Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fun with Photos!

For a long time, cameras have been a great way of keeping a record of the past. One of my fiance's favorite hobbies is to buy old boxes of photographs at rummage sales or the Salvation Army. It doesn't matter to him who is in the photographs, or what they are about. All that matters is that they are old - and therefore, they speak volumes about the past. It is always most interesting to go back and look at old photos. You can learn a lot about a time-period by studying the way people dress ,the way that they pose, and the way that people acted in the past. It can be an interesting view into the present as well, because you can always make comparisons between what you see in old photos and what you see today. My fiance likes to make statements about the past compared to now, and he likes to speculate on what the photographs we take today are going to say about us in the future. I agree with him, collecting old photographs is a great hobby.

In the digital age, you don't end up with so many of these photographs. Most are kept on computers, and those that are printed out are usually kept carefully in albums. There aren't going to be many boxes of photographs for our grandchildren to discover. It just doesn't happen very often because most people don't bother to print out every picture they take. The boxes of old photographs are usually ones that probably didn't go into photo albums - the pictures that are a little off center, or the ones where someone's eyes are closed. I can just imagine some house wife 50 years ago taking one or two photos that turned out really well and putting them in frames or albums, and then putting the rest into a box for safe-keeping. It is those boxes that someday end up at garage sales, and it is through those boxes that we can really discover wht life was all about. However, because we don't bother to print out all of the photos that we don't want to do something with - like keep in an album or a frame, we aren't going to end up with boxes of old photos, and that might be a very sad thing! However, I think that there are ways to insure that this continues happening for our children and our grandchildren.

I have discovered a way to always have photographs, and at the same time, keep children occupied. What a great thing - keep records of your life and entertain your kids! Parents, pay attention, because these activity serves two important purposes. You will always be sure to have boxes of photos ,and your kids are going to be able to keep themselves entertained at social events or other places where running around bothing people isn't the best way to go about it. I may have stumbled upon something that will be a great behavioral motification tool!

Its very simple, really. Old fashioned point and shoot cameras can be purchased for a very small amount of money at department stores, and film has gone way down in price. It has become more easy than every to allow children to use cameras. They are no longer expensive, and no longer dear, and for those reasons, there is nothing wrong or potentially worrysome about allowing your child to have access to a point and shoot camera of their own. It can be something they always have with them, or something they are given on special occassions. Either way, it will entertain them for hours, and provide your family with a little bit of history to give to the future.

In the past, before digital cameras were very popular and developing film was still something that everyone always did, I was always very hesitant about giving smallar children cameras. They might be dropped and broken, and if that happened you would have to buy a new camera. Also, at that time, film was expensive so it shouldn't be wasted. It was hard to give a child a camera becaues it just wasn't very pratical. Better to give them a fake camera and let them practice so that when they grew up a little bit it would be okay to buy them their own camera.

However, I've seen point and shoot cameras at Kmart and other stores for five or ten dollars. And there are generic brands of film that sell for a couple of dollars for 6 or 8 rolls of film. This quickly becomes a very inexpensive way to allow children to amuse themselves taking pictures.What a great time we are living in, when we can get things like cameras so inexpensively, and they can provide us with so much joy and happiness!

I remember when I was younger, and my family went on a trip to Texas. My mother gave my brother and I both a disposable camera, and told us we could take whatever pictures we'd like with it. I was very careful to try to take adult-like photos - to line them up just so and to not waste a single shot. Mine came out okay - pretty boring, but okay. I think I put them in an album somewhere. Scott was only about 4, and he didn't bother to worry about what he was taking photos of. He just took them. Most of my brother's pictures all came back taken from knee - height. They were usually pictures of chain link fences, with something interested behind it. They were mostly all blurry, and some of them didnt' turn out at all. They were photos of our faces close up with eyes closed, or pictures of his stuffed dog, sight-seeing along with us. Those were some of the best photos of the entire trip. I believe that he put those in a box, and they are probably in our garage somewhere. There is no doubt in my mind that they will someday be discovered and put on display somewhere.

