Kids are like little sponges, sucking up all the knowledge they can, and a microscope is a great way to fuel this thirst for learning. The best microscopes for kids will let your little one observe some of the most minuscule, and often the most fascinating, objects and organisms, from wee tardigrades to the insides of a simple leaf. STEM toys like microscopes can give your child an early start on their educational journey and fuel their imaginations.
From the most basic kids microscopes for pre-K and kindergarten-age kids to microscopes with more options and features to give pre-teens and young adults the power to carry out more advanced experiments, there's no shortage when it comes to the best microscopes for kids. There are even digital microscopes that connect to your phone so kids can take pictures of everything they observe. A pocket-sized microscope can be easily packed up for an educational hike, while a heavier, more complex microscope can sit in a child's room ready to be used with pre-made slides. Live Science has rounded up a range of the top microscopes for kids to fit all of your child's learning needs, their skill level and age, and your budget. See below for a roundup of the best microscopes for kids, some of which are on sale for Black Friday for extra savings.
At the top of our list you'll find the AmScope 120X-1200X 52-pcs Kids Beginner Microscope STEM Kit (M30-ABS-KT2-W). This powerful compound microscope for kids is more than just a tool, it's a complete kit. The 52-piece set comes with a neat brine shrimp experiment, and all the accessories your child will need to get started.
For the toddling demographic, kick off their STEM-friendly schooling with the Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope. This dynamic, highly interactive microscope brings Mother Nature to life, and it'll keep your preschooler entertained for hours.
The National Geographic Dual LED Student Microscope is another best-selling instrument that's more of a tool than it is a toy. Bundled with over 50 scientific accessories (such as tweezers, tweezers, slides, a petri dish and more), learning has never been more accessible.
Best for viewing dissection experiments, internal cell structures, plants, rock and minerals. The My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope (MFL-06) has a lot to offer in the hands-on learning department. This 50-piece kit, like most other kits, comes with all sorts of scientific accessories (blank slides, a plastic test tube, tweezers), in addition to an experiment guide and operating manual.
The lightweight design is durable enough for outdoor use, and the monocular eyepiece allows up to 400X magnification for whatever the next experiment entails; it functions as a compound and stereo microscope in one. It's more expensive than other microscopes on this list, but it's also a higher-quality tool; the optics are made from glass (as opposed to plastic, like some models), and the durable metal-and-plastic body is built to last. For preteens with a serious interest in science, this could be their first mini-lab.
This one is great for viewing coins, plants, seashells, rocks and minerals, and proves that backyard exploration doesn't have to break the bank. The Carson MicroBrite Plus LED Lighted Pocket Microscope is an excellent case in point; this handheld stereo microscope is small enough to slip into any pocket, and the battery-powered LED light illuminates objects (up to 120X) in the palm of your hand. The aspherical lens system is surprisingly robust, resulting in bright, clear imagery all around.
For casual summertime beach excursions to winter woodland walks, this is a great complement to your next nature hike. Curious minds of all ages will enjoy the Carson MicroBrite Plus LED Lighted Pocket Microscope.
Ditching the manual microscope controls that you'd normally expect from this technology (for example, bulky adjustment knobs and dials), the Skybasic Digital Microscope is as portable as it is versatile. This 50X to 1000X microscope is wireless and designed to work in conjunction with your Android or iOs device. This clever little tool streams pictures and videos of magnified images right to your phone from up to 33 feet away - no wires required.
The 2-megapixel camera catches beautiful 1080p images, and the built-in LED lights can be adjusted for proper brightness levels. The controls for this microscope are super simple, too, which means your kid will probably figure out how to use it quicker than you will. This one is perfect for viewing plants, insects, rocks and minerals.
The Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope is a casual classroom in a box. That's because this novel microscope features the narration of young Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, who teaches your child more than 100 interesting factoids about plants and animals through an integrated microphone.
The built-in storage compartment houses 20 slides (featuring three images per slide), which can be used for two different modes of play: Fact or Quiz. In the former mode, the microscope identifies these images out loud, reciting fun facts for your child to learn; in the latter mode, Bindi quizzes your child on their general knowledge of each slide.
The standard model comes with English, Spanish, French and German audio options, while a second model includes Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.
These interactive, STEM-friendly features make the Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope one of the best microscopes for kids (particularly those in preschool). It'll keep them busy for hours on end.
As its colorful branding implies, the Kidzlane Microscope Science Toy for Kids was built with the younger crowd in mind. This beginner microscope, meant for ages 3 and up, is bound to spark their curiosity as they examine everyday objects in finer detail. Designed specifically for younger children with small hands (ages 3 and up), you needn't worry about sharp edges here.
Another STEM-friendly entry to this list, the Kidzlane Microscope comes with tweezers, a (plastic) scalpel, and pretend spider and lizard specimens to make your kid feel like they have their own lab; they'll build hand-eye coordination as they position objects beneath the viewfinder, and the included activity book encourages critical thinking skills with a variety of fun experiments.
