I knew I wanted to give the Peanut something special when she came to the hospital to meet her baby sister for the first time. Many many friends suggested a dolly and/or a stroller for "her baby" so she could feel included in the mothering too.
The problem is that the Peanut has zero interest in dolls as a general rule. We've given her a few of them to try and spark some interest but overall she would much prefer a stuffed animal friend to a baby doll. I wracked my brain to come up with something special for her that would actually interest her at this big moment in our lives.
Then inspiration hit a few months ago. Because of Project 365, my camera is always out in our living room, kitchen, etc. usually just an arm's length away. One evening, the Peanut very politely asked me if she could take a picture with "mommy's camera."
My instinct is usually to respond "no" to that kind of request, but she hit me at just the right time. I thought, "Why not?!" and put the neck strap around her neck. I was shocked when she turned the camera on, held it in both her hands, aimed, and took a photo with absolutely no instruction from me. Obviously she has been paying strict attention when I use the camera and knew just what to do. I was even more shocked that her first photos that evening actually centered the subject and weren't all depicting the floor or chopped off heads.
That's exactly the moment when I decided this little girl needed a camera all her own. With a new baby in the house, my camera was going to be working overtime. Since it is normally focused on the Peanut, what better way to help avoid some jealousy than to get her a "Big Sister Camera" for taking her very own pictures of the baby or whatever else strikes her fancy?
I did a fair amount of research before running off to the store and what I discovered surprised me. I thought the information might be useful to those of you wanting to introduce your own peanuts to photography at a tender age.
Top 5 things to consider in buying a kid's camera:
1. Consider your goal for buying your child a camera. I wanted the Peanut to feel important and to understand this gift was something special, not just a toy. Her camera was not going to be tossed into the basket alongside her stuffed animals, it is something to be treated carefully and used with purpose. The quality of the photo was important to me considering she'd be documenting her own perspective of the new baby in the house. I wanted to be able to print her photos and have them turn out decently.
2. Weigh the value of your dollar. Cameras marketed for children generally do not take nice photos but are still shockingly expensive for what they produce. When I compared the price for a basic kid camera to a very basic point-and-shoot, the difference in cost was about $20. With that extra bit of price came significantly more megapixels and features that the Peanut could grow into. For me, the $20 was worth it because of the goals I set out to start.
3. Durability is an issue. The biggest pro in my mind for the kid cameras is that they are built to withstand dropping. However, I read a fascinating article (can't remember the source) that said the basic point-and-shoots are constructed so simply that they don't have fragile complicated mechanisms that would be affected by a drop. The author specifically stated his kids had dropped their point-and-shoot on the sidewalk with no dire effects to the camera's function. This point made a lot of sense to me, but I decided to add the extra insurance of her custom camera strap to help avoid this problem altogether. The Peanut understands she only uses the camera when the neck strap is around her neck.
4. Tiny cameras are not necessarily better for tiny hands. As much as I love shopping online, the best advice I can give is to go check out the camera in person. I wanted a camera body that was thick enough for the Peanut to hold steady with both hands. I looked for simple buttons and the location where they were placed on the camera to ensure they wouldn't be accidentally triggered while holding it. I also looked at the lens and how it expands and retracts. Is it in a position that will likely cause a finger to be placed in front of it?
5. Give the autofocus a test run. With each of the several cameras I tested at a local store, I took practice pictures while actively shaking the camera. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even with fairly vigorous movement, the winning camera still came out with a reasonably focused photo. Now no camera is going to take a crisp picture if you're really shaking things up, but I tried to imitate the wiggly hands of a toddler and was happy to find a camera that held up to those conditions.
Note: I just looked up the link for the camera we selected. It was the right model for us, but I definitely recommend looking around and deciding for yourself. I'm shocked to see the price has gone up significantly since we purchased it in April. That alone tells me that it is worth hunting down other potential models before you decide on anything.
So far I have been very pleased with the Peanut's camera. Her reaction to it was exactly what I imagined and she has loved being given permission to take photos of whatever she wants as long as she follows these simple rules:
- The neck strap goes on first
- Use 2 hands and pay attention
- Turn the camera off and put it back in it's carrying case when you're done.
In the short time that she's had it, she's figured out how to turn it on and off by herself, take the picture, and how to press the "Play" button to see the photos she's taken. Our next lesson will be on zooming.
I love being able to share my love of photography with her and I look forward to seeing her skills develop over the years. For us, it was exactly the right "Big Sister" gift.