Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Helpful Photographs for the Upcoming School Year

By Christina VanGinkel

If ever there were a few good reasons to buy a camera, read on. Once you have that new camera, grab it and snap some photos, its back to school time! Taking snapshots of your kids at any time of the year is fun, but taking a few clear, detailed photographs at the beginning of the school year, and again midway through, can serve several purposes.

Early elementary aged kids are often asked to bring a list of items to school, including a school box. With so many children having the same ones, affixing a current photo of your child to the bottom or inside of the lid can be a big help when it comes to finding which one is theirs on a shelf stacked high with a couple of dozen look-alikes. This can be especially helpful during the first few weeks of school. One teacher I know took her own camera to school the first day and snapped a photo of each child. She ran off multiple copies of each photo and had the kids tape one of themselves inside of their school box, one by their assigned coat hook, and one on the corner of their desk. She had a morning and afternoon class, so she printed the coat hook, and desk pictures a bit smaller, as each had to accommodate two children. The kids made nametags the first day to accompany each photo, and before long, they were recognizing each other's names too!

If your child has food allergies and will be eating from the school cafeteria, ask the staff if a list of banned food with your child's photo attached would be of help. When my son was in a smaller private school a few years ago, they had such a list of children on the cooler in the kitchen to provide them with a daily reminder of who could not have what foods. Sure, my son knew he could not eat shellfish, but knowing that the staff was also keeping watch was a big relief. Even in such a small school, a picture is worth a thousand words, as faces in a lunch line can all start to look alike after a while!

If you have a younger child who will be walking to school along a new route, walk the route with the child, taking several snapshots of some identifying features along the way. Include street signs, memorable building, billboards, etc., ending up with the school itself at the end. Create a small map, with the pictures, in book form for your child to use for navigation. If your child will be walking home too, make it a flipbook, so the route is reversed for the walk home, with pictures representing the walk that way, ending with a snapshot of home. Walk the routes a few times with your child, before school starts if possible, and when they no longer need the map for guidance, it can be a keepsake of their trek back and forth. While this should not be relied on for very young children, it can be quite reassuring for those who think they are old enough to make the trip on their own, but might have some reservations. Remember that walking in a group is always preferable to walking alone, and be sure to point out any safe places along the route, including police stations, or even businesses where a child could take refuge if a need were ever to arise. You can even add in emergency contact info in the book for a secondary use.

If your children are preschool, middle school, even high school, a couple of pictures that clearly show your child's features can be a godsend if something were to happen to them, and in this crazy, fast paced world we live in today, sadly, things do happen. While parents like to think nothing will ever happen to their kids, and most parents will be right, for those who do have a situation come up, something as extreme as abduction, a bad accident, or dealing with a runaway, knowing you have a recent, up to date photograph to provide to the authorities will be worth the forethought hundreds of times over. If your child has undergone a radical change in hairstyle, had a body piercing or even gotten a tattoo, take a new photo, with focus on such changes.

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