Are you planning a family vacation to a place that isn’t completely kid-centric? Great idea!
Families so often end up at a theme park or a children’s museum (which are great). But kids are also capable of enjoying trips to places that are fun for adults. There are many authentic experiences to be had in the wilderness or in a thriving city—away from hoards of crying toddlers and balloon men. Why not go somewhere that you (the person actually in need of a vacation) will enjoy?
Keeping kids engaged without costumed mascots and thrill rides is easier than you think. Ask them to be travel photographers, capturing the details of the trip that are important to them. When you see their photos, you could be surprised by the wonderful things you overlooked.
To make this feel like a mission, the camera needs to feel special. Special does not translate to expensive. Before the trip, present kids with a film (but not a disposable film) camera. Why film and not digital?
Aside from the difference in cost there is more anticipation. Film keeps kids wondering, “What will my pictures look like?” And because kids only get 24 frames per roll of film (instead of hundreds with a digital camera), they’ll take more time framing each shot.
There are some very cool and inexpensive cameras for kids ranging from 11 to 20 dollars over at Light in the Box. The Lomo 3 Lens Robot Film Action Camera and the Lomo Twin Stars 2 Lens Outdoor Film Camera are affordable and unique choices. Even if your kids don’t figure out how to photograph things all that well, these two cameras will take fascinating pictures. They capture multiple, consecutive images on the same print so that the result is a kind of very quick narrative from split second to split second. And both cameras are so cute looking!
Give your kids a crash course in photography. Try to develop the first day’s film and review it on the first night. Pointing out places where the lighting could be better or the subject closer. Cover the following guidelines before you begin. You can even pull out examples from your family photo collection.
• Fill the frame with the subject and keep the picture uncluttered
• Don’t get too close to the subject, or it will be out of focus
• Make sure that the subject is well lit. Keep the light source behind the photographer and the camera, so that it illuminates the object without washing out the photograph
• Look for interesting colors, textures and shapes
• Don’t take pictures out of moving car windows! (Okay, well maybe just once)
If the kids seem to lack focus or get bored as photographers, give them a daily theme. For example, “today I want you to look for round things that you like.” Other themes might include photographing old things, new things, red things or blue things.
And here is one last tip from National Geographic: take a couple of pictures with the kids’ cameras, yourself. If the film comes back a disappointment, the kids will have a few good photos to enjoy.
Get those pictures developed immediately! (If you’re like me and you put it off, they’ll never get developed). Soon after the trip, sit down as a family and look at all the memories. Let each child pick out their best work to frame or use in a craft.
To see how cool kids’ photography can be, check out this news story about 3-year-old photographer, Ruby Ellenby.