It's relatively common for kids to want to use a camera and take pictures. Nervous parents may have some reservations about letting kids handle something so expensive, but there are plenty of kid-friendly cameras on the market today.
We won't get into specific camera recommendations (this guide would become out of date very quickly). Instead, let's focus on features that are especially kid-friendly.
1. Body Type
Point-and-shoot type cameras have fixed lenses. If kids can't remove the lens, they can't lose it, drop it, break it or get anything inside the camera.
2. Shooting Modes
By having preset shooting modes (such as portrait, landscape, sunset, etc.) kids can easily match the shooting mode to the situation.
3. Image Stabilization (IS)
Having IS means getting sharper pictures, even from unsteady hands.
4. Automatic Face Detection
The most popular type of photographic subject is people. Automatic face detection means the camera will be more likely to lock focus on the right subject.
Our kids are growing up in the YouTube generation, where everyone can make and post their own videos so having this capability built-in is a plus.
6. Shock Resistant
Face it, kids drop things. They aren't nearly as careful with things as we might like them to be. Cameras rated as being shock resistant have been tested by dropping the camera from a predetermined height (usually 6 feet) onto a hard surface (such as concrete). This makes them pretty hard to kids to break.
Cameras rated as being waterproof can be submerged (usually 10 feet or more) and can even take pictures underwater. Definitely no need to worry about the weather or the ocassional splash. Many also float.
Cameras listed as being freezeproof have been tested and found to operate normally at temperatures below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), sometimes far below.
As a rule, if a camera is waterproof it will also be dustproof. There may be some models of camera that list themselves as being dustproof, but not waterproof. Such cameras may also claim to be splashproof or water resistant, but are not rated for submersion.
Being rated as crushproof means that kids could step on or even ride their bikes over the camera with minimal risk of damaging it. It does not mean that the camera is 100% indestructable.
11. Not a Toy
If you are buying a camera for your kids because they have an interest in photography, or you hope they will develop one, it has to be a serious camera that can actually take good pictures. It should also be something they can grow with. If they outgrow it in a year or two, you and your kids will both end up feeling frustrated.