Most children have a creative side that comes bounding out given half a chance. These photography projects work great with whatever gear you have lying around, including point & shoot cameras and Polaroid instant cameras, and are a fun way to encourage your child’s creative side while sharpening your own photographic chops.

1. Light art

light graffiti

This project requires a tripod, a dark room, a flashlight and any other fun light sources, and a camera that can be set to a very slow shutter speed. Most point & shoot cameras can do this. With the room dark, let a child get in front of the camera with one or more small sources of light like a flashlight. Be sure that the shutter speed is set to be open for at least five seconds, and as many as 20 or 30 depending on how much ambient light there is. Press the shutter button and let the child draw in the air with the light.

You can review each shot to test different apertures, exposure lengths, and light colors. Your child will love trying to figure out how to draw pictures with light that the camera can capture.

2. Create scenes with small toys

toy photography

Small toys and figurines are cute. If they are small enough, the simplest daily objects can become the scene of an adventure. Imagine a GI Joe toy diving in a bowl of cereal, or a plastic goat wandering through fields of crayons. Simply putting the toys there makes a mildly entertaining game. But stage everything meticulously with the help of your child and then take photos of it, and you’ll have something fun that your children will love to look at. From there you can use the shots to make a photo book, put together an online album, or anything else you can imagine.

3. Make a thaumatrope

thingo switchy

Greek for magical turning thing, a thaumatrope is a simple device that uses a piece of paper with photos on both sides and some string to “animate” the photos. You’ll need to take the photos you want on each side so that they make sense when melded together, use photo editing software to scale them down and get everything in the right place, and then print them up and create the thaumatrope. You can find guides online that suggest using sticker paper, but you can just print the images on white paper as long as you are good with a glue stick and line them up correctly.

Half the fun of this project for kids is playing with the thaumatrope, but they may also have some very creative ideas about what the figures should be doing when you spin the paper back and forth.

4. Hang their photos from “balloons”

This may be the simplest project, but that doesn’t make it any less fun for kids. Take photos of your kids in various action poses, then print them out at whatever size you want. Then make some paper balloons, let your child decorate them, and connect the cutout to the balloons with some string. You can change up what you use to attach the photos to match your child’s imagination – a parachute, an airplane, a kite, or anything else – and even try real balloons.

Each of these simple kid’s photo projects requires little beyond a point & shoot camera, but with the right perspective you can use them to spur your child’s creativity.