My kids love looking at photos on my phone. They’ll also spend an hour flipping through the pictures, just looking and remembering. We have both of our Apple TVs set up to use photos as screen savers, and I’ll often find the kids just watching the pictures change.
I used to think of these activities as time wasters. But then I realized there’s actually a lot to learn by looking at photos.
It’s also a great way to spend time together. So bring out the photos, and snuggle. While you’re reminiscing, your child will be learning.
While looking at photos, your kids can:
- Strengthen their memory
- Improve communication skills
- Understand family dynamics
- Build their imagination
- Improve observations skills
Let’s look a bit more closely at each one.
1. Looking at Photos Can Strengthen Memories
Photos offer a unique opportunity to remember and recall. When your child sees a photo, she starts thinking. She may wonder:
- Who is in the picture?
- What was happening?
- How old was I?
- Where was this?
- Why was I wearing that?
These questions help trigger your child’s memory of the event. If they don’t have a memory of the event, or if it happened before they were born, these questions help to develop their curiosity and creativity.
You can also ask a few key questions to get their memories flooding back. Try:
- What were you doing in that picture?
- Do you remember how much you loved that shirt?
- Wow, you were having so much fun with your friends. Tell me more about what you did that day.
For instance, in a few years, many of our kids won’t even remember that we ever drove a little yellow school bus for a few years. They will just remember our 15 passenger van.
Looking at these photos will help the other kids remember, so they can tell stories about our pizza parties on the bus, and all of our crazy adventures.
2. Looking at Photos Can Improve Communication Skills
Photos are such a great starting point for conversation! As kids talk about pictures and memories, they’re practicing important communication skills. They’re learning to ask questions, to share memories, and to share what is on their mind.
Communication is essential for life! So practice asking and answering questions as the pictures change. Pictures are a fabulous starting point for family stories.
You can even ask each of your kids to present a favorite photo to the family. Have them practice beforehand. Then, they can get up and tell what is in the picture and share some important facts about it.
This will help your kids practice their public speaking skills, and give them another benefit to looking at photos.
3. Looking at Photos Can Teach About Family Dynamics
If your photos are anything like mine, there are tons of pictures of extended family in there. Whether they’re pics I saved from Facebook, or ones we took while enjoying time together, there are people my kids don’t see everyday.
Use these pictures to enhance your child’s understanding of family dynamics. You can use words like cousin, second cousin, cousin-once-removed, sister-in-law, grandpa, step-dad, and all those other family words. It’s a great way to improve your child’s vocabulary as well.
Understanding that there’s a core family and an extended family is an important concept, especially for little kids. Photos help make the connection! And they’re a great way to introduce them to the family who lives far away, who they may not have met yet.
Looking at photos of the extended family can really help kids make connections about who they are and where they fit in the family tree. My kids really enjoy photos like these, of our Thanksgiving trip to Aunt Gerri’s several years ago.
4. Looking at Photos Can Build Your Child’s Imagination
Pictures don’t show everything. They just capture a single moment in time.
Without the details written on the back, the specifics can get lost. And writing notes on the back is a little difficult with digital photos…
Thankfully your child has an imagination that’s perfect for filling in the blanks.
You can ask questions like:
- What do you think happened right before this photo was taken?
- What was this person looking at?
- Tell me about this dress–do you think there’s a story behind it?
- What’s going to happen next?
And let your child creatively answer. You never know what they will come up with.
These conversations will help your child learn to take a little bit of information and extrapolate something. It’s an important skill for critical thinking.
5. Looking at Photos Can Improve Observation Skills
What are the subtle details waiting to be found in each photo? Is the child holding onto something in one hand?
Is there a piece of a cousin’s hand there in the corner, just barely making it into the photo?
What season was it when this photo took place?
Looking at photos, really looking at them, means your child is using observation. They’re learning to pay attention to the details.
You can also take this activity a step further, and select ten or twenty photos. Then create a scavenger hunt of sorts, with all sorts of details. You might ask your child to find a diaper (that’s lying in the background of one photo) or a collar (on the dog).
Once you have the list made, have your child closely look through the pictures. As they find each object, they can cross them off the list. Then, they can create a list of their own for someone else to find.
It’ll be a personalized game of I-Spy using photos that have meaning to your child.
Keep Looking at Photos
Looking at photos is such a great activity. It’s a good way to connect with your child, and help them practice important skills, so don’t think of it as a “filler” activity in your day. It really is beneficial for your kids!
For more fun ways to learn, check out these posts:
This post was originally published in 2017. It’s been updated and refreshed.