Cameras for kids  JAN 21 2011

As I mentioned on Twitter, we got Ollie a camera for Christmas and set it up to post automatically to Flickr. He loves it so far, and it's been fascinating to see how he sees the world...which is mostly low-angle and mundane. The account is private, but here are a few of my favorite shots of his:

Ollie's great grandpa

Looking out the door (note the low angle)

Making espresso

But often the camera is a tool for him. Yesterday morning we were trying to build a boat out of blocks..."the same as we built last week," Ollie said to me. I couldn't remember how we'd built the boat last week and Ollie couldn't really describe it or duplicate it by himself. "We should have taken a picture of it. Then we would remember," he said. And a couple of weeks ago, his toy computer (basically a glorified Speak N' Spell) ran out of batteries and when he came running in to the kitchen to tell me, he held up his camera with a photo of the computer in question, "see Daddy, the screen's not working"...as if I wasn't going to take his word for it.

After I tweeted about the camera, a number of people asked what setup we were using. We had an old Powershot SD450 laying around, so we gave him that instead of buying a kids camera. Ollie's three and a half now and pretty conscientious; he doesn't throw stuff around or smash things so we figured we could trust him with an actual camera. And for the most part, he's been really good with it. He puts the cord around his wrist so the camera won't fall on the floor if it slips out of his hands. For the first few days, he was accidentially sticking his fingers in the lens area and that caused the little shutter that covers the lens when the camera is off to stick a little bit, but he stopped doing that and learned how to fix the sticky shutter himself. He sometimes gets stuck in a weird menu after pushing too many buttons, but mostly he knows how to get in and out of the menus. He knows how to use the zoom and can shoot videos. He also can tell when the battery is running out and knows how to remove the battery to recharge it. Giving an "adult" camera to a three-year-old may seem like a recipe for confusion and broken electronics, but I'm continually amazed at kids' thirst for knowledge and empowered responsibility.

For the automatic uploading to Flickr, we put an Eye-Fi card in the camera. The Eye-Fi is a regular SD memory card with built-in wireless networking...the low-end 4GB card is only $45 on Amazon. And you can link the card to a Flickr account so that when the camera is on and in range of a trusted wifi network, the photos are automatically uploaded. Pretty simple once you get it set up.

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
Flickr   Ollie Kottke   photography

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