Play is important to the development of a
child. It nurtures his sense of humor, develops his manual skills,
increasing his self-reliance, and helps him to understand better the
world around him. Playthings of all kinds, even empty cartons, blocks
of wood or cotton reels, have great educational value. To a
photographer of children, toys are tools second only in importance to
the camera. You must regard play as your main ally in gaining the
child's interest and friendliness.
You can succeed with children best by
playing games appropriate to their phase of development. The average
child from a few weeks of age, loves to be talked to or sung to. At
three to six months he enjoys a few simple toys such as rattles and
bells. He likes them to make a loud noise and has a distinct preference
for the basic colors, the brighter the better. Pastel- colored toys are
made with parent-appeal. The child has not yet learned to appreciate
If he still appears to regard you as a
monster, take refuge behind the camera and let a Teddy-bear work for
you. It is sad but true, that a furry, foam-plastic tilled, glass-eyed
representation of a bear-cub will often elicit a quicker response from
the child than the face nature provided you with. Toys come and go,
including replicas of the appurtenances of the Space Age, but dear old
Teddy has come down to us from Victorian times and is still an almost
universal favorite in his traditional shape. Almost, I say, because a
few children have a phobia concerning all fur-covered toys. Some can
even become hysterical at the thought of one touching them. So, even
though the average child will gurgle with delight if a toy dog, or a
bear, appears to talk to him or touches his toes, a watch must be kept
for the slightest sign that the kiddy finds this kind of toy repugnant.
The nine-month-old child loves you to
play Peep-bo from behind the camera. He delights in repetitive games
and seems to gain some satisfaction from the fact that each time a game
is played the result is exactly the same. He will solemnly watch you go
through the play-routine several times, suddenly laughing at the third
or fourth repeat.
As the child reaches his first birthday
he likes to try out his manipulative skills and to satisfy his
curiosity about shapes and textures, colors and sounds. Bricks and pegs
and simple wheeled toys interest him. He will put most toys into his
mouth, so make sure that all the toys in the studio toy cupboard are
hygienic and too large to be swallowed or to get stuck in little
From the second year, play develops the
child's manual skills and sense perception, but even more important,
satisfaction at his increasing dexterity gives him emotional stability.
He will like to demonstrate his skill with a ball now, or look at the
pictures in a book. Ask him to show you the picture of the kitten.
'That's not a Pussy, it's a Bunny,' you say. Your deliberate mistake
will cause him great amusement.
I like to have shelves overflowing with
colorful toys of all kinds, visible to the kiddy when he enters the
studio. Most children are kept in an animated state of anticipation
while I meditate aloud on which toy to take down next from the shelf.
Children who have been used to putting on a demonstration to get what
they want are liable to demand to be given one of the studio toys, and
another, and another, ad infinitum. Such children are not content to
watch toys as you manipulate them. And since you will get nowhere by
transferring each toy from your shelves to the child's hands, only to
be discarded and another demanded, there is nothing for it but to put
all toys out of sight and try a different approach.
Probably the most useful toys in the
studio are puppets of various kinds, glove puppets, string puppets and
animated figures. Skill at manipulating these with one hand while the
other hand holds the camera-release is useful and it is also helpful if
you can design and make novelties of this kind. In these affluent days
this is probably the only way of ensuring that you have novelties that
are unfamiliar to the little folk.
If a child throws every toy down, either
in temper or because he thinks it is amusing to make someone pick them
up, hand him a ball and when he throws it try and catch it. Hand it
back to him and say, 'That's a good game. Throw it again. I'll see if I
can catch it.' He can often be side-tracked in this way into a game
more likely to produce picture opportunities.
Often the most attractive thing to a
child is the camera itself. I have seen small babies stare at my
equipment quite fascinated and many toddlers reach out for it. An old
camera kept as a play-thing is sometimes useful and many toddlers like
to play at 'taking photographs'. Parents sometimes ask if they should
bring a familiar toy to the studio — probably a particular favorite of
the child. Usually I advise against this as we depend to a great extent
on surprise and a child will usually discard its own toys in order to
get hold of one he has not seen before. The unfamiliar is usually more
exciting. In the case of an extremely nervous or cautious child,
however, some confidence might be gained from the presence of a
favorite toy, probably a battered animal and a bed-time companion. Such
toys are alive in the child's imagination and he not only gives them
affection, he also works off some of his frustrations on them. If the
toddler is often at the receiving end of his mother's scolding, the
child in turn will sometimes scold poor old Teddy.
Imaginative play indulged in by the
pre-school child serves an important function as a safety valve. Most
children suffer some frustration and emotional stress at this stage and
make-believe allows them to externalize some of their feelings and in
this way relieve some of the inner pressure. Never ridicule this, but
go along with it. Reality and fantasy are inextricably mixed up in the
child's world and if we are to gain their confidence we must be
prepared to believe, not so much in fairies these days, but in Indians,
and space-men and secret agents — such is the influence of television.
You can use play to overcome resistance.
You can use it to induce the child to do our bidding. If you want him
to take something out of his mouth, to stand up or to sit down, to
crawl, to put his tongue in or to do almost anything that he does not
want to do, your only chance of success is to devise a game, to turn it
all into fun. Get him to do something, to participate in a guessing
competition, to draw pictures, to read a book, to peep, shout, dance,
and sing. Make a game of it all.