- Family and Parenting
Cameras for Kids
How to Choose and Use The Right Device
Why are cameras for kids a good idea?
Whether you're struggling to find something to keep a child busy, wish to spark a life long love of an exciting hobby, or hope to stimulate learning through a less traditional approach; photography, especially with a digital camera may be at least a partial answer.
Learn more about the opportunities and the advantages of putting cameras in the hands of kids. Find out how to choose the best cameras for kids and discover some great activities to keep them learning and having fun.
Using Cameras To Promote Learning
There are a number of reasons why cameras for kids are a good idea. Involving children in learning basic photography and giving them the opportunity to experiment with it can stimulate learning in a variety of ways.
1. Observation and concentration skills can be enhanced
2. Creativity and imagination can be stimulated
3. Specific academic skills can be targeted as children mature via the activities chosen such as:
- science and nature
- language skills including story telling and many others (See activity ideas lower on this page)
The possibilities are endless, and the lessons more engaging, when kids use a camera.
Finding the Best Cameras for Kids
Obviously, getting the tools is the first step in the process of introducing kids to photography. How much equipment is involved depends in part upon the age of the child. For children as young as 3, a basic kids camera will be about it; along with some batteries.
Aside from an appropriate camera, tweens and teens may need an appropriate camera bag, a tripod, lens attachments, photo editing tools, and a computer and printer depending upon interest and skill.
What’s the best kids camera? Generally a digital camera is preferred over a film camera, especially as children mature, because:
- the child can see what they capture without the delay of printing, allowing immediate learning of the process as photos are reviewed immediately,
- the cost of printing unacceptable images is held in check
- there are more options to share photos and create projects beyond a photo album; slide shows, online photo sharing, e-mail, websites, etc.
- the child can also learn photo editing skills and have more control over their creations.
Some other factors to consider when choosing cameras for kids include:
For the youngest kids (preschool) cost is of particular concern. You don't want to lose a big investment if it breaks or if your child loses interest.. They won't yet need a lot of features like manual controls. They can be pretty rough on a camera. If their skills grow and interest evolves, you can then upgrade. Important features for the youngest kids include
- large buttons/easy to use,
- good grip,
- built-in flash for indoor photos,
- tough build or durability (can handle being dropped),
- enough memory for at least 50-60 images, (perhaps a memory card slot)
- connections to download to computer ideally
Cameras for kids who are slightly older (school age) should probably include more features. If holding down costs is important then hand me downs or refurbished cameras can be acceptable alternatives. For some kids, disposable cameras are also an option. Waterproof cameras can be great if your child is more adventuresome. Basic point and shoots suffice for many school age kids. They run the gamut from very basic to having all kinds of manual controls, high resolution, and outstanding video. Determining how much to spend can be based at least partially on skill and safety in handling cameras as well as interest level.
To allow skills to flourish with school age children, things like:
- higher image resolution (8-10 megapixels minmum),
- good image stabilization (optical image stabilization),
- zoom (at least 3x)
- special modes allowing night shots, macro shots (up close), and so forth
Teens on the other hand would also likely want:
- tools for getting good selfies
- good video (1080p) with audio
- wi-fi for easy sharing,
- if they are really enjoying photography plenty of manual controls to allow them to vary shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc.
- editing tools
- special lenses (perhaps a camera with interchangeable lenses)
Camera bags and tripods can also become necessary of course. DSLR models are certainly appropriate for older kids who want and can handle a great deal of manual controls.
For a tween or teen not really needing a full featured camera, I would recommend the Canon Powershot Elph 360. It is one example of a pocket sized point and shoot with a macro mode, Wi-Fi for easy sharing, great image quality, and video.
Finding the Right Device for the Youngest Kids
This Vtech Kidizoom is one that works well with children 3 and over. It has an easy grip and stands up to being dropped. My niece had one of these and it held her attention for much longer than I believed possible. She photographed family members at get-togethers, her pets, illustrated a story, and captured memories of family vacations.
Teaching Kids to Use a Camera
Once you have the perfect device, a few skills need to be mastered. Certainly, learning the basics on how to handle the camera is a starting point. Important beginning points for young kids include:
- how to hold it,
- how to keep it steady,
- how to frame a shot,
- learning at what distance they should shoot/how close their camera will allow them to get,
- how and when to use flash
- using the control buttons, screen, viewfinder on their particular camera
The age of the child and the abilities of the camera will dictate some of the teaching and can determine what types of activities are appropriate.
