Aren’t kids the most curious creatures? Their minds are always hungry for information, and science is one of the best avenues for them to satisfy that craving. Science allows them to foster imagination and creativity, which makes it easy to understand the world they live in.
If you happen to be in search of an incredible gift for your child, a microscope is a good option. It’s both fun and educational. Microscopes are easy to use instruments, and the right one will be both robust and intriguing.
My mom bought a microscope for my preschooler last Christmas, and you wouldn’t believe how much time they spend observing things. She likes it so much that I decided to get one for her brother since he also wanted in on the action.
This article is going to cover the important aspects you need to consider and how to pick the best microscope. Beyond that, I’ve listed some recommendations for the best ones out there, for toddlers through to teens.
How to Choose the Right Microscope for Your Little Scientist
Regardless of age, simplicity and durability are two important factors you should consider for a kids microscope. It should encourage exploration and motivate their imagination too. The features and accessories it comes with can make a world of difference.
Light microscopes have two key components, which are the eyepiece lens and the objective lens. When the power of the eyepiece lens is multiplied by the power of the objective lens, you receive the total magnification number.
1. Compound vs Stereo Microscopes
Microscopes fall into two categories, which are compound (high power microscopes), and stereo (low power or dissecting microscopes) (1).
High power is more popular for professionals, hobbyists, and kids alike because they make it possible to view tiny details on specimens. This means bacteria, pond critters, water organisms, or even blood. This translates into an exciting experience for users (2).
Compound microscopes can be either monocular (one eyepiece), binocular (two eyepieces), or trinocular (two eyepieces and a trinocular port). Monocular microscopes usually come with a total of 1000x magnification. Any more than that and you need a binocular or trinocular (trinocular ports are essential for microphotography).
Binocular scopes are easier to use for most, though monocular scopes are preferred for young kids. Prices also overlap as monocular are least expensive with trinocular getting the large share. Monocular microscopes lack the mechanical stage needed for sophisticated applications, which you’ll get with binocular and trinocular.
Stereo microscopes are used to view larger substantial items, such as rocks, bugs, leaves, coins, etc. Typically, these microscopes are binocular and provide three-dimensional images of the specimens. They fall in two dimensions, which are dual power and zoom.
“Dual” means two magnification powers, for instance, 20x and 40x. “Zoom” means continuous from the lowest to the highest power, for instance, from 6.5x to 45x. Stereo microscopes could also feature trinocular ports for photographic purposes.
2. Digital Microscopes
Digital microscopes could be compound or stereo, but they can capture video images (3). You can use an external monitor to display the captured images for better observation. This could make a great option for group discussions among kids as the onscreen display provides an interactive experience.
3. Age, Interest, and Ease of Use
Before you spend too much on a microscope, consider the likelihood of the child using it. For a child under the age of 10, a compound microscope may be too complex for them to use unsupervised. It’s still suitable, but they’ll occasionally need help with glass slides and all.
Young kids like toddlers and preschoolers are more likely to be interested in large objects than in microbiology. This makes a stereo microscope better in that regard. Middle school kids, on the other hand, are mature enough to prepare their own specimen and glass slides.
This makes compound microscopes a better option. At this age, they already have an interest in better understanding the intricate makings of large specimens. Besides that, they’ll have exciting science projects to explore and it’s easier for them to have fun on their own.
Features to Look For
There are many features you should look for in a microscope. Some things like the focus wheel, magnification, and resolution are important.
1. Magnification and Resolution
Higher does not necessarily mean better. The quality might decrease the more you zoom in, which will leave you with a blurred image that’s not much help. The lens should increase detail, quality, and resolution as you zoom in.
2. Fine Focus
A fine focus is especially important for students as it allows them to change the depth of vision within their specimens.
3. Build Quality
Microscope frames come in either plastic or metal. Regardless of age, you want something durable so metal with minimal plastic is always better.
Adjustable pieces make viewing in different dimensions more exciting. However, pieces that need to be removed and adjusted manually can be downright annoying if nothing else. Younger kids should also not use these are they’re easy to lose.
