I studied childhood language and cognitive development in college and like to share tips for parents to create the best learning environment
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 lifelong 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.
- Observation and concentration skills can be enhanced.
- Creativity and imagination can be stimulated.
- Specific academic skills can be targeted as children mature via the activities chosen such as:
- science and nature
- language skills including storytelling and many others (see activity ideas lower on this page)
The possibilities are endless, and the lessons are 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 on the age of the child. For children as young as three years old, 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, a computer, and possibly a 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 instantaneously.
- The cost of printing unacceptable images is held eliminated.
- There are more options to share photos and create projects beyond a photo album; slide shows, online photo sharing, e-mail, and so forth.
- The child can also learn photo-editing skills and have more control over their creations.
Some factors to consider when choosing cameras for kids include:
The Right Camera for Preschoolers
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. A child this age can be pretty rough on a camera. In addition, they won't yet need a lot of features like manual controls. If their skills grow and interest evolves, you can then upgrade. Important features for the youngest kids include
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- 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
The VTech Kidizoom cameras are a good choice for preschoolers. They have an easy grip and stand 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. Photo quality was acceptable, although lighting needed to be adequate.
Cameras for a School-Age Child
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, look for features like:
- higher image resolution (8-10 megapixels minimum),
- good image stabilization (optical image stabilization),
- zoom (at least 3x)
- special modes allowing night shots, macro shots (up close), and so forth
The Nikon S33 is an example of a budget-friendly device with point-and-shoot simplicity and a rugged build to withstand a little bit of abuse.
Cameras for Teens
Teenagers often want additional features. Some common ones include:
- 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 plenty 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.
Teaching Kids to Use a Camera
Once you have the perfect device, a few skills need to be mastered. Certainly, learning the basics of 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, and 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 beyond this point.
Additional education tips can be found at the following sites:
- Photo Tips with Hilary
We love photography—and so do you! With these tips from National Geographic photo editor Hilary, you'll be on your way to becoming a great photographer. Challenge yourself and wow your friends with these tricks from a pro!
- How to Teach and Introduce Children the Wonders of Photography
More tips for beginners
- 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 of 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. Storytelling 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. Initially, the child could take the cardboard character on excursions and photograph it along the way, developing a travel book detailing its adventures. The character could also be supplied to friends and relatives who may be traveling. It could be photographed at the various destinations. The character's human travel companion could then provide a picture with a brief written description of the location to the child who can then place it in the character's travel book.
A contest between family members is another possibility, with 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 of the primary recorder of family events.
Publishing a monthly newspaper complete with pictures can be a great summertime 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 process of creating a basic story and determining how to depict it is challenging. The fun begins when others try to tell their 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 to read. They are then asked to illustrate it with a handful of photographs using family members, pets, props, costumes, drawings, and so forth if needed.
Adding a Camera to Any Favorite Activity or Hobby
One 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.
Additionally, a camera can sometimes guide a child to study things in greater depth and perhaps discover new, adjacent interests. For example, perhaps a child is fascinated with butterflies or spiders. They can start by photographing them, and while learning to name the particular species, learn their characteristics, what they eat, where they live, etc. As they are out and about they may expand their interest to other insects or the flora that surrounds them. The camera can be the device that focuses their attention and expands their interest.
Adapting Traditional Games Using a Camera
Many traditional games can be adapted to incorporate the use of a camera. For instance, "I Spy" could be modified. The game leader could say "I spy something red" or "I spy something soft" and then each person has to photograph one thing that fits that description within three or four minutes. At the end of the game, the player who was able to photograph the most items that fit the descriptions wins.
Scavenger hunts are another possible game to adapt. The game leader makes a list of 10 items. Each player is given the list and a set time to find and photograph those items. At the end of the allotted time, the player who photographed the most items wins. This could be done with items around the house or in the yard, in the neighborhood, or at a park while on a hike.
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.
© 2007 Ruth Coffee
Cameras for Kids: Was This Page Helpful? Let Us Know!
Georgene Moizuk Bramlage from southwestern Virginia on March 06, 2013:
very helpful lens.
jadehorseshoe on January 02, 2012:
Very Useful Lens.
Ann Hinds from So Cal on December 27, 2011:
I was a little discouraged because I couldn't find a lens with what I needed to know. Then, I discovered this lens and now I am happy. It doesn't have all the info I need but what a great job of steering me in the right direction. Angel blessed. Thanks!
Spikey64 on August 04, 2011:
Brilliant work. Thanks for sharing it.
smithlights on May 30, 2011:
Awesome lens! Thanks for sharing!
