Microscope for kids

Best Microscope For Kids

What is the best microscope for kids? I wrote about this recently, but maybe I was wrong. I said to buy a microscope with at least a 40x objective. I also said to buy a microscope that is powerful enough to provide years of pleasure. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Should you really be that concerned about the objectives and lighting if you just want to buy an educational gift for a 5 year old? You know … I don’t think so. I reckon if a 5 year old is showing an enquiring mind, go ahead and buy them a cheap one for their birthday.

Is A Toy Microscope Any Good?

A toy microscope is only a very basic instrument. You can see some interesting things with it, but don’t expect too much from it. It’s going to have blurry images. It’s going to be made of plastic. It’s going to use a mirror instead of electric lighting. It’s going to be $50. For a microscope, that’s cheap! Microscopes are sophisticated instruments. They are just more expensive than other things. It’s the way it is.

I would only buy a very cheap microscope for kids under 7 years old. If they’re older than that, I would rather spend a little more money (maybe share the cost of the gift with someone else), and buy them a beginner microscope. It’s going to be much clearer and more powerful. They will be able to see more interesting things like red blood cells and microscopic organisms. However, it’s probably going to be too sophisticated for a 5 year old to manipulate. So it depends on the child and your judgment of their abilities.

Is A Microscope A Good Gift For A Child?

microscope gift
Should I buy a microscope for little Becky?

Believe it or not, not all children are into microscopes. Many are more interested in being active than looking at microscopic bugs. I think you just have to use your judgment about whether a microscope is a good gift for the child you have in mind. What else can you do?

I’ll say one more thing about whether a microscope is good gift for a child: if it’s a choice between a microscope (even a toy microscope) or a kids Android tablet (you know those Apad things), get the microscope! Too many kids are addicted to games these days. Be a force for positive change in their lives.

I would definitely buy some professionally prepared slides with the microscope. Prepared slides are cheap, and the child will be able to see cells and interesting specimens much more clearly than their own preparations. They’ll have something interesting to look at straight away, until they get the hang of it and learn how to prepare their own slides.

Best Microscope For 7 Year Old And Under

For most very young children I would get an AmScope microscope for kids. It’s a very basic microscope, meant for young children. It’s not great quality. It is a super simple microscope that you can use to get a blurry magnification with.

I looked at some of the images in the customer reviews (images that buyers have taken of specimens through the microscope eyepiece) and they were surprisingly good for such a low magnification microscope. If you take a look, you’ll see some images of tiny brine shrimp (Sea Monkeys) and plant cells. A magnified tick is in there as well.

The images are blurry, but honestly, I expected worse. This is a microscope for little kids. If they’re the right kind of children, you’ll light a fire in their imaginations. That’s what a microscope like this is for. It’s no good buying them a microscope they can’t use independently. Get them something they can play with by themselves.

Magnification

You can switch between the objectives and it looks like you can change a control dial on the eyepiece to get a total magnification from 120x – 1200x. The highest objective magnification looks like 30x.

Lighting

It comes with a mirror and a LED light. The reviews say the LED light is very bright. Probably brighter than you need for 30x objective magnification. It’s okay, you don’t need to shine the light directly onto the slide. You can turn it a little away to decrease the light.

Focus Controls

Typical of toy microscopes, it has only a coarse focus control. It’s all that’s needed because you’re not getting a high magnification, and it’s quite blurry, so you don’t need such precision focus.

Accessories

It comes with some prepared slides, which is very nice. It also comes with a brine shrimp kit. It has a nice carrying case to pack it away in, so you won’t have bits and pieces lying around the house … hmmm, actually maybe you will. I have nephews, so I know.

Best Microscope For Older Kids

For a little more than the price of the toy microscope for kids under 7 years old, you can buy an AmScope beginner microscope. It’s also only a basic instrument, but it is vastly more powerful than the toy microscope! It’s a whole different level of power. In fact, you may find that adults in the household are just as interested in this microscope as the kids are.

This is the type of microscope I recommended you get in a previous post on buying your first microscope. The thing I realized is that very few children under 7 are going to be able to use this. Even over 7 years old, I’m sure they’ll need you to help them with it. As they get older, they’ll probably do more with it than you can! The nice thing about this microscope is that it will give them years of pleasure. It’s a fairly powerful microscope.

Objective Magnification

It has 3 objectives: 4x, 10x and 40x. This is very standard on a beginner microscope. I owned a similar microscope in the past. I’ve upgraded to a much more powerful instrument. I took some photographs through the similar microscope I owned. I just held a cheap snapshot camera by hand over the eyepiece. As you can see, you can observe some interesting things through a 40x objective and a 10x eyepiece (400x total magnification).

400x blood under microscope
You can see individual red blood cells under a microscope at 400x magnification.
400x magnification of plant cells under a microscope
Plant cells under a microscope that have been magnified 400x times.

You can upgrade to a 100x oil immersion objective quite cheaply at a later stage. I’ve seen AmScope selling one for I think about $25. It will provide much higher magnification.

Type of Objectives

It has standard achromatic objectives. Even a single planachromatic objective will cost more than this whole microscope. Achromatic objectives are fine.

I also see that the objective lenses are glass, not plastic. This is good to know. Many cheap microscopes keep their cost down by using plastic lenses, which are usually (but not always) quite blurry.

Eyepiece Magnification

It comes with 2 eyepieces: 10x and 25x. 10x is standard, and the 25x is just a bonus. I think you’ll mostly make use of the 10x eyepiece. As I explained in my post on how compound microscope parts work, the microscopic detail comes from the objective magnification, not the eyepiece magnification.

Lighting

The microscope has a LED illumination system. It has an adjustable diaphragm which you can control the light field that illuminates the slide. It can be connected to a power outlet or to batteries. So it’s mobile. Nice for field trips.

A number of reviewers have said that at the highest magnification, the LED light was not very bright. A few said it was too dark to see anything. Most said it was just a little dim, but still bright enough.

If you find that the light is too dim, I would just buy a brighter light source. I suspect that you won’t have much trouble. Just make sure you have the light turned to it’s brightest, and you’ve opened the diaphragm to it’s maximum. I wonder if some of the reviewers were getting such poor lighting because they didn’t know they could open the diaphragm.

Build Quality

The build quality looks good, but I noticed a few negative reviews about the LED light dying. It can happen. My experience with AmScope customer service has been good. I would be surprised if you had any trouble getting a replacement bulb for free from AmScope if it dies within a couple of weeks of buying it. If it dies at a later time, a replacement bulb is cheap.

Stage

I noticed that this microscope does not have a mechanical stage. That’s not surprising for such a cheap microscope. A mechanical stage will add a lot of cost to the microscope.

A mechanical stage has controls that you can move the slide around with. Up and down, left and right, forwards and backwards. The stage on this microscope can only move up and down. You have to move the slide left and right, and forwards and backwards with your fingers. You know when you get those microscopic life videos on YouTube? The ones where the view is shifting around? It’s a mechanical stage that makes that possible. You won’t have that.

Summary

The toy microscope for kids is great for children under 7 years old. It will make a unique and interesting gift for a kid. They could have a lot of fun and learning with it.

The beginner microscope for 7 years old and over … all the way into adulthood really, is incredibly cheap for a microscope of this power! It would be nicer to have a brighter LED, and to have a mechanical stage, but then it would cost a lot more. I think it’s a fantastic microscope. It’s got really good magnification. Looking at the images in the customer reviews, I think it will provide years of experience and fun.

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