Kids Microscope Review
Why Buy a Children's Microscope?
The top performers in our review are the Omano OM117L, the Gold Award winner; My First Lab Duo-Scope, the Silver Award winner; and TK2 Scope, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 15 scopes.
Your child could be a famous scientist in the making. While right now they’re learning their ABCs and basic arithmetic, they could cure cancer someday. Of course, the path is long, and your child will need to keep all the passion and awe they naturally have for science, but it’s certainly possible. Feeding their passion means providing them all the tools and resources they need, and a kids microscope is just such a tool.
With a microscope, your child will have access to a hidden world, able to see countless things up close for a whole new perspective. A honeybee is no longer just a honeybee once you’ve seen the tiny hairs on a its leg or the antenna attached to its head. Kids can even see the cellular structure that makes up the honeybee's body. A kids microscope lets your child view objects in a completely new way. When you see that excited face as they're discovering something new, you'll know that the microscope was a great investment.
Kids Microscopes: How We Tested, What We Found
Even though we had children in mind as we evaluated microscopes, we were not looking for toys. We also did not include expensive, professional-grade units. We wanted to recommend models that are something in-between: microscopes that are relatively cheap but that also produce high-quality magnifications.
We compared 15 microscopes that fit this criteria, but they also range in price and performance. To find the best of these units, we purchased them all and tested them in-person. In one round of testing, we gathered a group of children ages 8 to 12 and had them look through test models at transparent objects and 3D objects. Testers viewed items on the high, middle and low magnification on each microscope and looked for the best and sharpest view. They also helped determine scores that indicate how easy each microscope is to use. In our experience with models, the best microscopes excelled in optical quality, ease of use, included accessories, and help and support.
Quality views are paramount, even in a beginner microscope. If a sample slide is too dark or blurry to see, the microscope is basically useless. Your child won't be able to see the small details that makes using a microscope so magical. On the other hand, a microscope that can display samples with brightness and clarity makes the discovery process much more enjoyable. A microscope's ability to magnify and clearly display that magnification is its core function. This is why it is one of the most important factors in our recommendations.
We performed a variety of tests to determine our optical scores for each model. We looked at multiple specimens with each instrument, using the same slides and subjects each time in the same lighting. We chose a few objects that would likely interest a child with his or her first microscope, including a slice of onion, a honeybee leg, a penny and a blade of grass, and we scored the views of each at multiple magnifications.
In our hands-on testing, we discovered that not all microscopes perform equally. In fact, even though many of the microscopes were rated with the same magnification level, their optical quality varied to a great degree. Some microscopes had poor displays that were grainy and dark, but the best kids microscopes offer views that are crisp and bright.
Ease of Use
Great microscopes not only magnify well, but are also easy to use. The best microscopes did not require reading instructions to use. In our tests, they were intuitive to adjust and also included convenient features. This simplicity is especially important if you're buying a microscope for your child. If the microscope is too complicated to use, the difficulty may prevent your child from actually using and enjoying the device. Because of this, we made ease of use an important factor in our final rankings.
To determine the ease of use score, we evaluated how easy each model was to set up and adjust as we tested it. We found that most microscopes were fairly intuitive. However, a few had a more complicated design that took more effort to use. It’s worth noting that digital microscopes tended to have a more complicated design, while traditional ones were generally much easier to use.
In addition to optical quality and ease of use, the accessories that come with purchase of the microscope can play a role in how useful it will be for your child. A few of these accessories are essential in using the microscope, such as slides, while others are optional.
Since these accessories could be easily bought separately, we did not take them into account for our rankings. Whether a microscope has accessories or not is much less important than if the device can magnify well or is easy to use. However, if you value convenience and would rather not make additional purchases, look for models that include the accessories. These accessories will allow your child to start examining their world with the microscope right out of the box.
Help & Support
All microscopes come with a warranty. If the microscope you purchased malfunctions or has issues, you'll be able to send the manufacturer your device to be repaired or replaced. The warranties on the microscopes we reviewed varied in length, from six months to a lifetime. We also took into consideration the possible ways of communicating with the manufacturer. Most offer email, phone and live chat, but some have fewer options. We gave microscopes that had long warranties and greater support options a higher score in our final rankings.
In addition to comparing the best microscopes for children, we offer reviews and information on related topics. Learn more by checking out our articles about kids microscopes and other family-friendly science topics.
Should You Choose a Traditional or Digital Microscope for Children?
Although digital microscopes can seem more high-tech and cost about the same as traditional microscopes, most families are probably better off with a traditional one. Digital microscopes generally have lower quality optics. While traditional microscopes produce clear and bright displays, the digital microscopes we tested often had dark and grainy displays. A few of them were even unable to show solid objects. Most digital microscopes also require connection to a power outlet. This makes them less portable, preventing your child from taking the microscope away from the confines of the indoors.
However, one advantage of digital scopes is their ability to take pictures. That can be a major feature that outweighs some of the disadvantages. The childern who tested microscopes with us said they enjoyed the digital scopes because they could point at an image of the display on a screen rather than looking through a tiny lens.
Kids Microscopes: Our Verdict and Recommendations
After over 100 hours of research and testing, we can make some recommendations about the top kids microscopes available on the market. Although all the instruments we tested were good, these there were the best; they excelled in areas that matter the most.
As the best overall kids microscope we tested, the Omano Om117L clearly stood out from the rest. We were thoroughly impressed by this scope's optical quality. Practically all the slides and objects we looked at were clear and bright, and we had no issues setting up and using this instrument. The metal body is also solidly designed with convenience and durability in mind. We'd buy this microscope for our own children.
My First Lab Duo-Scope
Coming in at a close second is the Duo Scope by My First Lab. This microscope was also excellent at magnifying both slides and solid objects, and we had no problems magnifying at all levels. Furthermore, this scope is slightly less expensive than the Omano OM117L, making a competitive alternative to the top microscope for children.
The third best microscope we tested is the TK2 Scope. This instrument proved to be effective in optics as well. The magnifications were of high quality, making it quite easy to see even the smallest details. This microscope even comes with a colored activity guide filled with simple instructions and colored pictures. We'd recommend this device in a heartbeat.
With high-quality optics and an inexpensive price, a kids microscope is an excellent tool to feed your child’s excitement about science. They'll have access to a world they never dreamed to be possible.