5. Light Source
A microscope could either feature a built-in light source or a mirror that outsources light from the surroundings. The importance of light is to provide detailed, clear, and high-quality images. You could either get LED, halogen or fluorescent light.
Different products will come with various accessories such as slides, tools, replacement bulbs, specimen storage, and even activity or instruction books.
For younger kids, most accessories won’t be necessary. For older children though, the more options for exploring, the better.
The Best Kids Microscopes of 2020
Given the sheer variety of microscopes on the market, finding the right one for a kid can be hard. However, these in-depth reviews of some of the best microscopes may help you make an informed decision.
1. Digital Mini USB Microscope
This digital microscope has a powerful 0x to 1000x magnification. This offers your child the chance to explore a fascinating microworld. It features eight high-quality LED lights that offer adjustable illumination, which is awesome.
The USB is a type-C that’s compatible with multiple devices such as smartphones, PC, laptops, and multiple operating systems. The frame is metallic with some plastic parts, which make it durable enough for clumsy kids.
What you might like about it is the key focus function, which can take photographs with just a touch of a button. The 30MP camera is also a great addition and for the price, this might be really worth it.
- Adjustable LED illumination.
- Intelligent focus function.
- Multiple operating systems and devices.
- Tripod included.
- No storage case.
2. Plugable USB 2.0 Microscope
Digital microscopes are some of the best inventions yet, and for some good reasons. They’re incredibly efficient and downright useful. This digital USB microscope is a good option for kids for their classroom explorations and fun experiments.
The frame is a rugged durable plastic that features a 4-foot cable and a 2.0 USB interface. The magnification range goes from 0x to 250x. One of the best parts about it is that it features a flexible stand for lower magnifications.
It can be held by hand for point-and-click inspection and can be placed directly on subjects for high-resolution magnifications. It comes with four LED dimmable lights, a CMOS sensor, and an easy-to-use controller.
- Flexible stand.
- Compatible with multiple operating systems.
- Long cable.
- Quick start guide included.
- Maximum resolution not that high.
3. AmScope Cordless LED Microscope
Students who are already familiar with science projects will have a field day with this one. With a durable metallic frame, you can be sure that they’ll be using it for a long time. It features a 360-degree rotatable monocular head that’ll make viewing in different magnifications a lot easier.
With five different magnification settings that go from 40x to 1000x, it’s ideal for tweens that want questions answered. The optical glass elements feature a single lens condenser that has a disc diaphragm.
It comes with an LED illumination system that could either use three AA batteries or an outlet (adaptor included).
- Sturdy metallic frame.
- 360-degree monocular head.
- LED illumination.
- Works well with batteries.
- Some mention poor customer service.
4. AmScope Assorted Glass Slides
This slide set comes with 25 pieces of prepared glass slides of variable specimens including animals, plants, and insect tissues. These samples are well preserved in cedar wood oil then sealed to prevent contamination.
All the slides are labeled for easy identification. They come with optical glass to make viewing easy, and they come with a storage case for safe keeping.
Kids will discover so many things they may not be able to find at home with these clear slides. They may want to show them off to friends, which will encourage group learning and interaction.
- Already prepared with specimens.
- Storage case.
- Slides may be contaminated, disrupting focus.
5. Kidzlane Microscope Science Toy
This small but epic microscope is the ultimate toy for your toddler. It comes with several accessories that include a petri dish, tweezers, pretend lizard and spider specimens, and more.
Featuring an 8x magnification, it’s intriguing enough for small minds without overwhelming them. It’ll develop their motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination as they familiarize themselves with the world of science.
The fake specimens take things up a few notches, but your child will definitely find other objects around to observe. The focus wheel is easy to turn, and the large soft frame eyecups make viewing comfortable for kids this age. An illuminating flashlight is included for help in viewing.
The frame is made of durable and sturdy plastic, and it comes in a funny monkey design. Included is a guide and activity book that’ll stimulate activities. It’s listed for 3 years and above, but it’s easy for toddlers to use with some adult assistance.
- Accessories included.
