About a year and a half ago we bought a *robust* digital camera, that the whole family could use – from the 3 year old up. It is an Olympus mu 1030SW (and no doubt there is a newer, whizzier model available now).

We chose it because it can survive being dropped from 2m, and because it is dust-proof and water-proof. So we figured it would be pretty child-friendly. Which it is.

Because of those features, and its small size, it can also be easily carried in an everyday bag since it doesn’t take up much space or add weight or require an additional padded case. So we take it pretty much everywhere, every day.

Essentially we use it for a visual notebook and diary. As well as the more “traditional” photos (people at a birthday party, nice scenery etc.) our photos include the following:

  • Subjects we want to research further – e.g. the insects we saw so we can look up what they were, the title of a book we would like to track down, a visual cue of something we would like to try sometime (e.g. an idea for an art project).
  • Projects – the work in progress, as well as the end result.  This is a great way to keep a record of the messier side of childhood – the imaginatively shaped  biscuits made, the unlikely Lego conveyances, the series of drawings and other art works.
  • Photos for a particular project – e.g. a catalogue of all the insects in our garden, photographs of volcano paintings for a handmade book.
  • Stop-motion and animation experiments.  This is surprising easy to do with the basic video editing software.
  • “Future historical” – the inside of the house, and the yard outside. We have found that the details in such pictures often evoke memories in the future.

    A sea urchin, made from a loaf of bread and some bamboo skewers.

One of many imaginative space rockets, soon to be re-engineered.

The camera is also a great tool for children to experiment with. It gets constant use for recording things of interest – stills and video. A tripod can sometimes be helpful.

It is intriguing to see what features of a location or event capture a child’s attention.

A cool photo taken by a 4 year old

A 3 year old's view - the inside of an oven. Of course.

What to do with the growing gigabytes that ensue? Well, just looking through them from time to time is interesting and always gives us ideas on what we could do next, or do again. There is certainly no requirement to print them, which of course is one of the benefits of digital photography.

If you do have a printer, or access to one, then some photos can simply be printed to enjoy. Children often enjoy having a set of photos in an album that they can show to someone else, to help them explain what they have been up to. And a photo of a friends Lego creation can be sent to the visitor as a postcard saying how nice it was to have them over. Some of the myriad other possibilities include books, cards, calendars, posters, signs etc.

We use Google Picasa software for looking through our photos, highlight the ones we want for a particular project and to email and print. (In fact Picasa does rather more than this.)

To share the photos with other folks we mostly use Flickr. The Friends and Family settings let you control who can see what.