This is a question we get asked a lot here at Microscope Detective, and for good reason. The right microscope can be an amazing purchase for a child, opening up a fascinating new world and engendering a lifelong love of science. The wrong microscope can lead to frustration, disappointment, and wasted dollars.
We took a look at a multitude of first microscopes in order to find the highest quality models at the best price. The winners all had a few things in common: they were durable, they provided good images, and they included lots of fun accessories that added greater depth and intrigue for a budding scientist.
Every model on here is below $150, so you can spark a kid's imagination without blowing your budget. Sure it's necessary to consider the cost, and we don't think you need to break the bank, but the below criteria are also important for a fun learning experience with your child.
Five Things to Consider When Buying a Kids Microscope:
Optics and Image Quality - Of course we're not going for graduate-level biological microscope images here, but a clear, sharp picture is very important. A decent image where you can make out details is fun and engaging, while a blurry, poor image is just boring. Quality optics are essential for keeping a young mind interested.
Ease of Use - Nothing is more frustrating than a long-winded manual and a complicated instrument. Is it easy to turn on, focus, and change slides? A good kids microscope needs to be simple enough to use while still being involved enough to make your child feel like the mad scientist that he or she is.
Hardware Construction - Any instrument in the hands of an active kid is going to take a beating. Thus good microscopes for kids should be sturdy, durable, easy to clean, and simple to store.
Included Materials - Microscopes are the most fun when they include projects to get you started. Does the model come with prepared slides, an instruction book with suggested experiments, or software to manipulate images? The right materials can encourage a kid to create their own experiments, and take pressure off the parent to make things interesting.
Customer Service - Quality customer service from a decent company is a nice touch and helps you avoid future frustrations. Is there a phone number or email address to contact in case something goes wrong? How about a return policy or a warranty? It definitely pays to know these things before you commit to buying a microscope for your kids.
To make your life easier we've taken all these factors, including price, into account to present you with the best kids microscopes.
The Top Three Microscopes for Kids
Below are the top three models we found for starting your little one out on the right scientific foot:
My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope
The My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope from C&A Scientific is hard to beat in terms of features, cost, and quality. It's inexpensive yet durable, and yields a quality image. The Duo Scope has two modes: compound (for specimens on slides) and stereo (for viewing 3D objects). So it's really two microscopes in one.
It also comes with a useful accessory kit. This kit includes slides, stain, lens paper, a plastic test tube, a pair of forceps, and a lot more. Other nice features include:
Sturdy construction and glass optics
Magnification of 40x, 100x, and 400x
Dual LED Illumination
Battery operated (for use inside and out)
This is a good purchase for an entry-level microscope, as you can nurture scientific interest without a large expense. The accessories make the experience even more creative, helping your kids learn while still remaining fun.
The Tk2 Scope from Thames & Kosmos is another nice model that offers quality construction at a nice price. This powerful and sturdy kids microscope can provide years of fascinating observations.
Although more expensive than the Duo Scope above, the TK2 Scope is a complete biology kit. The included 48-page comprehensive manual details how to make your own slides and outlines many fascinating experiments. The kit also boasts:
Included accessories and tools for performing a myriad of experiments
Magnification of 40x, 100x, and 400x
Dual LED Illumination
Optical grade glass objective lenses of 4x, 10x, and 40x
The quality of the microscope itself makes the Tk2 Scope a great buy with a solid reputation. It's a wonderful choice for teachers or parents who are home schooling. This model is rated very highly by consumers, and can stand up to a child's abuse while providing years of fascinating fun for young minds.
If you want to offer your younger kids a little more scientific power, the Konus Konuscience Microscope is a pretty good deal. At around $60, it has a zoom magnification of up to 1200x and even includes a microtome for sectioning your own specimens. (How cool is that?)
Although there have been some complaints about the lighting and battery compartment, this is still one of the best first microscopes for the price. The entire kit will pique a child's intense curiosity for years to come. It also comes with:
Zoom magnification of 100X-200X, 300X-600X, and 600X-1200X
Illuminated with either a mirror or a light
Included carrying case and accessories, over 81 pieces
All in one projector, viewer, and camera attachment
We loved how this product encourages kids to make their own slides and experiments. That's not hard to do with 81 included accessories.
For ages 8 and up
No matter which kids microscope you choose, be sure to take the time to research carefully and read plenty of reviews. Remember that a quality kids microscope is more than just a toy, it's an investment in a child's imagination!
More Kids Microscope Reviews and Articles
Looking for more resources? The below pages have more articles and reviews on first microscopes. All reviews have a rating of 3.5 stars or higher on Amazon.com.
The Digital Blue QX3 microscope, the predecessor to the QX5, works by projecting images onto a computer screen, and then allows kids to manipulate those images with the included software. It's more expensive than those listed above, but we still liked this unit. Read our full review here
The QX5 Digital Blue microscope also offers hours of educational fun by allowing you to see and manipulate images on a computer. Read the full review of this kids USB microscope here.
The EyeClops Bionic Eye effectively blurs the line between fun toy and educational tool. All one has to do is plug it into a television, turn it on, and get ready to view household objects at up to 200x magnification.