- Guide book included.
- Soft frame eyecups.
- Whimsical monkey design.
- Toddlers may soon outgrow it.
6. OMAX Digital Microscope
With up to 2000x magnification, teenagers can use this for years to come, so it’s a good investment. It actually features eight levels that go from 40x to 2000x, with 5x, 10x, 40x, and 100x objectives.
It comes with fine and coaxial coarse focus knobs and an ergonomic design for ease of use. The LED illumination light is variable as the intensity can be adjusted depending on the specimen.
The mechanical stage is double layered to offer students full movement during the scanning process. It also makes centering easier because they don’t need to keep moving the clips. It features a 1.3MP camera and is compatible with Mac and Windows.
- Fine and coaxial focus knobs.
- High magnification of up to 2000x.
- Variable illumination.
- Offers full movement.
- Not budget-friendly.
7. My First Lab Duo-Scope
If you’re just introducing your child to the invisible world of wonder, this might make a perfect STEM activity microscope. It’s the kind of tool your budding scientist needs to unravel all the things that intrigue their minds. Suitable starting from 9 years of age.
With dual lenses, it’s a two-in-one compound and stereo microscope that allows them to view both slides and large items. The frame construction is metallic and it features a stage and clips. It comes with built-in dual cool LED illumination.
Featuring 50 accessories that go from prepared slides to a test tube and petri dish, experiments will be endless. It comes with an instruction manual that includes an experiment guide to encourage exploration and easy usage. Even better, with three AA batteries (not included), you can use it anywhere.
- Dual scope.
- A wide array of accessories.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Kids may still need assistance.
8. Educational Insights Nancy B’s Microscope
This is just the instrument to zoom in on if you’re on a budget. It’s a two-in-one light and dissecting microscope that offers up-close views of 30x, 100x, and 400x resolutions.
Designed for children over the age of 8 years, this tool comes with 26 pieces that go from tweezers to specimen collectors. It features two LED lights. The child can examine cells, view critters in water, and even observe bugs using the same microscope.
It comes with a keepsake journal, which features 22 pages of science experiments and activities. They can indulge themselves as soon as they receive it. They’ll be introduced to an actual science tool, and not just a toy.
- Dual scope.
- Accessories included.
- Activity journal included.
- Higher magnifications might be blurry.
9. GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope
Packed with photo-quality images and indulgent fun-filled audio, this toy might make an incredible gift for a preschooler. With 5x magnification and focus-free dual eyepieces, it’ll easily introduce your 4-year-old child to a whole new world.
The image slides are quite realistic and kids can slide them in just like real specimens. They’ll look while listening to get a better understanding. Once they’re done observing, they can switch it to quiz mode for a recall session.
It makes a good educational tool as they develop academic skills and prepare for school. Included are 20 slides with more than 100 facts and interactive questions. The microscope incorporates a storage unit for these slides, making clean-up a breeze.
- Multilingual audio (four different languages).
- Two modes: fact and quiz.
- Operates with batteries.
- Comfortable eyepieces.
- Operates more like a viewer.
10. Carson MicroBrite Plus Microscope
This microscope is a marvel. Tiny, yet powerful enough for kids to explore to their heart’s content. It’s lightweight, compact, and definitely portable.
It features LED illumination and features an internal aspheric lens system. The light rays that go through it converge at one single focal point. This makes the images clearer and distortion-free.
With 60x to 120x magnification, the focal distance is quite short. This means that the specimen needs to be placed directly beneath the lens for optimal viewing.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Aspheric lens system.
- LED illumination.
- The maximum resolution is low.
Made a Decision?
Already have an idea of the best microscope for that little scientist? These are some of the best you’ll find on the market. However, there are tons more available and it all comes down to you.
Our favorite is the Digital Mini USB Microscope. It ticks most of the boxes and comes with a high resolution. Even better than that, it comes at a reasonable price compared to other large and intricate microscopes.
Leave us a note in the comment section with your thoughts, and maybe a recommendation as well. It’ll be highly appreciated, and we’ll get back to you.