These days, National Geographic is more than just a bright yellow magazine. Much more, in fact. The iconic wildlife brand offers a variety of science-centric toys (err, tools) for kids, and their Dual LED Student Microscope is one of our top picks.
In order for a tech toy to be considered STEM-friendly, it needs to encourage a higher level of education in four disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), and this microscope fills the bill. It comes bundled with over 50 accessories for learning, including 10 prepared nature slides, a petri dish, a mini geode, two sets of optical lenses (20X and 50X), and a comprehensive learning guide. Thanks to a pair of complementary LED lights, you can use this microscope to view slides or 3D objects with the flip of a switch. It's best for viewing internal cell structures, skin and tissue, rocks and minerals.
Like the AmScope microscope, this one comes with its own brine shrimp experiment, complete with shrimp eggs and a hatchery station. Your kid will be so engaged, they won't realize they're absorbing so much knowledge.
Is your kid a scientific prodigy? Then maybe you should give their lab an upgrade. For high-school students who are ready to take their experiments to the next (micro) level, the OMAX MD82ES10 40X-2000X Digital LED Compound Microscope looks as professional as its name sounds out loud. The swiveling binocular head has a built-in 1.3-megapixel USB camera that's compatible with both Mac and Windows, allowing the microscope to take pictures and video clips of various projects.
This digital microscope for kids offers eight LED-illuminated levels of magnification, from 40X to 2000X; there are two coaxial knobs for coarse and fine focusing, and the mechanical stage is easy to adjust. There's also a sliding interpapillary distance adjustment, which means the microscope is customizable to virtually any face size.
For the price, it would have been nice for OMAX to throw in a carrying case (though one is sold separately), but if you're raising the next Doogie Howser, your child's eyes will light up like an LED bulb when they see this microscope. This one is perfect for dissection experiments, internal cell structures, hair and skin tissue.
The best microscopes for kids aren't just standalone devices; they come bundled with all sorts of useful extras. Such is the case with the Educational Insights Nancy B's Science Club Microscope, another colorful option that gets consistently high user reviews. Genuine scientific research is all about data collection, and this microscope gets that ball rolling with a 22-page activity journal.
Powered by two LED lights (and 3 AAA batteries), the microscope itself can achieve an impressive range of 30X to 400X magnification, which is perfect for getting up close and personal with all the rocks, plants and bugs your backyard has to offer. Let the specimen collection begin!
The Omano JuniorScope is a professional-looking 400X monocular microscope that's a great gift for grade-schoolers. You'll find it most useful for plants, insects, rocks and minerals, hair and skin tissue. Constructed from glass, plastic and metal components, it's heavier and more durable than many microscopes for kids. From examining rocks to marveling at miniscule plant cells, young students can use this fantastic LED-powered microscope to magnify nature in crystal clarity.
The JuniorScope comes with batteries preinstalled, so it's ready to use right out of the box. The microscope is also bundled with a variety of scientific tools (slides, tweezers, a dropper, petri dish, etc.) to aid students every step of the way.
Bonus: The microscope comes with five experiment cards ($18.99 value) to help your child learn how to use their new research equipment.
Before introducing your family to the microscopic world of insects and plants, consider these factors:
Budget - Most kid-friendly microscopes have a price point of $50 or less, but there are plenty of premium picks that cost $75 or more. These days, you can get a cheap microscope for under $30; low-end models usually have weaker magnifications, cheaper build quality and fewer bundled accessories. (For preschool-level microscopes, however, weak magnification is actually preferred.)
Focus and magnification - For small, fidgety humans, overly powerful optics might actually be counterproductive. When it comes to your budding biologists, here's a rule of thumb: The younger the child, the lower the magnification. Magnifications between 5X and 400X are common recommendations for kids under the age of 10. For older investigators, consider microscopes with more powerful optics.
Note: Monocular microscopes work well up to 1000X, but for higher magnification levels, binocular microscopes are a necessary investment.
Size, shape and build quality - Look for sturdy build materials, such as aluminum alloy and heavy-duty plastics. If the microscope is for someone under the age of 10, you'll probably want one that can take a little abuse. Some microscopes are specifically built for tiny fingers, while others can be used by explorers of all ages. For children under 5, look for extra kid-friendly features, like rounded edges, rubberized (shockproof) construction and padded eyepieces.
High-power vs. low-power - Low-power (ie, "stereo") microscopes are useful for viewing opaque objects (think rocks and coins); the light source is divided into two separate paths to produce a 3D view. High-power (ie, "compound") microscopes are meant for viewing translucent materials such as plant cells or viral bacteria; there is only one light source to produce a flat-plane view.
Light sources - All microscopes require a light source; the most common ones are LED, halogen and fluorescent. On account of their brightness and longevity, LED lights are pretty popular when it comes to microscope hardware. If your microscope uses multiple bulbs, check to see if it comes with any replacements; some bulbs are trickier to replace than others.
Extra features and accessories - Some microscopes come with just the basics, but the best microscopes for kids include useful accessories, such as activity books, specimen slides, carrying cases, sample experiments and complementary science tools.