Photo albums have two jobs. They help us both reminisce and to celebrate. They are one of those items we love to plan, create and look through to both reminisce or celebrate special occasions, such as big birthday parties, weddings, once in a lifetime holidays, and other major family events. But we tend to make them for ourselves or other adult relatives to look back on their past or re-create a special time.

However, photo albums are really important for children too, and starting their love for photos when they are young can bring a lifetime of joy. We just need to think about them, and design them slightly differently when our audience is a child. Think about designing a “storybook” album for them, so think about how children’s picture storybooks are laid out; they are very simple, with few details, so try and choose photos with not too much going on, maybe one or two main subjects, and don’t create complicated pages with lots of photos on them. This is particularly important if you want a particular photo to hold their attention.

There are many reasons photo albums are important for children, and I want to share 9 of them with you in today’s blog.

1. Helps with their imagination. Do you remember the many hours you spent as a child going through photos and photo albums, either on your own, making up stories, or with someone giving you a commentary on what was happening? 

Wasn’t it just magical, that those photos just seemed to come to life? If it was a photo of an event you were at, you could remember smells and noises from the time. Don’t you want the next generation to be able to share those types of amazing moments?

2. Is an easier way to share photos. One of the issues we are faced with now, is that we take hundreds and hundreds of photos, so many more that we did before digital cameras, as they are free and easy to take, but we have considerably fewer physical photos to look at. Normally after we take photos, we store them on a computer and maybe share them on social media, but they’re not often looked at more than once. 

So how, if indeed they are, will photos be passed down the generations? As files on a hard drive, as a USB stick, or whatever is the preferred form of digital storage at the time? And will old formats still be readable, what if they get damaged, and instead of losing a few photos as you may in a physical album, you lose thousands. Will future generations get the same enjoyment of flicking through old photos as we and previous generations have?

3. Helps them reminisce. When do we bring out old photos ourselves? When we want to relive a particular event or reminisce about “the old times”. When friends come around and we want something to start a conversation? When we are relaxing with a glass of wine? The same love affair with photos and happy feelings brought about by photos can be created in our children. So, reminiscing about the last holiday before we can go on the next one, is one of the next best things to going again. 

We can almost instantly transport ourselves back there, and children have better imaginations than us, so it can have a greater impact. Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a physical album of treasured memories to bring out and leaf through, rather than having to scroll through photos on your phone or Facebook. Somehow the printed medium has a greater impression than the digital.

4. Helps keep “experiences” alive. We are now in a world where experiences are starting to be valued over things, and what better way to be able to re-live an experience over and over again, than by having a photo album to look through with your children. This is particularly applicable to experiences children have as a baby, toddler or young child, as they may have difficulty remembering them without the aid of pictures. Most people who look at a photo will find that our minds are incredibly clever in that the event becomes so clear, that you aren’t sure whether you were actually at the event or simply recalling it through repetitive viewing of photos of it. This shows the power of photos in aiding memory.

5. Helps recognition of family and friends who aren’t often seen face to face. For babies, photo albums can be a way to help them recognise relatives that don’t live close by, so aren’t constantly in their lives. Although maybe initially babies recognise voices rather than using sight, as they are born with blurry vision, over time they start to use this sense. Usually between 6 and 9 months old babies can recognise people they see once a week, although if they see people on a daily basis they may recognise them sooner. It is wonderful for a person who is sad that they can’t spend so much time with a niece, nephew or grandchild, when that baby seems to recognise them. Photos could also help toddlers learn the names of relatives and family friends. My husband’s family live in Australia, and we have used photos to help my son get to know them better. Just this weekend my husband turned round to me and said have you been teaching him their names as he’d been looking at our family photos and when our son saw images of his grandparents he was able to correctly name them.

For toddlers or older children who grow up a long way away from other family members, it also can be a way of feeling closer, or remembering fun times and events, to make the time between meetings and the distance seem less. We can recall events and episodes that we had forgotten, and they bring us joy a second, third or more times. The photos come back to life and we can hear the voices of the people and imagine the smells of the scenes.

6. Helps young children understand growing up. Toddlers and children don’t believe the babies in photos are them, they think it is a baby they know, as they don’t remember being a baby, so it is an interesting realisation for them when they are old enough to understand they were once small. Toddlers usually start to recognise themselves in a mirror or photo at about 2 years old when they start to develop their sense of self. Young children don’t associate themselves with once having been a baby. As they don’t consciously remember being that little, they believe they never were. Children’s concept of time is very limited until they start school, and they really only understand order, such as doing something before something else, or after it. Children also don’t believe that adults were ever children themselves, that their parents were once the same age as they are now, or that their grandparents were once young. It puts a whole new perspective on life for them, when they see photos from many years ago and eventually are able to believe that the young people in the photo are now older.

7. Helps them learn about previous generations. Sadly, some children won’t ever meet or remember their grandparents, so it is a way of connecting with that generation and allows children to understand that their parents also had parents. Children can also realise that their parents were once young themselves and can sometimes see similarities between them and their parents when they were children themselves. This can be a very interesting conversation, which can evolve into the hobbies parents had as children compared to their children, or their likes and dislikes.

8. Helps them relate facts they learn to real life. Looking at photos can also allow children to realise that things they may read about in books or talk about at school weren’t that long ago, as they were in parents’ or grandparents’ lifetimes. And children can learn to appreciate how life has evolved. For example, how cars or fashion have changed, and that mobile phones weren’t commonplace until the early 2000s!

9. Helps bring generations closer. Photo albums can bring generations closer together by talking about what life was like and comparing it to now. For example, what it was like when we were children compared to our children’s lives; and pictures are really useful in helping our children believe us, as they don’t believe that things can have changed that much. They can’t imagine a life different to the one they are growing up in. I remember learning about World War II with my grandparents. It was a really bonding experience looking at photos together, as they told me about, and showed me pictures of the war and their roles in it. The photos often even worked as prompts for the stories they told me. Maybe you have some similar memories?

I hope you have enjoyed reading about why creating photo albums specifically for babies, toddlers and children can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

From choosing the photos and layout to use in creating your storybook, to sharing the album with both the audience it has been designed for, and the subjects that are in it, albums can bring so much joy!

And remember, when creating an album for a young child, to create it with them in mind. It can be really fun to turn it into a story, rather than just an album. Soon I’ll sharing how to make a story book for your child so remember to check back at the And Other Memories blog for our How To!