Recently, at a wedding, I gave a friend's child my point and shoot camera and about 6 rolls of film. I wasn't even thinking about this whole thing at the time. He's a rambunctious child, so the film was given as a reward. "If you sit down and eat all of your chicken, you can have a roll of film." or "If you stop bothering that nice couple, I'll give you a roll of film to use". I wanted to give him a way to amuse himself and his parents a way to enjoy their evening out without having to constantly discipline him. It hought that it might work, and as it turns out, it certainly did!

It turns out that when film was involved, he was very well behaved, because he loved to take pictures. His dad told me that they often let him take pictures because if he messed them up they could just delete them off of the digital camera. He loved to look at the photos that he'd taken and he adored the idea of takin pictures. However, his dad's digital camera was too expensive to allow a 6 year old to cart all over at a wedding reception, and so his photo-taking times usually ended up being well-superivsed by his parents. However, my old point and shoot was the perfect amount of worn - too worn and used to be worth any money should he lose or break it, and not worn enough so that it didn't work properly. He didn't need to be supervised, and I didn't need to watch carefully to insure he wasn't going to break the camera on accident. He was able to roam all over the reception, taking whatever pictures he felt like, and we didn't have to worry about him getting into trouble because he was doing a job, and therefore he was distracted from joining the other little kids in any naughty adventures. He had a great time, and the pictures came back absolutely priceless. They are absolutely worthy of keeping forever in a box of old photographs.

Giving a child a camera can be an inexpensive way of entertaining them. They will be fascinated with the idea that they will be able to get back the photos that they take. It will also be a good lesson for them, because most of them will have been exposed to digital cameras where they can see the pictures before they are printed out. You can use it as a lesson in both paitence and being careful. They must wait for the photos to be developed before they see them, and also they must be very careful when they take their photos, because they will have no way of knowing if a shot turned out before they are developed. You can teach a child to make sure everyone is smiling, to make sure their fingers are not over the lense, and to be sure that he points and shoots steadily. It can be a really good lesson for a child. It is a good way to teach them lots of little things at the same time that they are busy having fun.

It can also be a way of keeping them occupied without you having to teach them anything! Because film is so inexpensive, and cameras don't cost much money either, it is really easy to just let them have the camera and let them go at it! It will keep them out of your hair, out of trouble, and doing something useful. If you don't feel like using it as a time to teach lessons, just give them a camera and let them go at it. If you get a whole roll of film that comes back with a little finger over the lense, its a small price to pay for an evening of keeping a child occupied.

And you never know what kind of photos you are going to get back! You will have just as much excitement at developing the photos as the child will, because it is going to be a surprise for both of you! Remember going to the store with your parents and getting back your frist roll of film? I bet that you were excited to see what kind of pictures you had taken, especially if some time had passed from the event to the time you get your photos back. This excitement is a great thing to share with your children!

You can extend the activity as well, by having the child work with you to create scrapbooks based upon the photos they have taken. Scrapbook pages are great on-going projects for you to work on with your children, especially if you have a place in your home that a scrapbooking center can remain set up. You can do a page once a week, or more often if you'd like. Using their own photos, the children will create glorious pages, and they will be more apt to feel ownership over what they have done, since they were the ones to take the photos in the first place! What a great project for your family! Imagine if you could have a whole scrapbook of pictures a child took displayed at their highschool graduation, or at their own wedding. Pictures are a great way to chronical a life, and teaching a child to put their photos in a scrapbook is an activity that they will do for years to come.

And you never know. The pictures my friend's son took are adorable, and most likely will keep cherished places in photo albums. However, they might also go to live in a box of photos somewhere, and might be discovered years and years from now by someone like my fiance, who likes to peek into other people's lives and into the past, in order to gain insight on today and on the future. Pictures are always worth keeping, and always worth taking.

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