You're beaming with pride as you hang your child's latest photographic masterpiece on the wall. You're sure she's going to be the next Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, or Henri Cartier Bresson. She loves taking pictures and definitely shows some talent, but it's tough to encourage creativity when you're constantly worried she's going to break or drop your expensive camera.
Luckily, many companies offer hardy, low-cost digital cameras designed specifically for children. These cameras have similar features as those made for grown-ups, such as a flash and the ability to download pictures to a computer. Cameras designed for kids have different features, and not all of them are good. Many have smaller LCD screens, lower megapixels and a digital zoom that reduces image quality. Most don't have removable memory cards. Yet they're built for small hands, so they're larger and easier to hold, with bigger buttons and even sound effects.
Not sure which camera is right for your little one? Click through these options to find for the best choice for your budding shutterbug.
Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera
Fisher-Price knows its customers have a tendency to drop and fling things, and they designed this camera with durability in mind. It's covered on all sides with a rubberized grip that can withstand a lot of shock if -- or when -- your child drops it. It's also waterproof.
The camera itself is pretty bare bones, but unlike other models, its shutter button is located on the front of the device, which is helpful for kids' small digits. It also has a two-eye viewfinder, which helps younger children master the art of taking pictures.
As an additional safety feature, this camera hides its battery compartment and memory card slot behind a screwed-in plate. Yes, that means it's sometimes a pain to open to change the batteries (especially if your tiny photographer takes a lot of pics), but at least you can be sure that your child won't be able to open the compartment himself and try to swallow its contents.
VTech Kidizoom Camera
Tykes aged 3 to 7 will reach for this bright orange, yellow and blue camera, and its flared sides will help their small hands hold onto it. Though it doesn't have a viewfinder, kids can frame their shots using a small LCD screen. It has easy-to-use, kid-friendly features, including a delete button, zoom, flash, a USB slot and volume control, and it also doubles as a gaming system that comes with two games.
Gummy Bears Digital Camera
This rubber-encased camera is made to be dropped, making it ideal for the preschooler set. Kids can take shots through either a viewfinder or a small LCD screen. It can also record video and act as a webcam. Special features designed to make it easy for kids to share their pictures are also perfect for parents wanting to show off their kid's best pics on social media Web sites.
This basic camera is lightweight and comes with a neck strap and hard carrying case, so it's easy for kids to tote around. The on-camera features are fairly basic, including a small LCD screen, a flash and a USB cable. However, it has large, sturdy handles with rubberized grips that are easy for small hands to grasp onto. The top and bottom of the camera are also lined with rubber to protect it if it's dropped. Plus, what it lacks in onboard features, it makes up for with creative photo editing software that allows your kids to edit photos, make photo frames and create picture-based stories.
Olympus Stylus Tough
While this Olympus camera is technically for adults, it's also appropriate for tech-savvy older children. If your child really has an interest in photography and is responsible enough to take care of this camera, he'll enjoy the higher-quality images it produces compared to cameras that are geared toward kids.
When a camera has "tough" in its name, it better be durable, and that's the case with the Olympus Stylus Tough. It's waterproof for up to 10 feet and can survive a drop from 5 feet, which helps protect it against typical kid accidents. It also comes in a variety of colors for those who like to stand out from the crowd.
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- Buckleitner, Warren. "A New Digital Camera for Kids." New York Times. July 22, 2009. (Feb. 26, 2011) http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/a-new-digital-camera-for-kids/
- Chen, Janice. "Back to School 2011: Top digital cameras for kids under $110." ZDNet.com. Aug. 17, 2011. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/digitalcameras/back-to-school-2011-top-digital-cameras-for-kids-under-110/5188
- Chen, Janice. "The best digital camera for kids (or, how to keep grubby hands off your camera." ZDNet.com. Sept. 11, 2008. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/digitalcameras/the-best-digital-camera-for-kids-or-how-to-keep-grubby-hands-off-your-camera/314
- Consumer Reports. "Reviews of kid cameras." July 2011. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/cameras-photography/kid-cameras/overview/index.htm
- Consumer Reports. "Digital Cameras: Olympus Stylus Tough-8010." (Mar. 4, 2012)http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/cameras-photography/digital-cameras/point-shoot-digital-camera-ratings/models/overview/olympus-stylus-tough-8010-99030513.htm
- Crayola. "Our History: The History of Crayola." (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.crayola.com/about/our-history/index.cfm?n_id=77
- Devaney, Erik. "Good Digital Cameras for Children." Salon.com. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://techtips.salon.com/good-digital-cameras-children-10168.html
- Harry Ransom Center. "Exhibitions: The First Photograph." (March 6, 2012) http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/wfp/
- Merriam Webster. "Oleginous." 2012. (Feb. 29, 2012) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oleaginous
- Olympus.com. "Tough TG-320." (March 4, 2012) http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/product.asp?product=1591