Joyfulmusic90 on December 04, 2010:
Yes, very helpful - thanks! It's funny, I ask my teen daughter what features she was hoping to have if I got her a camera of her own. Of course the first thing on her list was - "It has to be pink!!"
Jennifer Sullivan from Chicago, IL on November 16, 2010:
Great lens, I agree that cameras are a great gift and learning tool for kids.
anonymous on January 28, 2010:
Fab lens 5 stars and added to my favourites.
David Lawrence from United States on October 25, 2009:
This is a great lens! With prices dropping, it is possible to get cameras for kids and you have great advice here. Well worth reading for any parent (or relative) thinking about a camera for kids.
Barkely on August 07, 2009:
I'm thinking about a camera for my son for Christmas, loved the info you have here.
Debbie Hawkins from British Columbia, Canada on July 31, 2009:
Wow - in depth page! Good work. We're looking into buying a camera for our turning-4-yr-old son.
ElizabethJeanAl on July 26, 2009:
Thanks for sharing.
Czarque on February 09, 2009:
My 2yr old soon to be 3 yr old loves taking photos - so we are considering buying her a camera for her birthday. Will definitely come back to this lens for further research! Thanks for sharing.
dustytoes on January 02, 2009:
I think that this is a most fantastic lens! Maybe my kid could teach me how to use my camera!!! haha...I never knew that so many cameras geared toward kids existed. 5 stars and a favorite!
Debbie Hawkins from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2008:
What a great page - I'm a huge fan of promoting arts in children - especially with children! (My husband does filming & advertising so we have a creative household). I just got the Flip Video HD and it's so easy to use, older kids could totally use it - lensrolling you to my page. Thanks. :)
Tarra99 on November 29, 2008:
Great & informative 5* lens...I think this is a great idea...we recently upgraded cameras and gave our lads our old one...they love being creative and taking their own pics!
p.s your avatar always makes me smile...thanks for popping into my Christmas lens and saying "hi"!...I appreciate it!
moneyforpictures on November 07, 2008:
With 5 kids you can imagine how many pictures we take.
I hadn't thought about the boys scouts. I have 2 boys in cub scouts and I am going to volunteer to hold a class for them. FUN!!! :-)
5 stars for the idea!!
Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on November 06, 2008:
Great ideas here! Our children are much more motivated by video, pictures and sound than print these days.
Rich from Surrey, United Kingdom on October 29, 2008:
Great ideas! Excellent lens-- 5 stars!
VBright on October 28, 2008:
Fantastic information! I just wrote an article on cameras for kids! What a coincidence. Shining your stars...
Wendy Henderson from PA on October 28, 2008:
This is a great idea for Christmas.
clouda9 lm on October 27, 2008:
This is a great idea to spark something in your child. Loved how you presented this lens.
piedromolinero on October 27, 2008:
A very interesting lens. My little one is so interested in my camera that it might be a good idea if Santa would decide to give her one for Christmas. I really should check if there is something proper for her age.
anonymous on October 14, 2008:
I think that Santa might give my 7 year-old a digital camera for Christmas, if he can find one that's not too expensive.
Teddi14 LM on September 13, 2008:
I forgot to mention, I am added this lens to my lensroll for my timeless toys kids love lens. I think cameras are a good one to add.
Teddi14 LM on September 13, 2008:
fun lens!!! My son loves to take pictures and videos with my digital camera...It is always fun for me to discover what he has added to my camera. Thanks for the tips. 5 *'s BTW, I found you on Squidom.com
Jesi on August 23, 2008:
Mulberry you really made great and uniqe lense, i like to be informed much about kids nature things
Thanks a bunch
I hav this site about Kids Health http://www.topkidshealthcarebank.com
I will feel pleasure if you visit it...
LisaDH on August 19, 2008:
Excellent lens! 5* My seven-year-old son loves my camera and I'm amazed at how well he already does with it.
A RovingReporter on August 17, 2008:
Great information! Thanks for this five-star lens.
BackPorchView on August 16, 2008:
I'm glad I stumbled upon this lens. My wife and I were just talking about getting our son a digital camera fit for kids. Nice job!
GramaBarb from Vancouver on August 14, 2008:
Thank you mulberry, for the link! I have featured this lens on my recycle camera lens as I think they compliment each other nicely. I'm a big fan of your work.
The Homeopath on August 14, 2008:
This is such a great lens! All 4 of my kiddos LOVE taking pictures. Fortunately, their Grandpa is a very gifted photographer and is teaching them well.
Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on July 08, 2008:
I love this lens. What a great idea. I bought my niece a cheapy digital camera and she uses like crazy.
