Challenge Your Kids With These Six Nature-Photography Projects

From scavenger hunts to a seasonal calendar and a technique called cyanotype, there are so many ways to get creative.

As any parent whose toddler has mastered an iPad knows, kids gravitate to gadgets. Cameras hold the same allure while offering more enduring value: the chance to engage with real-world subjects, including nature and wildlife.

Photography can also help kids learn the art of slowing down and refine their powers of observation and creativity. So, how to get them started? Whether at home, on a long car trip, or on a walk to school, here are six fun ways to help children explore a rewarding hobby. 

Photo Scavenger Hunt: On a day in the park, prepare a list of nature items for your kids to photograph, such as a red bird, a raptor in flight, something that a bird would eat, an object that a bird would use to nest, or even bird poop. Offer a prize for snapping images of all of the items. 

20 Steps: During a walk to school or around the neighborhood, every 20 or 100 steps (you pick the number!), have your child stop and, without moving, take pictures of something nature-related around them. Ask them to consider different points of view—for example, if they look down at their feet, they may find some wildness there. Look up: Are there birds perched in the tree? With patience, they can reap many photographic rewards from a single spot.  

Nature Map: Explore your neighborhood or yard by asking your kids to take at least 10 photos of natural features, such as birds, leaves, insects, or berries. On a big piece of paper, ask them to a draw a map of the area they just photographed, and then attach the printed images. Hang the map up in their room and keep adding photos. 

Landscape Challenge: During a vacation or a road trip ask your kids to photograph interesting landscapes and then imagine which animals use those habitats and how. At the end of the vacation, print the photos, draw animals with a marker, or simply decorate them and then send out to family and friends as postcards of your vacation. 

Book of Seasons: Ask your kids to photograph your yard or neighborhood this autumn, with a focus on plants and natural areas. Print the images they like the best. In winter, go back to the same places and have them document the same subjects or spots. Repeat in spring and summer. Print all the images and put them in a photo album, and talk about the differences each season. Next year you could create a family calendar with those photos.  

Cyanotype: Cyanotype is a photography process that allows you to print the shadow of an object onto a piece of paper. Kids will be able to create art from nature. You can order the paper online—the best bet for beginners—or buy the Potassium Ferricyanide and the Ferric Ammonium powders to create your own mixture. Ask your kids to look for objects that can create interesting shadows, such as leaves, flowers, sticks, and rocks. A fun option: Try composing objects together to create funny shapes. Why not a bird?