Young children are curious about themselves, maybe even more so than the world around them—from making faces in the mirror to inspecting their belly buttons that tickle them at just one glance. In a playgroup, they may notice their differences: eye and hair color, or how tall or short they are in comparison to their friends, or the countertop. When they draw self portraits of themselves, they creatively express what they think they look like. And when looking at photos of themselves they wonder, is that what I really look like?
Grown-ups are the ones who are snapping away pictures with their camera or smart phones of their children on the go for the photo album, but what about kids who see themselves in a completely different light? They like to see themselves captured not only in action, but in stillness as well. Smiling. Complacent. Even sad or angry... as they pretend to be other characters, or themselves... feeling everything.
Self portraits of real life, their lives, is as instant as the digital camera we keep on hand, like our smart phones. Letting them have a turn using the easy camera option that switches to self view gives them a chance to see themselves in action or stillness... and wonder about what they think of themselves. My daughter uses our iPhone to grab pictures of herself while strapped in the car seat. She'll tilt her head, roll her eyes, and think of funny ways to emphasize lyrics to a song she learned or how she feels about the long car ride. Then she'll ask us to preview them together, and as she watches herself, she can't help stop laughing and telling me how this is what she looked like when there was traffic up ahead.
In addition to her grasping great knowledge about her self awareness, she's also learning how to use the camera and snap at the right instant and right angle, which eventually tells the story that she wants to remember. Let them also try phone apps that offer color and time variation like Instagram and Pocketbooth; both are simple to use, and the results are even more creatively expressive. Instagram ages the photo, and Pocketbooth is reminiscent of those they see at the carnival, snapping a strip of four shots a few seconds a part.
Of course, a regular digital camera works wonders too, especially with patient little ones. With the self timer option, kids can set up their scene and prop the camera, and learn about time, framing the shot and depth perception. Using that zoom lens when the camera doesn't have to move is magical.
If your little one has a knack for photography, investing in a kid-proof camera may be the way to go. V-Tech offers a series of easy-to-grip, rubber coated digital cameras that will bounce at the slip of the wrist. For the self portrait option, try V-Tech's Spin and Smile camera, which offers a twisting lens, self timer, and options to distort, or add colorful frames.
Also plugging your digital camera to a home printer is a great and instant way for them to see their work. Hang up their self potraits in the hallway or family room for everyone to see. Walking by these will remind them of that moment, as well as notice too that oh yes, they are growing up too fast. Replace these periodically, or add new ones next to them (if space allows) to see the growth. Afterwards, compile them into a keepsake album for them to look through in years to come.
No matter which option you choose, giving them a lens to play with and self direct is an eye opening experience. Not just for us grownups, but for our children also, who notice, well, just about everything.
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