Is it Spring in your neighborhood yet? For us on the east coast winter seemed eternal!
Living in Philadelphia, PA, our family weathered through a particularly cold winter which stretched all the way into March. Having an active and curious two-year-old made it seem longer. My daughter just wanted to be outside!
It is true that city life in the springtime is full of activity – blooming trees, outdoor events, pools opening up. There are, however, some drawbacks too. When the weather warms up, many of the empty lots in our neighborhood fill up with trash. I’ve often had to tell my daughter not to touch the litter on the street, even though my tendency is to let her be curious. Where the ground was once frozen and brown, there are large weeds shooting up. Soon, some of them will be taller than the row homes they surround. There is also much more concrete than there is greenery. Where we live, the closest green space is a few miles away – a pretty hefty walk for a family with no car!
One of the things we love to do on days when the playground just isn’t enough activity, is to take walks. We walk and take in the beauty of our surroundings, even if we have to search extra hard amidst the blight that sometimes pervades our neighborhood. Whenever we walk I ask her to name each thing she sees and sometimes we’ll take pictures.
Recently, my husband showed me a 20-page photobook he made using his Google Photos account. It only cost him $10. It suddenly dawned on me what I could do with the photos we were taking on our walks. We could make a book with our neighborhood walk pictures and use it to write a new story every time!
Making Your Own Neighborhood Photobook
Even though this activity is more appropriate for children who can read and write on their own (6 and up), I find that it can still be done by toddlers if they are helped by an older sibling or parent. You also don’t have to live in a city. There are always sections of our towns and neighborhoods that could use a little TLC. Invite your children to think deeply about these areas and what they could imagine being there. Even if you take a bike ride, instead of walking, snap pictures. The end result will be beautiful because they will go into a finished book. The best thing about this activity is the photo book becomes an indoor play/writing prompt for those rainy days that so often come up in the spring.
What you’ll need:
- A smartphone with a camera
- A Google account
- A notebook & pencil
What to do:
- When you walk or bike (or even drive) around your neighborhood, start by looking for spots you would normally pass by; the dilapidated shed, the empty storefront, the abandoned house with the tree growing out of it. The idea is to look for areas that need some imagination. Then look for those things that are simply beautiful, like a newly planted flower bed or the dog park or the creek in the back of your house.
- Whatever your child wants to take a picture of, let them.
- Once you’ve taken about 20 pictures, upload them to the Google Photos App on your smartphone and create an Album. Photo books are the first menu item on the App. Choose the album you created and allow your young ones to organize the photos how they want to.
- Order your book and wait for delivery!
- When the book arrives, go through the pages and talk about how each one made you feel when you saw it. Using each photo as a prompt, invite your child to write their own story. Or, if they are too young, write down whatever they say as you go through each page.
- Have fun!
When I’m not working or playing with my daughter, Juniper, I’m writing about diverse children’s books on my blog Juniper Ave. Here are a few books I’d recommend for reading and talking about transforming communities and city gardening!