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 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 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 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, 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
- 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 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. VTech Kidizoom
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, things 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 shoots 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 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, 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:
- 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
- Digital Photography for Kids
An ebook that provides all the tools needed for teaching and learning photography
- 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. 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 3 or 4 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.
Questions & Answers
© 2007 Ruth Coffee