Dream Big, Princess: Photography With Children.

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My daughter, Scarlet, is six-years-old (six and a half, she’ll tell you!) and she believes she can be and do anything.

It changes, day by day and year by year. As it should. I love to watch her eyes light up as she thinks about the possibilities in front of her – what will she see and do and be. In her eyes and mind, dance visions of sugarplums, mountaintops and castles. She thinks about being a doctor, a teacher, a mother, a princess. In a world in which you really can be a princess – literally and figuratively – I have never told her anything other than this – “You have beautiful options spread out in front of you.”

And I can’t wait to watch her explore our world.

When Scarlet first picked up my camera, two years ago this spring, she already had a knack for it. My camera is professional-level, heavy and clunky in her hands, and full of buttons and settings she might not begin to explore for years – but the eye sees what the eye sees. And she wants her visions to be seen by others. This is her first portrait of me. She was four.

Disney Princess

She has picked up knacks and loves for things over the years – and many of them have stayed, and will continue to stay. She loves photography, she loves reading and writing, and she loves all things Disney Princess. We go to Disney World every year, and have her meet the princesses. She has a room full of active toys that she engages in imaginative play with, and the Disney Princesses inspire her to stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. She can think of something brave about each princess.

Scarlet most dreams about photographing northern lights, albino moose, regular moose and blue whales. She also dreams about big boats, great white sharks and magic fairies. When she talks about northern lights, she brings up Rapunzel and her search to see the glowing lanterns. When Scarlet talks about quests, she thinks about Merida’s journey to put things right with her family. These strong-willed, dreaming princesses are being watched by my strong-willed, dreaming little girl. Passionate about emotions and the arts, she is so her parent’s daughter. I am honored that she has chosen photography as an interest.

In October, we went on a trip to Maine to see moose. We saw six moose, which was amazing, and since I had just bought a new camera, I let Scarlet walk side by side with me and I let her use my old camera. She was a natural!

Here is a photo she took that weekend. A Scarlet’s eye view:

Inspired by this experience with my daughter, I decided to put together a list of ten photography activities you can do with children, to teach them about photography, but also to teach them about our wonderful world. It means everything.

You can easily find childproof cameras out there, that are more durable. If your children are older or more responsible, you can find inexpensive point and shoots. Scarlet uses my phone camera and even my backup DSLR, with my supervision.

  1. Create a story. Have your child take a photograph of anything – indoors or outdoors – and then write a story about it. Scarlet is in first grade, and is getting into stories. I imagine the love for writing will grow.

  2. Letter art. Have you ever seen those framed photos of letter art that are used to spell out last names or something similar? Kids can create letter photo art by looking for objects that look like letters. They can do the alphabet!

  3. Color recognition. This is great for a younger child, or for a child with a younger sibling. Have your child walk around your house or outside and photograph things of a certain color. Perhaps they can create their own rainbow.

  4. I Spy! This can be like a scavenger hunt too. You can create a list of 10-20 household or yard items. Give your child the camera and have them search for the items and photograph them as they find them. Make it challenging!

  5. Make an art gallery! My mom teaches week-long art classes for children in the summer and holds an “art gallery reception” at the end of the week, with refreshments and the children’s art on the walls. Why not do this? We have an expensive photo printer, but prints are also pretty cheap. Print your child’s photography, frame them and present them at an “art show.”

(Taken by Scarlet Bella.)

  1. A photo essay about a toy. Have your child pick a favorite toy, come up with a story about the toy on an adventure, and have them photograph the toy “out and about” for the day.

  2. The people of your life. Have your child take photos of friends, extended family members, and other important people. You can make a memory photo album with the prints. Bonus points for doing a “day in the life” project with your child.

  3. Take another step. Have your child take 50 steps in any one direction and come up with a composition. Have them take a photograph from where they are standing. It’s fun to have more than one person do this to see different perspectives.

9. Self portraits. This is another idea borrowed from my mom’s art school, where they draw and paint self portraits. It would be really interesting to see how your child views themselves, by taking self portraits with a camera.

