Travel Gear We Use: Best cameras for small hands

A good camera or HD video device is essential gear for most families traveling today. We agree, and take it one step further: it’s wonderful to put the camera in the hands of a child. Kids become more engaged with their surroundings when they have some control over documenting the trip, and we find our tweens and teens pay better attention on historic site visits or at natural attractions when occasionally looking through the lens of a camera.


This said, it’s not necessary to buy top-of-the-line camera equipment for kids! (Shouldn’t we parents get the good stuff, first?) Here’s what we deem to be the best cameras for kids:

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-860:


Many cameras designed for young kids look like toys. I dislike this, mostly because kids know what the real deal looks like, and want their photography efforts to be taken just as seriously. This is why I love the Olympus Stylus Tough: it’s a real camera with a design that still appeals to kids. It truly is tough, with a rugged shell and shock-proof features. It’s waterproof up to 15 m, as well as crushproof and freezeproof. There’s easy selfie shooting, if you’re into that (your teens might be) and you get built in Wi-Fi, which makes it easy to transfer photos to a smart phone or the IO Share app. The optical zoom is decent at 5x, and I like the image stabilization. And yes, it shoots movies, too. Pick up the Olympus Stylus Tough on Amazon for $248.

NERF Action Camera:


Yes, NERF! HD action cameras are very expensive, and frankly, I’m not shelling out the big bucks until my kids can do something darn noteworthy on their skis or see something pretty amazing while we’re on the go. In the meantime, we’ve been traveling with the NERF Action Camera, which features many of the same assets of the spendy brands without the terror of kids losing it or breaking it. You get a 5.1 MP digital sports camcorder that produces full HD 720p images and has a 4x zoom, much like mom and dad’s. It mounts on a helmet just like that other brand, and comes with a waterproof case. You also get a full touch preview screen, which makes it easy for kids to use on the fly. Our kids have used it while biking and skiing. Pick up the NERF Action Camera for under $60 on Amazon.

Nikon Coolpix L840:


Our eleven-year-old has shown great interest in photography, so this year, we upgraded him to his first DSLR camera. We still didn’t want to break the bank, and we’ve been very happy with his Nikon Coolpix. He gets to learn about manual settings and lenses, and we don’t have to be too fearful of the cost of replacement. The Nikon Coolpix has 38x optical zoom, a low light image sensor, and a tilt LCD display, which makes it easy for a smaller and shorter person to get the correct angle on a shot. And it still takes HD video, too, of course. Pick up the Nikon Coolpix L840 on Amazon for under $200.

iPhone 5 or 6:

Lastly, don’t overlook the photography features on an iPhone. Even an iPhone 5 features an eight megapixel primary camera and 1.2 megapixel rear camera. Tweens and teens usually know more than their parents about photography apps available to make the most of this, and often a phone is already in a kid’s pocket. When younger, our kids aren’t allowed to have a working phone, but we ‘gift’ them with our old phones when we upgrade. They use them as iPods, for music, games, and photography. Given how often upgrades become available, these used phones make for great travel cameras.

What camera does your child use? What do you love–or not love–about it?

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. Much-needed info!

  2. That NERF action camera is pretty cute! Very helpful post.

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