4.3 : Tiny Photographers

One of the reasons that I urge getting an older point-and-shoot camera is that we can lower our stress around the idea of the camera as something “precious”.  If a child drops a camera, it is not because they don’t care about it - we have different concepts about the world, and different motor skills.  A conversation about caring for the camera makes sense, but try not to get too attached.  If you don’t get too attached, you can offer the camera even to very young children.  Try not to think of a one-year-old picking up a camera and looking through the viewfinder: think of the one-year-old touching, moving, and examining the camera.

Some ways to frame using photography with very young children:

Make the camera available for them to explore.  They observe you with a camera if you take photos in the classroom, so giving them the opportunity to have a closer look helps them form ideas around photography and cameras.  Using a toy camera that doesn’t have the cause-and-effect of a real camera just isn’t the same.  They may pick up the camera to take a photo and not push the button - and that’s fine!  They are going through the motions to gain a deeper understanding of how the act of using the camera feels.


Use Instant Photography.  The big, friendly button is great for toddlers, and they can see the picture come out of the machine.  Put the photos somewhere the children can see them, and can reflect on them.


Include photographs of the children in the environment.  This is an opportunity for you to be creative with your own photography, too!  Close up shots of their eyes, hands, noses; images of children playing together, or meaningful materials or experiences, are ways to make photographs themselves the prompt for exploration.  Laminate photos so they are able to be moved around, manipulated, and treasured.  


Reflect on photographs with children.  These can be taken by adults, children, or both.  Use a projector or a tablet to watch a slideshow of images of the children, their work, and the environment.  Be open to hearing their words and watching their reactions and engagement.  What do they do?  Do they interact with the pictures?  Do they become more curious about the camera as a tool, or the people in the photos?  Do they see themselves?


Include Parents and Caregivers.  If you can, take photographs of children with their caregivers, as images to explore freely.  Offer the camera to parents to explore with their child: invite them to take a few photos, offering the camera back and forth between parent and child for a few minutes.


How else can you think to offer an exploration of photography to young children?