  1. Intro to editing. There are free photo editing programs, like PicMonkey, which are easy to use and have fun editing features that kids can use. This can be really fun for them to learn about editing and storytelling.

What will you try first? Scarlet takes photos of her toys as part of imaginative play.

Do you like the Disney Princesses you saw above in the photos of Scarlet? We got them at Toys “R” Us.

The in-store Toys “R” Us experience is immersive and rewarding – with an aisle dedicated to Disney Princess with exclusive options. The “Dream Big, Princess” campaign provides a positive message to all girls, that they can be anything they want to be. They should never stop dreaming big. Disney Princess encourage girls to be kind, unique, caring, strong, and brave.

What do we have?

We have Sing & Shimmer with Princess Jasmine. She is dressed in a beautiful dress with a sparkling tiara, and she sings “A Whole New World” when you press her jeweled necklace. (Des likes to do that repeatedly)

We have several gorgeous Disney Princess Royal Shimmer Dolls. All eleven princesses are available in the shimmer doll line. They come with removable shoes, shimmering gowns in signature colors, and movie-inspired features.

Their gowns have a beautiful ombre and glitter accent.

We also have the Little Kingdom Ariel’s Sea Castle. It’s compatible with all the other items in the Little Kingdom line, including dolls of other princesses. The doll is three inches tall and can sit or stand. She can also slide, swing, and strap into the seaweed harness. The castle comes with five snap-ins to mix and match for a unique look.

Our Disney Princess toys from Toys “R” Us will continue to inspire Scarlet to follow her dreams, and to develop her photography, writing, and storytelling skills. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. The sky is the limit.

Which Disney Princess most speaks to your child? Which of my photography tips would you most want to try with your child?

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  1. Lovely post, with gorgeous pictures! Scarlet has an eye like her mama. I kind of love that my daughter loves the tough princesses like Mulan 🙂 I personally adore Merida. She is kickass. Plus, Belle, because she loves to read, and Ariel, because, duh, mermaid.

    1. Definitely yay on the mermaid factor! And wanting a whole library in your castle!
      Scarlet loves Mulan too. She even made us watch a sequel, which was not as good!

  2. LOL. Color recognition. Just pointed to a car in the newspaper the other day and asked my youngest what color it was and he said “boo”. With all his issues with language I thought finally – the kid’s a genius. Until I pointed to the black car and asked the same question. He said “boo”. 😉

  3. My boys have always enjoyed photography, and when they were little they always entered a photo or two in the fair. They have a much better eye than I do! Scarlet has definitely picked up her talent from you :)! I love how the Disney princesses are all strong and determined.

  4. It’s all Elsa and Anna here… and sometimes Flynn and Rapunzel come over to the ice castle (yes, complete with a twirling dance floor that lights up!) to chill. I got a snowman in my front yard that looks like Olaf. My youngest is also 6 and she’s the one that mostly still plays with them. The 8 year old takes a bit of convincing to join the play. I love listening to them play – their imaginations know no bounds. Whatever adventure they think up – they somehow make unfold for their dolls. It’s amazing.
    Me… I’m a Belle kinda girl. Because you wouldn’t marry the man who gave you BOOKS! 🙂

    1. I’ve always felt strongly for Belle!
      I think Elsa is my spirit animal these days. The trying to control the freezing and then not hiding away when it gets out of control. But a warm heart somewhere in there.

  5. I remember when you first shared the photos that Scarlet took because I was so blown away by how young she was to have such an eye for composition. Roman is super into taking pictures too and for every 10 blurry weird ones there’s one that I’m surprised by. I’m definitely going to try some of these ideas with him! (Also, I laughed that Des enjoys pressing the song button. I’m sure that’s a lot of fun and everyone enjoys the song over and over and over again). 😂

    1. haha! Yup. What’s funny is that Scarlet can play it over and over and be fine, but if Des plays it ONCE, she’s all up in his business.
      Scarlet has blurry photos too, for all the clear ones. Ok and so do I! But shhh…

  6. You have excellent tips! I want to make an art gallery! 😉 Ohh, I remember my childhood days when I used to play with dolls (not Disney princesses though, IDK why, hehe) and their little houses. I was also gonna say Scarlet’s really your daughter and then you mentioned it on your first few lines.

