Adventures in Photography: The Toddler Years

All Images: Master Tobias Pinault

Having a large family that live mostly three thousand miles away, has meant that we take more pictures and capture more video than I would have thought possible. It’s a blessing in disguise, both cumbersome in storage and wonderful in experience, as we have such a large record of the lives of my children.

As my eldest grew he began to develop a fascination with the devices we used, so we got him his own camera. We’ve been excitedly watching ever since to see what develops.

First, the choice of the camera. There are several pre-school cameras on the market and it is easy to get lost in your child’s needs vs. the cmaera specifications. I did what any self respecting frazzled mom would do. I went to Target and bought the one that they stock!

Thus we ended up with the VTech – Kidizoom Digital Camera. For somewhat of an impulse purchase, it has been pretty impressive. It came with batteries that last long enough for your child to turn it on, take a few pictures, and freak out when the batteries die. Due credit, they do warn you on the packaging that the batteries have a VERY limited lifespan. Seeing as this was for a three year old we went top of the line on batteries and stocked up at the dollar store. There came my first pleasant surprise. The dollar store batteries lasted three weeks with my son clicking fairly consistently on a daily basis. This camera doesn’t suck up too much juice when in use. Even now he is older and has begun using it to make movies, the batteries hold up pretty well.

My second pleasant surprise, which shows how much attention I was paying in Target (bad GeekMom, bad!), was that the camera came with three games. One of these is a photo based game, the other two have photo options, which means your child can include their own pictures in the games they play. At the time we were trying to wean our son off his Ipad games, and so this proved a very useful distraction. Now that his brother is old enough to play along with him, they both enjoy making up new games on the camera with the pictures they take. It has become something they do together, and quite well. They can usually spend ten minutes or so sharing the camera before we run into brotherly discord.

For a shaky hand, both of my sons are able to take a lot of pictures, and have a decent percentage come out clear, pretty much all I ask for in a camera aimed at his age group. The specifications of the camera, which I rarely pay attention to in my own device, seem to be decent:

  • 1.3 megapixels with 4x digital zoom
  • 128 MB internal memory (up to 1000 photos)
  • Optional photo effects, meaning frames, mustaches and such
  • Video recording with sound
  • Takes 4 AA Batteries – device turns off after three minutes of idle time to preserve battery life.
There are a couple of downsides with this device. While the case is exceptionally sturdy, the battery covers come off with ridiculous ease for little fingers. My son had it cracked within 24 hours, although due credit, he very soon lost interest in removing the batteries. This provided me with ample time to teach him about the correct way of inserting batteries, which he was fascinated with. Also, the camera comes with a port to attach to your computer but doesn’t come with a USB cable. Luckily my husband is a hoarder and so we had the appropriate cable.
A Pre-schooler’s impression of JoAnn Fabrics. Prompted by a frustrated mom asking a bored pre-schooler to “take pictures of the things you see honey.”

I have found that my son responds well to being given tasks with his camera. If we don’t provide tasks, he inevitably starts to film the ceiling until the camera turns off.

Here are some options for fun photo projects with your toddler:

  1. Find like things. While running errands, have them find a group of certain things. In the grocery store, have them find their favorite foods. In the craft store have them find their favorite colors.
  2. Designated Family Photographer. Bring it to family gatherings and prompt them to take a picture of everyone they know. In photobook form, this will also make a great gift for grandparents.
  3. Nature Photography. Take a walk in the woods and have them photograph all the animals/plants/flowers/birds they can find.  Add variety to this based on what seems to take their interest that day – follow your child’s lead.
  4. My favorite things. To help adjust them to a new baby in the house, have them take pictures of all their favorite things to show the baby.
  5. Make your own blog. Teach them how to blog! At each stage of construction in a brio/playdoh/lego/blanket-fort project have them detail what they do. Help them write up the instructions.
  6. Map your world. Take a tip from the GeekMom book and make a map of your neighborhood, have your child take pictures and create a pictorial guide to where they live.
  7. My favorite things (the most wanted list).Make a photographic Christmas list. Take them to Toys’R’us and let them roam free with their camera. Make sure you have had plenty of caffeine and repeat after me “No, you can’t have it. No, you already have one. No, you already broke that.”
  8. Quite time book. After following tip #7 have your child photograph pretty things in your garden to help calm you down after your nervous breakdown, tell them to create a “Quiet time book” for mommy and see what they think will soothe you.
  9. Storyboards. Have them photograph each of their action figures/dolls/action dolls, print out the images and help them create storyboards of adventures involving their toys.
  10. On the move. Give them the camera in the car and play an updated version of I-spy. The resolution of the camera may not cope with high speed pictures, but it should prove entertaining on road trips.
  11. Snowed in. Since many of us appear to be snowed in right now, use the camera as a defense against cabin fever. Use the above indoor projects or suit up and go outside to document snowflakes, snow formations, and icicles. Then look at the pictures over hot cocoa.
Share your kids pictures on the GeekMom Facebook page, we’d love to see what your geeklings come up with!