Give Your Kid a Camera
We recently gave our 6-year-old son a camera. He kept arranging our family in elaborate poses and asking to borrow our phones so that he could commemorate random moments, so it seemed like time to let his creativity shine a bit. We figured he’d just snap photos of random things at home or along our journeys. Rides at a theme park, maybe, or his favorite toys or friends.
What we got was something else entirely.
We noticed a few commonalities right off the bat. Most of his photos featured things he loved. There was a lot of me, his dad, his siblings, occasionally a friend here and there.
Oh, and snacks! So many snacks. This kid really, really likes food. And himself. There’s definitely no lack of self-confidence here!
Beyond that, though, there were some deeper things revealed in his blurry, imperfect shots.Almost every single photo was taken outdoors. We would stay at upscale hotels with over-the-top amenities: big welcome baskets for the kids and jetted tubs with cute rubber duckies. At home, we’ve been renovating his playroom so that it features more “big boy” toys. He’s hand-picked posters of his favorite movie characters to line the walls. Plastic action figures adorn his window sill. He has shelves and shelves of books filled with race cars and sea creatures and funny farm animal stories that make him laugh. Yet, no sign of any of this appeared in his little camera viewfinder. It seems none of that was worth capturing forever.
Instead, scrolling through his painstakingly-arranged photos, I saw what he really valued. Family and the great outdoors. Sunshine or rain, it didn’t matter. His (thankfully waterproof) camera was along for the ride, slung over his shoulder and toted around in the mud. Through his shutter, he was showing us what was worth remembering.
Eventually his focus got better as his budding photographic eye improved. He started asking to go to specific destinations to set up his shots, and there it was again, glaringly obvious in his requests. He wanted the family to go on picnics, head to the children’s museum and see the train depot. All outdoors. All with his favorite people. He wanted to be playing with his new hobby among the open space and wilderness, supported by those who loved him.
So we learned to follow his lead. We played duck duck goose in open fields. We found new light in the fascinating exteriors of historic old buildings and found amazing intrigue in the tiniest blades of grass. We went to parks, picked flowers, and stooped down to see butterflies just a little more closely. We stopped trying so hard to orchestrate our idea of the perfect days for our children, and we let them do what was natural for them.
We let them interact with the world on their own terms.
We let them loose from the confines of our perfect structure so that they could indulge in the world through their own lens.
And it was perfect.
Story by Chelsea Day at www.somedayilllearn.com. Photo by Chelseas's son — age 6