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This Momma is in a hurry, just tell me which microscope is the best already!
The Omano Juniorscope is our favorite product for the price range we reviewed. It’s the best microscope for kids, and will likely last for quite a while, giving your child the opportunity to grow with it. It’s dual function, with the ability to look at a wide range of items whether they are three-dimensional objects or microscopic cells on slides.
An introductory microscope is an excellent scientific learning tool for kids. Nearly all children are fascinated by being able to see minute details of everyday objects enlarge, or tiny things they could never see with the naked eye. Shopping for a microscope can be complicated if you aren’t familiar with them, though. Where do you even start?
In researching microscopes for Kids, we had the same question. Here’s what we learned to look for, followed by a review of a couple of microscopes kids seem to really love. We hope this helps you as you search!
Note: There are some wonderful, inexpensive, handheld microscopes available for very young children these days! They are considered pocket microscopes, and if your little one is younger than seven or eight and likes to explore the backyard and just needs something to carry around with them as they explore, these are a great beginner option!
However, we haven’t included those options here because most people looking for microscopes are looking for the “real” thing, meaning the traditional type of microscope.
6 Things to Consider When finding the best Microscope for Kids
Magnification vs. Resolution
Most microscopes magnify things from 40 times to 1,000 times. Anything below about 120x is pretty low, although it may be beneficial for a beginner. Any manufacturer who advertises above 1,000 is not accounting for resolution. You will be able to magnify your view, but you likely won’t be able to tell what you are looking at because it’s really magnified too much at that amount.
Although magnification is an important aspect, many people say that resolution is even more important. Resolution really refers to the clarity of the magnified object, and most agree that making a blurry image bigger doesn’t do a whole lot to help you see the object better. It wasn’t as easy to find “resolution” in a measurable number, though. We found that looking for reviews that talked about the blurriness or clarity at each size was the best way to measure that when looking at these microscopes (although there is a more scientific way to do it).
Glass vs. Plastic Lenses
You may think, “This is a microscope for a child. Plastic is safer.” However, glass lenses are really important in how the microscope works. Plastic just can’t reflect and provide quality, clear magnification in the same way glass can. Always choose glass if you can.
And do yourself a favor: don’t buy a cheap plastic kids’ “toy” microscope. The view will be unclear and frustrating, and not give your child a good understanding of how a good microscope works. Save up and get a good one that will last a while. It’s a great investment.
A compound microscope has several choices of magnification strength. They’re attached under the single eyepiece and can be rotated to change the magnification. The choice in magnification is nice, but the objects do appear to be more two-dimensional. You’d use this kind of microscope to view objects on a prepared slide.
Stereo or dual microscopes have two eyepieces, like a set of binoculars, which makes objects viewable at a three-dimensional level. These are typically a lower-powered, but they work well for bigger objects like rocks, shells, and even bugs.
Some microscopes have accessories compatible with smartphones, and others have accessories and connecting capabilities that work with tablets, computers, and/or laptops. A few also come with their own enlarged digital display rather than the traditional eyepieces. Although this may limit some clarity dependant on the display capabilities of the technology paired with it, these options are really helpful for taking pictures, manipulating the images captured, and sharing discoveries with friends, family, and teachers.
Light and Power Source
Original microscopes used only the power of mirrors to light the slides and specimens. There are still some of those around, although these versions are more complicated for young children (and many adults) to manipulate properly and use. A very important consideration for many looking to buy electronic microscopes is the power and light sources. Battery operated microscopes are great if you need them to be portable, but they can be very inconvenient when it comes to keeping a supply of batteries available. Microscopes that plug in are more economic as far as that goes, but you can’t necessarily transport them as easily or use them outdoors. It might be easiest to get one that can be operated either way. Another issue to consider is the light source. As mentioned above, there are those which use mirrors, but there are also some with two sets of electric lights. Lights below are used to inspecting slides and lights from above are used for looking at larger specimens.
Some of these lights are LED, and this is the most highly recommended because it doesn’t get as hot as other lights. This keeps the specimens and slides in better shape since heat can be destructive to sensitive samples.
Microscopes can come with prepared slides, blank slides, or both. They may also come with some of the solutions needed to prepare slides and care for the microscope and lenses. Some come in cases, and others come without but have slipcovers. Accessories are important, and the more things you find that come with the microscope, the easier it may be to use it right out of the packaging.
- UNLIKE CHEAPER IMITATIONS WITH blurry plastic lenses, the JuniorScope microscope for kids features PREMIUM-GRADE GLASS objective lenses that let you see in CRYSTAL CLEAR DETAIL. Zoom in with clarity with three magnification levels, including 40x, 100x, and 400x.
