the leap, though, Pixler might be worth checking out! It’s a free web-based editing tool with features similar to Photoshop.

This is the newest entry to my personalization collection: custom wrapping paper. It’s from, a company that makes adorable customized art and gifts. I can’t wait to wrap gifts with these cute faces. Bonus — everyone will know who the gift is from. I recommend signing up for Minted’s emails. I got a deal for five free additional sheets of wrapping paper, so double the cute.

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Truck parking sign

Alex’s collection of giant-sized vehicles keeps expanding, so I made this truck parking sign to keep them all corralled in the playroom. I created the design in Elements, and ordered a standard 8×10 print from Mpix. To make it a bit more sturdy, I chose to have the print mounted on mat board. The print arrived ready to hang with some tape, and now Alex has parking for his trucks. (And I have a place to throw them at the end of the day.)

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Custom stickers

Everybody loves stickers. Stickers with your kids face are just two times the awesome factor. I used these to seal up goodie bags from Alex’s second birthday party. I ordered mine from Pro Lab Express, but Snapfish has an even easier ordering tool, no special software required. Snapfish always has coupon codes, so make sure you check before completing your order. Are you an Ebates user? Cash back is almost always 10%!

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Book of names and faces

One of my favorite projects to date is Alex’s names and faces book. It has pictures of our family, and the name of each family member on a brightly colored page. This was a big hit in the 12-30 month range. After age 2 1/2, Alex only wants to see your face if you’re handing him a Danimals smoothie (just kidding, I hope).  You can make your own book at Pinhole Press.

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Custom canvas print

Last, but not least, is the ever popular canvas print. You’ve seen the Living Social and Groupon deals, now bite the bullet and order a giant canvas for your house. We gets lots of compliments of the one I took of Alex at 15 months. At some point I’d like to get a nice picture of the boys together to hang in their room, because I think that would just be adorable. The company I’ve ordered from in the past is MyPix2Canvas. They offer their own canvas and print specials from time to time, so you may want to sign up for their email list. Or visit your favorite deal site and see what’s available!


5 Books for Busy (toddler) Boys

Two years ago, bedtime at our house was a tranquil time. I settled into the rocking chair with a burp cloth, bottle and a few carefully selected children’s books. Alex would sleepily drink his bottle while I read him Newbury Medal winners and enhanced his worldview while sending him off into a magical dreamland.

Fast-forward to now. Bedtime chaos. Just ask Charlie. (Note the “what on earth is going on behind me right now” face.)


For a long time, we couldn’t even get Alex to sit down to listen to a story. We read at him while he played with his trucks or just ran around. I generally have a decent amount of patience for these “seasons” of toddlerhood, but after several months,  I figured we were going to have an illiterate son who hated his English teachers.

Thankfully, Alex is old enough to realize that the more books we read, the later he can stay up, so he is back to participating in story time and I no longer feel he hates words.

These 5 books are the most frequently requested and feature his favorite past time: Things that move.

goodnightconstructionsiteGoodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

This book definitely tops the list as favorite bedtime story. It follows five construction vehicles as they end their day and go to bed. Highlights include crane truck falling asleep clutching a teddy bear, and a tiny blanket thrown over the top of cement mixer. The story has a nice pace to it, and there is plenty to talk about on each page. I personally found it helpful to learn the actual names of the different types of construction vehicles. Categorize that under “things I should have paid attention to.” Alex is teaching me so much about trucks.

steamtrainSteam Train Dream Train
by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Steam Train Dream Train has been in the book rotation for several months. It starts with a huge train pulling up to a platform with animal workers ready to load the train for its nightly journey. Monkeys load jungle gym equipment, polar bears and penguins snack on ice cream in the reefer car and a team of turtles load up the race cars. I like the rhyming scheme, and I just about have the entire story memorized. I can usually finish reading a section, even if Alex has already turned the page.

fireenginemanFire Engine Man
by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

If you happen to have two boys in your life, this is the cutest series of books EVER. Fire Engine Man follows a little boy who is obsessed with fire trucks. It starts out in the boy’s playroom, but soon you see him driving a real fire truck (that he owns, of course), fighting fires and making sandwiches in the fire station kitchen. His baby brother always comes along for the adventure. There’s a scene where the two brothers are sitting next to each other in the fire truck, baby brother in the car seat, drinking a bottle. Adorable. The text is simple, which is great for the toddler set.  Train Man and Digger Man are equally excellent and follow the same story pattern.

littlebluetruckLittle Blue Truck
by Alice Schertle; illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Alex and Little Blue Truck go way back. Like before Alex was born. Ed picked out this book, probably to get free shipping at Amazon. Alex ended up requesting it as soon as he was able to state his opinion on such matters (somewhere in the 12+ month range). There are animal noises – always fun – and a good rhyming scheme. Alex is currently obsessed with the giant yellow dump truck, who drives too fast and gets stuck in the mud. Ed does an excellent “HONK” for the dump truck scenes. And we learn about friendship and lending a helping hand along the way. Another win for the toddler set.

allthroughmytownAll Though My Town
by Jean Reidy; illustrated by Leo Timmers

I bought this book through Alex’s Scholastic Book Club at daycare. (Yes! They still do this, and the fliers look pretty much exactly the same as when I was in elementary school. I love it.) It sat unread for a while, but has recently made its way into the rotation. The book follows a young bunny and his mom as they run errands. The illustrations are bright and busy, and the text is largely descriptive tongue twisters depicting the action. There’s lots of animal doing silly things, and lots of vehicles. I can see why Alex likes it.

At some point I will need to do a companion post of my top 5 favorite books, which we are unable to read because my kid likes to read the same books every night. I’m not kidding. He physically takes the book away from me if it does not meet with his approval. I have hope for a more democratic story time with Charlie.

“Yes mommy, we can read ‘The Day the Crayons Went on Strike,’ because it is clever and you like it.” Thanks, Charlie.