Good microscope for kids?
November 15, 2008 4:29 AM   Subscribe

What's a decent microscope for a seven-year old boy?

Our son will soon be turning seven, and much to my delight, has started to express a pretty strong interest in science. We thought we'd get him a microscope for his birthday, but as my wife and I have little experience with them, we don't have the first clue about the features, brands, etc., we should be focusing on.

I think what we're looking for is something where he can stick a bug or a leaf under there and get a really good look at it; we probably don't want to spend a bunch of time mucking around with preparing slides and things like that (although we wouldn't be averse to buying pre-prepared slides). I imagine the ideal gift is a microscope where he can grab a leaf or a bug or something and stick it under the microscope with a minimum of fuss. Our budget for this is probably around $100.

Even if you don't have a specific model recommendation, are there particular features that we should be looking for? I read somewhere that when buying a microscope for a kid, you'll usually want to go with a stereo scope -- is that true? What about magnification -- how high will it need to go?

I've seen this question, but that seemed to be geared towards a budding scientist quite a bit older than seven. There's also this question, and although the QX5 recommendation looks pretty solid, we're wondering if there are additional models/feature sets we should be looking at, given that we're not really interested in it being portable.
posted by Doofus Magoo to Education (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Brock Magiscope got such a great write-up at CoolTools, that we almost went with that one. However, in the end we went with a digital one (the QX5 Computer Microscope) for all the recording options (photos/videos) and the ability to share the experience on the big screen...
posted by fairmettle at 4:56 AM on November 15, 2008

QX5 is a great product, and I would not hesitate to recommend it under these circumstances. However, if you think your son won't have the patience to deal with the actual mechanics of a microscope, you could go with the Jakks EyeClops which is not a microscope per se, but does microscope things and is more about the immediate experience of HEY MAGNIFY THIS!
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:06 AM on November 15, 2008

For bugs and leaves nothing can compare to the 3D view in a stereo microscope.
posted by Fins at 6:15 AM on November 15, 2008

Consider a dissecting microscope.

A dissecting microscope is perfect for thick objects, as opposed to prepared slides. The magnification is lower, usually up to 40x.

My kids--and their friends--used my Celestron dissecting microscope all the way through their schooling, most recently for a college entomology class.

You can get a binocular model for under $150, a single eyepiece model is just under $70.
posted by subatomiczoo at 6:45 AM on November 15, 2008

I haven't tried it out, but was looking at this inexpensive microscope as a possibility for our kids. It allows for just popping something under there, no slide prep.

I like the looks of that EyeClops, though.
posted by not that girl at 7:49 AM on November 15, 2008

2nding the Eyeclops. My children couldn't really use the microscope very well alone, but LOVE the eyeclops and can use it to look at everything in the house. Can't put the cat under a regular microscope.
posted by artychoke at 8:00 AM on November 15, 2008

Here's PZ Meyers on holiday microscope shopping.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:22 AM on November 15, 2008

I second the dissecting scope: you can put a whole insect on the stage, leaves, flowers, pine cones, snake skins, etc. My kids liked that more than my good scope, which would only magnify thin sections.
posted by francesca too at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2008

This little USB microscope is pretty cool. I had one around at my last party and we ended up playing with it half the night. It's great because you can look at anything without having to displace it: hair on someone's head, bugs on a leaf, etc.
posted by miffed at 12:13 PM on November 15, 2008

The microscope I got when I was 8 was the coolest present ever. It was something like this one, but without the light source, which would have been neat. 400x magnification lets you see a decent amount. I think I used the scope at least through age 15, so would advise getting something that has some growth built-in.

Part of the present was a set of slides and a basic staining kit, which helps make certain types of cells visible. A few eye droppers (for gathering samples of pond water and "stuff") and some denatured alcohol (for cleaning) are useful, too.
posted by dws at 4:56 PM on November 15, 2008

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