Additional education tips can be found at the following sites:
- National Geographic Kids
Lots of Tips for Kids learning how to take a better photograph.
- How to Teach and Introduce Children the Wonders of Photography
More tips for beginners
- Udemy Online Photography Courses
For kids who are older there are online photography courses, these are from Udemy. Of course there are also books such as those by Kodak and National Geographic.
- Canon Online Learning Photography Classes
Canon and other manufacturers offer online courses. For teenagers who are more advanced, these may also be useful.
The activities a parent can engage kids in with a camera to develop and expand interests, foster learning, and provide a sense of achievement for their youngsters is limitless. With a little imagination, the camera can open up a whole world to the curious mind and eye of a child, but for those who need a jump start here are some suggestions...
Creating Something for a Younger Brother or Sister
Kids can be motivated when creating things for a younger brother or sister. One possible project is to make a list of items that begin with each of the letters in the alphabet, seek out and photograph those items, and fabricate an alphabet book.
A somewhat more advanced project would be the development of a story book. For instance, a child could follow a sibling or even a pet for a day, taking pictures and then using those images to create a short story for a younger child to enjoy. Story telling and imagination are just two of the skills that can be enhanced by such activities.
A Journal of Adventures
Of course kids can also use a camera to keep their own photo journal of vacations and trips, large or small. A record of such events may well become a keepsake which would be further enhanced when accompanied by written entries.
A more advanced journal activity can help to broaden a child's interest in travel and geography. For example, a cardboard character could be made to go far beyond where the child may go. The character can be supplied to friends and relatives who may be traveling. The character can then be captured in pictures at the various destinations. The character's human travel companion can then provide a picture, with a brief written description of the location to the child to place in the character's travel book.
A contest between family members is another possibility. Each person making their own collection of images from a day out.
Discovering and Appreciating Nature
Raising an awareness of science and nature comes quite naturally with a digital camera in hand. Collecting insects, leaves, rocks, or flowers via photographs is more simple and lasting than capturing live specimens. The camera also allows children to capture what would otherwise be unobtainable: animals, sunsets, waterfalls, footprints, and so forth.
With photography, children can also study many of the processes of nature. As an example, a child can follow the development of a new born kitten over time, a flower as it grows, opens and closes in the morning and evening, and so forth. Activities such as this encourage good attention and fosters an interest in sciences.
Biographies, Family Trees, News Stories, and Documentaries
School age kids have even more options. One possibility is to ask them to put together a family history book complete with photos and the inclusion of a short biography of each family member.
Some kids, with experience, can even take on the role as the primary recorder of family events.
Publishing a monthly newspaper complete with pictures can be a great summer time project for older kids as well. Cues can be taken from local publications as to what sections and articles should be included but they can be scaled down to a more personal level: from reports on a family trip, new neighbors, the escapades of a family pet, or recent events such as the purchase of a new car are examples of stories that could be enhanced with a picture and included in the publication.
Telling stories with pictures can stimulate learning. A basic digital camera can be used to create a sequence of pictures to tell a story. The fun begins when others try to tell the story without the presence of words.
An adaptation of this project can help to develop the critical skill of reading comprehension. In this activity the child is provided a short story and asked to illustrate it with a handful of photographs using family members, pets, props, costumes, drawings, and so forth if needed.
Add a Camera to Any Favorite Activity or Hobby
Cameras for kids can turn a hobby into a study of a favorite topic. For instance, a child who enjoys racing can photograph cars, events, drivers, and so forth developing their interest beyond it's original focus. The camera guides the child to study things in more depth and perhaps discover new, adjacent interests. In this instance, automotive history, engine design, geography, or travel are just a few of the possible areas of new interest related to racing.
Another possibility is to encourage a child to develop a how-to or instructional guide to share their love of a hobby with others. How to build a rocket, grow a vegetable garden, or how to raise a ferret are examples that would allow a child to put together an illustrated, step-by-step guide; encouraging good verbal expression and organizational skills.
HP Tips on Activies for Kids with a Camera - More ideas
What to Do with a Camera When You're Done
Taking an old digital camera and providing it to a child is a great way of making use of your camera and an inexpensive way of promoting their interest in a hobby or learning activity.
If you don't have a child to pass your camera down to, there are other options. One example is 100Cameras. The donation of equipment helps the organization work with kids in traumatic circumstances around the world.