Kids love spending time on their devices. And if you’re like most parents, you often feel more than a bit aghast at the gravitational lure of the almighty screen.

But somewhere in the cluster of apps, there’s a little gem of an opportunity just sitting there, possibly neglected: the camera app.

Consider this big thought: Possibly for the first time in modern history, sophisticated photography tools are now in the hands of children. It wasn’t very long ago when the special effect features that are now just a tap and swipe away were limited to professionals with specialized equipment.

Photography is a skill that helps kids develop creativity as well as technical skills. In this increasingly audio-visual world, knowing how to teach and entertain through images and videos could even lead to career opportunities. Not that they’ll become full-time filmmakers, but being skilled and comfortable around a video camera can be a valuable asset for many employers.

Next time you do a project together or have an outing, get the devices out and have them start photographing and filming. Here are some ideas and inspiration to help the kids snap out of the selfie rut:

Photo walk:Kids young and old can get snapping and rolling with something as simple as a photo walk. For the next outing, take along a small toy or stuffed animal and take photos of it in different settings and poses. In the end, print the best images, and bind them together to make a little book or photo album. Even better, they can plan and write a little story around the images, and create a fun keepsake.

Scavenger hunt:Before the next family vacation or day trip, come up with a list of things to look for and photograph during the outing. Challenge them to shoot all 26 letters of the alphabet in signs found around the cityscape, or have them find certain shapes, textures and objects. Whatever the challenge, this will exercise their abilities to observe their surroundings. Afterward, assemble the found images in a scrapbook.

Get close to nature:Kids are in their element when they’re spending time in the great outdoors. Take advantage of this, and their device cameras, and get involved as a family of citizen scientists.Download the free iNaturalist app, and during your next nature hike or trip to the park, start taking pictures of plants, flowers and animals. The images will automatically be downloaded, dated and geo-tagged for researchers to access and analyse, so they can better understand things like the effects of climate trends. Even better, the app can help you get an ID on the flora and fauna recorded by the devices, and you can view what others found and recorded in your neck of the woods. All-around, this is just a unique opportunity to learn more about nature while making a difference.

Stop motion filmmaking:Talk about bringing imagination to life. This style of filmmaking lets kids build a world and tell a story through the magic of animation. Thanks to the convenience of device apps, there’s no need for a fancy camera or expensive software. All they need is a smart device and a willingness to plan and shoot a complete animation sequence. Download a stop-motion animation app, and the next time they build an awesome city out of LEGO Brick sets, it can serve as the perfect setting for the action.

Play with the time:Thanks to slow-motion and time-lapse features found on some smart device cameras, kids can create amazing and artistic short scenes showcasing nature, movement and processes. Do some kitchen sink experiments and film it. Take a time lapse film of ice melting or clouds crossing the sky. Or let them grab a slow-motion capture of baking soda and vinegar foaming over, or of their friends bouncing on the trampoline or swinging on the playground. Keep an eye out for opportunities and encourage them to use those time-lapse features.

Instructional video:Here’s one film project that can help them build and add to those essential foundational skills they can take to school (and apply them toward planning, analysing and writing). When they create something new, whether it was painting a picture, building a ship out of LEGO Bricks or piecing together a pillow fort, have them take out the camera and talk about how they made it. They can explain the steps they took, but they can also talk about what inspired them and how they solved problems that came up along the way.

Photography is an exciting opportunity for your kids to see the world in a new way and document their experiences. You may be surprised by what they come up with!