Back in the day when capturing a moment meant deliberately keeping a (film!) camera at the ready, our collections of childhood photos were finite.

Holidays and special occasions got top billing. However, it’s the random candids that stand out in memory- the photos our parents snapped simply because they didn’t want to forget how we once were.

They endure in disorganized (though not bottomless) shoeboxes, and neatly arranged in gold embossed photo albums.

These days, there are few moments that pass by without someone whipping out a phone to capture it. And with the ease of snapping, comes an overwhelming volume of output.

But how many of these files are we ever going to print, let alone look at ever again? What are the chances we’ll haul out dusty hard drives and even have the ability to see what’s on them? 

It stands to reason we’d all benefit from capturing these fleeting moments more thoughtfully. Approach the photographing of childhood less like the paparazzi, and more like a documentarian.

Here are 27  shots that you (and your kids) will love to look back on.

 1. Newborn feet 

infant toes wrapped in blue blanket

Listen, they’re not going to be that cute forever. (Or look even remotely as miraculous and amazing for long.)

 2. First birthday cake smash 

baby with hands in birthday cake

There are few times in a person’s life when going elbows deep into a pile of frosting is going to be deemed acceptable. Make this one count.

 3. Less than Sunday best 

Sure, they look fantastic when they’re all dressed up. But the true representation of childhood? They’re often a hot mess. Snap a few of the less than shiny days.

 4. First bike 

little girl on bike with training wheels

This photo is as much for you as it is for them. Do you remember the sheer awesomeness of your first bike? Chances are you remember it in detail whether you have a photo of it or not. (And if you don’t, I’m sure you wish you did.)

 5. Bathtime mohawk 

little girl laying in bathtub

A classic.

 6. Favorite lovey 

sleeping little girl clutching mouse

There’s always going to be something they refuse to sleep/eat/leave the house without. Whether it’s for a matter of weeks, or years, looking back on the things that really mattered to them is about as nostalgic as it gets.

 7. Candid interactions with friends 

two little girls hugging

There is really nothing sweeter than two small people interacting with each other. (Well, except for the times they’re clubbing each other in the head with toys or screaming about who had what first.) And what better fodder for their future #TBT posts than photographic evidence of their squad from back in the day?

 8. Bedtime reading 

two kids reading bedtime stories

Bedtime is often overlooked as a time worth documenting. Likely because anything that potentially slows down the process seems like sabotage. However, a photo to recall the cozy snuggles is worth the risk.

 9. Hand holding 

dad and toddler hands

Because one day you’re going to realize you can’t remember the last time they spontaneously held your hand. And you’ll be the awkward person crying on the elevator.

 10. Favorite spots 

silhouette of kid on swing

That little rickety dock they fished off at the lake each summer, the rope swing at the local apple orchard, the biggest rock in the park that played everything from spaceship to castle. Think of the little places that seem so much a part of now. As time goes by, their memory weaves itself into the fabric of a childhood.

 13. Little person, big world 

kid in field at a distance

It doesn’t always have to be a close up. Collect some images that convey just how big their world once seemed.

 14. Tantrum 

toddler in a tutu having a tantrum

They aren’t always in top form. In fact, they’re often NOT in top form. Keep it real.

 15. Sleeping in unusual places 

sleeping baby

Because napping doesn’t always happen at the most convenient times and some kids can sleep anywhere. (This could be a series that lasts a lifetime, truthfully.)

 16. That silly thing that only they do 

toddler helping in the kitchen with headphones

Maybe it’s their patented scowl, or their insistence on wearing sound canceling headphones to make smoothies. Whatever it is, photograph it.

 17. Eating things. Messily. 

toddler eating messy popsicle

Because they’re going to outgrow it. Hopefully.

 18. Being brave 

Collect photos that empower them. Everyone likes to look back and realize they’ve always been a badass.

 19. At the beach 

little girl with sand pail at the beach

Especially that first time they see the ocean. And refuse to touch the sand with their actual body. (Or insist on being up to their neck in it. Depends on the kid, I suppose.)

 20. Making a mess 

kids making a mess in playroom

Lots of opportunity for this one. Legend has it, you miss these days when they’re over.

 21. Sick day 

sick toddler with crackers

If someone tried to take my photo the last time I was sick, I’d have summoned every ounce of strength I didn’t know I had and roundhoused that phone right out of their inconsiderate hand. That’s because I’m an adult. However, when our kids are sick, it’s often supremely sweet.

 22. Doing their thing (cooking, art, sports) 

little girl singing and playing ukulele

Sometimes, it’s easy to see from day one what a kid was simply born to do. These will come in handy when compiling the photo montage for their episode of “Behind the Music” or their their first James Beard Award Ceremony.

 23. Crying 

toddler crying in snow

Because it’s not always sunshine and roses. You may have to take this in stealth mode as to not escalate the already devastating situation, but it could end up a family favorite.

 24. New trick 

little girl blowing a bubble

They won’t even protest this one. In fact, they may ask you take to 400.

 25. Crazy dressed 

little girl in purple tutu

Sometimes you can’t leave the house unless you’re wearing a tutu. Or a cape. Or underwear on your head.

 26. With people who are special to them 


We always snag photos of the kids with the usual suspects. Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles. But there are plenty of people who have a real impact on relatively small swaths of life. Librarians and teachers, nurses and shopkeepers. Take photos that spark memories of those we love all too briefly.

 27. Know when the scene is ripe for a posed photo. 


Sometimes, it just can’t be helped. (Here are my rules: Not too busy, interesting textures, pops of color.)