Raising Richmond: Toddler photographer

From the moment my son JR was surgically removed from my person three years ago, he’s had an iPhone camera in his face. So I suppose it was inevitable that he’d want to get in on the action; I just didn’t expect this to happen when he was two years old. I also didn’t expect he would be so persistent that we would actually give in to his toddler-y demands. That’s right. My son has his own iPhone.


From the moment my son JR was removed from my person three years ago (this past Thursday), he’s had an iPhone camera in his face.


I dutifully packed our digital camera in my bag before heading to the hospital, but I don’t think it even saw the light of day during our five-day stay. The iPhone was just easier: no fuss, no waiting, just instant documentation of our precious snowflake’s every move that could be instantly emailed to grandparents or tweeted to friends and strangers alike. Since then, it’s played a huge role in chronicling the events of JR’s childhood–both the monumental and mundane.

I’m sure it was rather confusing for him at first. He spent the first few months of his life furrowing his eyebrows as if he were saying to himself “What are these curious black rectangles they keep holding up to my face? And why do they keep saying ‘Cheese’? Weirdos.” Eventually he did figure out what we were up to, hamming it up whenever ANYONE whipped out any sort of object somewhat resembling a phone of any kind and demanding to see the resulting image right away (he’s clearly a child of the 21st century with no concept of waiting for an image to process).

I suppose that with constantly being the subject of on-the-go photography, it was only inevitable that JR would want to get in on the action; I just didn’t expect this to happen when he was a toddler. I also didn’t expect he would be so persistent that we would actually give in to his demands.

That’s right. My son has his own iPhone.

Now before you get all worked up, let me explain: it’s my old iPhone. It does not have cell phone service and all of the non-standard apps were deleted before we passed it on to him. The one thing it does have? A camera.

On the more superficial (or at least the more surface) level, it made sense to expose JR to technology like this at an early age because my husband and I are both quite proficient when it comes the world of tubes and wires; it’s makes up a big part of our family’s culture. But more than anything, we just love the chance to see the world from his perspective…literally.

When we first gave JR the iPhone, it was obvious he got the most joy from the sound it made when he took a picture. It was also a great way to keep him occupied during less toddler-centric outings. However, as he continued to use it, we noticed he became more intentional about what he photographed, stopping in his tracks and saying earnestly, “Wait, I need to take a picture of that.” He seemed to take pride in his pictures and his new ability to explore and respond to his surroundings in a different way. For parents of an introverted child with little patience for coloring or drawing (sitting still is not his thing), it was thrilling to find an activity that helped to unravel the mystery that our son can be at times. Sure, a good percentage of his photos are blurry or of his own feet, but every now and then we’ll happen upon a few that make us pause and give us a glimpse of his little world and how he fits into it–what he finds interesting, funny, and worthy of space on his camera.

Like his own nose.


Or local storm damage.


Or his favorite pieces of art at the VMFA.





Or our neighborhood ready for 4th of July.

Or his lunch.


Or a specific display at Target.


Or enthusiastic/terrifying/square-pupiled farm animals.


Or…vertigo, I guess? (We still don’t know how he did this.)


And of course, his feet. Always with the feet.





(You can see more of JR’s images here.)

Are you doing something like this with your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas–we’re not sure how much longer that poor iPhone can be subjected to JR’s perpetual case of The Dropsies.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is managing editor of RVAFamily. When she’s not oversharing her parenting struggles and successes, you can find her raising a preschool-aged boy and watching 90s television shows.

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