Digital technology has made the activity of taking photographs cheaper and more accessible. No longer do you need to worry about wasting film or paying for unwanted prints. For these reasons alone, parents should encourage their children to pick up a camera and snap away. Research has noted that children's photographs not only show their perspective of the world but are a way to shape children's identity in relation to that of their parents and peers. What do children photograph? Here's how one study tracked aesthetic development with photography at four stages.
4 years - Intuitive delight in images - stong attraction to color. Most likely to photograph bright and shiny objects.
7 years - Beauty and realism. Arrange and pose possessions. Posed pictures of family.
11 years - Expressiveness. Appreciation of creativity. Beginning to distinguish the image as separate from the world it represents. Tends to exclude people - chose's outdoor scenes, buildings.
15 years - Autonomy. Documenting their social world. More photos in the company of their friends. More humorous and silly images.
The research also showed little sign of children at any age disliking a photograph because of technical imperfections. Another good reason to get your youngest shutterbug a camera.
Here's what to consider:
1 - Look for a USB cable connection or memory card capability to download photos to a computer.
2 - Automatic flash function so a child doesn't have to remember to turn it on.
3 - Batteries. Hopefully it'll require readily available AA batteries. A nice feature is an automatic camera shut off to save power. Reports from consumers list battery drain as a concern.
4 - Video option. If you think video is important, a few models allow a limited amount of video capture
5 - Image resolution. Most offer 1.3 to 3.0 mega-pixel files. Don't expect to print bigger than 4x6-inch. But remember the research - technical imperfections are of little concern to children.
Two models with nice features are the Fisher Price Kid Tough and the Vtech Kidizoom Plus. Both are for children ages 3 to 10. They come in a durable rubber finish, a large LCD screen and a binocular viewfinder. Both are priced around $50.00 and available at toy stores.