- THE JUNIORSCOPE IS TWO MICROSCOPES IN ONE, you get a LOW POWER microscope for looking at SOLID OBJECTS like leaves and insects AND a HIGH POWER microscope for looking at TRANSPARENT OBJECTS like blood cells and bacteria.
- EVERY MICROSCOPE KIT COMES WITH the “The Amazing Microscope Adventures” experiments set ($18.99 value) so children and students can learn how to use a microscope and perform their own experiments. This ULTIMATE KIDS SCIENCE KIT also includes a petri dish, stains, forceps, dropper, test tube, slides, guides and much more.
- A GREAT GIFT TO TEACH kids about science while building STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. This children’s microscope with the 8 included experiments set helps INSPIRE kids through STEM learning.
- THE FLEXIBILITY TO TAKE YOUR EXPERIMENTS anywhere with this PORTABLE kid’s microscope with BATTERY POWERED functionality. Great for backyard DIY experiments or classroom events, these kid-friendly microscopes feature DIMMABLE LED lighting for easier visual identification.
OMANO JUNIORSCOPE Review
This microscope kit has a complex microscope with magnifications of 40x, 100x, and 400x. It’s made for kids 8 and older, although many reviewers bought it for younger children who used it with full adult guidance and enjoyed it.
It does have glass lenses, and can be paired with the Summit series KK2 1.3MP USB in order to take pictures or projecting the picture onto a computer.
There are two options for power. It can be used with batteries, and the manufacturer says batteries are included, although several reviewers said they were not. It also can be used with an adapter, which is included.
The platform or stage drops so that you can place small objects on it to observe details up close, or you can use the slides that come with the microscope. A protective case is not included, but there is a nice slipcover that reviewers said they really liked.
Many reviewers said the quality of the prepared slides is exceptional, and it also comes with blank slides with covers. It comes with several other accessories, including sturdy activity cards.
Reviewers did have some issues with the LED light flickering excessively or dying soon after they received it, but the company seems to be pretty good about replacing things if there are issues.
Many reviewers liked that the knobs are a great size for the hands of kids, especially helpful as most children don’t have more refined motor movement until well into their teens.
Super Mom Picks Verdict:
This is our favorite product for the price range we reviewed. It’s perfect for beginners, and will likely last for quite a while, giving your child the opportunity to grow with it. It’s dual function, with the ability to look at a wide range of items whether they are three-dimensional objects or microscopic cells on slides.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Dual LED Student Microscope
- Two microscopes in one! Use the lower LED lights to view biological specimens on slides or switch over to the upper lights to examine 3D objects in intricate detail
- Includes over 50 accessories! Explore our curated set of prepared slides using the detailed Learning Guide then create your own with reusable blank slides and covers, tweezers, eye dropper, Petri dish and more
- Simple yet powerful learning tool that’s easy to operate, solidly constructed and comes with two sets of high-quality optical glass eyepieces for 20x and 50x magnification
- Complete brine shrimp experiment including hatchery station, shrimp eggs, Petri dish and Lab Manual. Track the life cycle of brine shrimp!
- Respected quality – National Geographic Toys is proud to provide only the highest quality products, each backed by a complete satisfaction guarantee
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DUAL LED STUDENT MICROSCOPE Review
Also intended for ages 8 and older, this microscope comes in three colors - silver, green, and brown. It also has glass optics, although it is a stereoscope (with two scopes to peer through). Because it’s a stereoscope, the magnification is much lower, although the eyepieces can be changed out to vary a little - between 20x and 50x magnification.
The lower power may seem unappealing because it really isn’t strong enough to view the samples on many of the slides included. However, the lower strengths are perfect for small objects in a child’s world, the most appealing things for children to inspect in great detail. The stage or platform is not large, though - it really can only fit objects about an inch tall or smaller.
There are over 50 accessories with this kit, including the traditional National Geographics Learning Guide, prepared slides, blank slides, an eyedropper, a petri dish, a mini geode, and much more.
Some reviewers dislike that the light behind the slide viewing area is remarkably bright. None of them say it’s a deal-breaker, and several suggest an easy fix for the issue.
In order to better diffuse the light, you can use a few pieces of tissue paper over the small light, a coffee filter, or wax paper. Some kind reviewer also said that if you flip the glass over so the frosted side is glass down, it really helps, although that isn’t included anywhere in the instructions.
Another issue people seem to have with this microscope is that the condenser lens (the small round lens under the platform mentioned above) comes out. Flipping it over should help that problem as well.
Reviewers love that this microscope is portable, easy to focus, and great for younger scientists. It is plastic and can be very lightweight, so warn young children that they have to be careful not to send it tumbling.
Super Mom Picks Verdict:
This is a great stereoscope with lots of accessories that kids love using. It’s perfect for younger children. It’s lightweight and battery-powered, making it useful for outdoor adventures and being transported by young ones.