Joan4 on July 07, 2008:
What Great information! My preschool grands got cameras for Christmas last year! My daughter-in-law will love this lens, too! 5*FAV and lensrolled
Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on June 24, 2008:
Our family had a reunion and all the children were given Kodac Funsaver cameras to record for themselves what they wanted. They had fun!! Some good shots too!! Thank you for following the progress of some of my lenses. I have noticed! 5 stars, favorite, lensrolled and I am already a big fan of yours.
JonitasKalimpo on June 21, 2008:
woooow, this is a great job, mulbery. Writing about anything related to children it's not easy, but you did an absolutly spectacular job. Congratulations
WhitePineLane on June 18, 2008:
Great ideas! Excellent lens-- 5 stars!
Dad-The-Lad on June 16, 2008:
Great lens. My 20 month old daughter has an old digital camera of mine. OK so not the best shots, but she absolutley loves it and likes pretending to take snaps.
rebeccahiatt on June 11, 2008:
Great lens, my grandson loves his camera
cherangelry lm on May 29, 2008:
I wish these were available when I was a kid! I saw a really cute spiderman camera that I would have absolutely loved to have! Great lens!
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on May 22, 2008:
Cameras are great for illustrating books and reports that children write when learning. When I started allowing the children to use a digital camera it was amazing the amount of writing they produced.
5 Stars and Favored!
Some virtual unschoolers came over to check out your lens. They are so excited about the ideas that you present that they are sending you a virtual trip back in time where Garner Rix will help you explore the 1780's.
JAV010 on May 14, 2008:
dude you rock your lenses is cool :) 5 stars i think your good at creating lenses :)
GramaBarb from Vancouver on April 20, 2008:
Thanks for the lensroll! ditto for you :) Yesterday I went for a walk with my 10 yr old grandson and gave him my camera to take pictures for me. We had a great time working as a 'team'!
TriviaChamp on March 30, 2008:
Great lens. I loved your ideas about the Journal of Adventures. What a creative way to educate children. 5*
Margaret Schaut from Detroit on March 20, 2008:
Kids LOVE to take pictures. Great lens for shoppers, parents, aunts, uncles.. everyone!
ThomasC on March 19, 2008:
Hi Mulberry! Thanks for the comment on one of my lenses. I am sending you an email about the comment you made! Nice lens by the way! I am rating it a 5er!
clouda9 lm on March 18, 2008:
Above and beyond with this lens! Lovin' all your expertise and knowledge about this subject. When our son got his first camera I thought I would go nuts with the surprise shots from 'round the corner, etc. What I realize now is he loved his mom!
eccles1 on March 03, 2008:
Ambrosian on February 07, 2008:
I remember playing when young that I was Lois Lane and Jimmy was alway taking by picture. Even without a camera a child has a creative mind, but I agree that a child with a camera could be inspiring. Great Lens 5*
chloecavanaugh on February 03, 2008:
As you have pointed out, a child can learn so much. And have a very enjoyable time as well. I love the detail you have taken not only with this lens, but with all of them you have created.
*****You are an outstanding Lensmaster!
DogWhisperWoman1 on January 30, 2008:
5* I remember my first camera. I took pictures of all my books, toys, and all the animals we had.
GramaBarb from Vancouver on January 29, 2008:
My 7 yr old granddaughter has her own digital camera. She takes it everywhere and takes care of it so well. Her creativity is helping us all think outside the box!
Home-healthcare on January 24, 2008:
What a great lens! Wish they had these cameras when my son was young. He loved to take pictures, and was really quite good. Imagine what he could have done with one of these! Thanks. 5*
tdove on January 22, 2008:
What a great idea. I had a camera when I was a kid, of course they are nothing like they are today. 5*
billnihill on January 17, 2008:
Great content. I agree, photography is something kids can enjoy. You have some excellent photos as well.
ShortSaleRealtor on January 16, 2008:
thank you for the 5 stars hi 5 back at you
gods_grace_notes on January 15, 2008:
OOoo...great lens! Nice of you and Paul to visit my kitties! This is a fabulous lens for kids; I'd love to have you join our homeschool unit studies group! Great ideas here for moms, public & homeschool! Consider yourself invited!
5 stars & 2 thumbs up
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on December 19, 2007:
Terrific lens. Both of my sons have won awards with their photography in the past. So glad to see you promoting this great hobby for children.
robinz on December 18, 2007:
Nicely done, mulberry! Love the photo in the introduction. Lots of valuable info here.
netventurer on December 17, 2007: