Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Toddlers are often perceived as strong-willed, having clear preferences and preferring to make decisions on their own. For a child who is decidedly against the idea of having their picture taken, it can be challenging to capture their cuteness, quirkiness, and all of the everyday moments you want to remember or share with friends and family. This article offers tips and tricks for helping your little one cultivate a true appreciation for and acceptance of the camera so that you can capture those moments that are closest to your heart.
Here are tips and tricks I've found to be effective at converting a camera-adverse toddler into an enthusiast.
1. Help Them Cultivate an Appreciation For Photography
We can help our toddlers become more receptive to the camera by helping them to appreciate photography. We can show them that it is a fun and creative activity that is used for sharing or remembering things that we love.
Next time you're out and about with your little one, notice the things they get excited about and snap photos that you can look at together later in the day. Explain that pictures last for a long time. Show them pictures of themselves or of you and your partner from years ago. See their reaction when they see a picture of themselves when they were a little baby.
Ideally this foundation will make them feel more knowledgable and on the same page the next time someone brings a camera around.
2. Build a Positive Camera Association
Use the Camera to Share Your Toddler's Passions and Interests
We can use the camera to acknowledge the things our little ones are passionate about. When they get excited about a bug they find, or a drawing they make, we can get the camera out to document the thing they're proud of. Not them, just the thing. This takes the pressure off of the child who might feel vulnerable or threatened by the camera, and instead it makes them feel happy, seen and understood.
I use this technique all of the time with my daughter Verne. It's also handy when she creates a piece of art of structure that we need to disassemble. We can preserve her creation and show her that we're proud by documenting her creation with a photograph.
Use The Camera To Affirm Your Toddler's Feelings
When my daughter is experiencing strong emotions or is feeling misunderstood, sometimes the camera is a tool for making her feel heard. If she's crying, I might ask if she wants me to take a picture her tears. If she falls and hurts her knee, I'll offer to take a picture of her scrape. She responds surprisingly well to this, and she often will immediately relax as though the picture offers closure or helps her to feel validated. I'll show her the picture and will affirm her feelings by saying things like "I can see your tear in this photo, you really were sad weren't you?" or "Wow, that scratch is so big! You are a tough girl! We'll have to show this to dada".
It might feel intimidating or counterintuitive to offer something like this, especially in tense or emotionally heightened moments, but give it a shot! If they aren't into it, nothing is lost. But one day it might just work!
3. Let Them Direct the Creative Process
Most little ones feel honored when given big responsibilities and opportunities to offer input or direction. Creating a picture together can be a really fun experience for everyone, and it can boost our little kids' confidence and competence with photography and as creative individuals.
I use this technique when my daughter Verne is running away from the camera. As a way to get her involved in the photo, I'll ask for her input.
For the past few weeks she's been excited about me taking pictures of her feet (she's very into shoes). I go with it. It makes her happy and she loves seeing the pictures after I take them. In the photo below, she cooperated for a photograph mainly because I promised to take a photo of her shoes. After the shot below, a got a nice portrait of her with a satisfied smile on her face, in her favorite tree in the back yard.
Here are some creative decisions our little ones might love to make:
Where a picture should be taken
What kind of expressions they or others in the photo should make
Whether or not they should be in the picture
What sort of pose they should have