Since I was a kid myself, I've worked with kids. I took my first babysitting job at 10 years old (it was the 80s, people did stuff like that, haha.) I was an abnormally mature child and often took on a care giving role to those around me. I was told "you are so good with babies!" I have been a baby whisperer as long as I can remember.
I started actual teaching when I was around 15 years old because I got bored "just babysitting" so I would create classes to teach my charges. When I was 22, I took my first teaching job at a school teaching pre K, it was a serious love connection! I had found my place in the world! I had no formal teaching education, in fact, school was really hard for me but for some reason, teaching was completely intuitive . My Pre K class became the most talked about and favorite room in the school. We did lessons that were really ahead of their time (the 90s) and everything I did was through creative open ended play and student driven learning, simply because that's what my instinct told me to do in the classroom, it just made sense. I trusted my students with proper instruction and watchful eye to use real world tools and supplies. To me, there was almost nothing I couldn't carefully instruct a 4- 5 year old to do or use.
Fast forward to now! I have been teaching for over two decades and have taught everything you can imagine! When I started Camera Class five years ago, I never had any doubt that I would be teaching 4-5 year olds how to use real cameras. Obviously, I don't just give them an expensive, breakable camera and tell them to go for it. Each child I work with is different so I address the needs of each individual. My work with the littlest photographers is based on their energy, attention span and comprehension.
I find that the canon Rebel DSLR's are great for kids but can be too big for tiny 4 year old hands. I started using Canon Powershots with my smaller students.
They have many of the same settings and abilities of the bigger DSLR cameras but are as easy to use as a point and shoot. they are a good balance between both types of camera. I also let my little ones use tablets which are great but don't make them feel like photographers.
This is a picture of Elliot, 4 years old. He really loves my plastic animal menagerie (who doesn't!?) , the animals are a great ice breaker with young students who may have some separation or stranger anxiety.
Here is a "self portrait" Elliot took.
I really love how kids just shoot without fear of judgement. You can see them thinking as they are taking pictures, "What does the camera do if I turn it upside down?", "I wonder if I could take a picture of my mouth upside down?"
These are pictures taken from a photo walk with Elliot.
Are their picture perfect? The answer is YES! They may not adhere to the learned correct technical settings of photography and break many rules but they are a perfect representation of how the child sees the world and where they are at at a certain space and time in their lives. I often say, "if you give a kid a camera, they will show you their world."
These are taken in a Montessori classroom I work with.
I can tell what my students value the most by what they take the most pictures of. Clearly, my animals are high on that list but they also really value one another and play. You cam see in these pictures that Yohan, age 5 really values the playground, nature and his peers. Also, check out Yohan's natural ability to compose a photo!
In closing I say, trust kids with cameras! This doesn't mean, let them run off with your expensive camera or cell phone and go to town but what it does mean is understand the value of allowing them to show you their world through photographs in a safe, well instructed manor. You will be shocked and surprised at what they show you!