    1. I remember playing with dolls until I was about 11… I wonder how long she’ll last! It’s been a long run with the princess love, though! I feel like it’s been since she could talk.

  7. Love these tips and Scarlet’s eye view! Have you thought about getting her a camera of her own? Obviously nothing crazy but maybe a point and shoot? My eldest boy LOVES Disney princesses especially Elsa–he begs me everyday to do my hair like Elsa!

    1. She got a kid camera last Christmas, but is honestly too advanced for it already. She asked for a camera for her next birthday so I’m thinking a nice Canon point and shoot.

  8. I cannot wait to see what Miss Scarlet Bella will share with the world. So far I’m loving her photos & sweet acts of kindness.
    You’re doing wonderful, mama!!
    It’s funny, my eldest daughter has taken to writing and my youngest has taken to art and photography- put them together and you’ve got…. 🙂

      1. I have a whole series of her taking photos – I’ll have to print them!
        I love hearing about your daughters. Put them together and you have.. me. You. Photojournalism!

  9. I’m blown away by her photography! That shot of you and the detail of the twig. And like Dean said, that picture of her with the camera is awesome! That’ll make a great bio photo for her portfolio 🙂

  10. Hi Tamara, Disney Princesses are fun role models for little girls. The costumes are fun, the films are brilliant and the stories have happy endings. Scarlet seems to have got her eye for a good picture from you. I love the portrait of you and the colours of the leaves in her eye view picture.

    Your ideas of how for encouraging a child to use a camera are clever, playing ‘I Spy’ with the camera and taking pictures from different perspectives is fun and fun is always the best way to learn.


    1. I wish I had taken a photography class as a child. There’s just so much pure curiosity and love there. It didn’t happen for me, but I still found my way to it. It’s so amazing to have Scarlet take photos.. with her little eye!

  11. I love your photography activities! Both of my guys seem to be showing an interest in photography, at different times. My oldest has a phone now, so he has the best camera he’s ever had. And both of them love to snap shots with my DSLR. (With supervision of course – because my camera is (almost) like another child to me. 🙂 )

    1. Before I got Athena (and the cat), I said that my camera was my third baby!
      As for the phone camera, some of them are so much more advanced than anything we could have imagined.

    1. I Spy is so much fun! Make your own I Spy is even better. Sometimes Scarlet finds the books to not be challenging. So when we make our own, we make it at a higher level for her. (ok, and for me..)

  12. I love the idea of a photo essay 🙂 That would be something fun for my son.
    My daughter also loves Princesses. She is working on collecting as many princess costumes as possible. So far she has costumes for Belle, Anna, and Jasmine.

    1. How awesome! I know that buying them after Halloween is awesome. You can get them on discount and then slowly give them as gifts. Although Scarlet received a giant box of dress-up clothes years ago, and it really made her life.

    1. Ahh, I love that! One of Des’ first songs was “Part of Your World.” We were all in the car and it came on Pandora and he suddenly sang, “Woooooorrrrllllddd.” Adorable!

    1. Thanks so much! You have a terrific week too!
      Scarlet has loved Disney princesses since she started talking. I hope it lasts for awhile, or forever.

  13. How wonderful that Scarlet is taking after you with the lens! Her photos are great! I really like that Disney princesses are seen as fighters and heroines and not just girls waiting around for a prince (although that part is nice too)!

  14. Oh gosh this reminds me so much of Cass when she was Scarlet’s age… and Cass still has all her princesses!! Those eyes… oh that girl is just so beautiful!! And I adore the fact that her passions are developing and look at how much she loves that her mama loves too!

  15. Scarlet truly is a natural with photography. It’s incredible. Your photography prompts for kids are so fun. I think I might just challenge T to use her iPod or my old point-and-shoot to find the whole alphabet this summer. What a fun activity!

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