What is a microscope?

A microscope is an instrument with a magnifying lens, which is used to view things up close. Refractive glass directs light into the eye, enlarging the image of the specimen. This allows us to see details on a plant, insect or rock, which cannot usually be seen. Microscopes for children develop research skills and biological understanding.

Key terms

Magnification: How much the microscope will enlarge the image. The great the magnification, the larger the image will appear under the microscope.

Resolution: How much detail can be seen under the microscope. A microscope with high resolution will allow very small details to be clearly seen.


Types of microscopes

Stereo microscopes

Stereo microscopes are designed to view larger, opaque objects such as rocks, whole insects or large plants. Light from the microscope shines from the bottom upwards and from the top down. This light provides a high depth of field so thick objects can be seen. Stereo microscopes usually have a magnification of 7x – 40x. As slides do not need to be prepared when using a stereo microscope, they are good first microscopes for children.

Compound microscopes

Compound microscopes have a greater magnification than stereo microscopes, typically between 40x and 1000x. This high magnification allows smaller specimens such as bacteria to be seen. In these microscopes, light only shines from the bottom upwards. This means that only translucent objects can be seen well. Therefore, slides and specimens will need to be prepared. Compound microscopes for children tend to be more popular as they usually have a higher resolution.

Binocular or monocular

Microscopes for children could be binocular or monocular. Binocular microscopes have two eyepieces to look through whilst monocular microscopes have only one. As adjusting binocular lenses can be difficult, they are not recommended microscopes for children.

Toy microscopes

Real, scientific microscopes use light. Toy microscopes for children use mirrors instead. This means that the image they provide is not as clear; they have a poor resolution and therefore may distort the image. It can be difficult for children to learn and develop scientific research skills using a toy microscope.


Benefits of microscopes for children

Microscopes can be a highly beneficial learning resource for children, particularly children who are visual or physical learners. Microscopes can be used to develop ore encourage your child’s interest in science, especially biology. As children view plants and insects under a microscope, the can develop a visual representation of what they may have already been taught at school. Children who have a logical or solitary learning style may enjoy conducting their own investigations using their microscope. This will not only develop their observation skills but will also give them practice writing in a scientific way.


What to look for in a microscope


One of the most important features of a good microscope is a clear. Therefore, it is best to purchase microscopes with a built in light source and glass rather than plastic lenses. Such microscopes will produce a sharper image.



Microscopes for children should also promote learning. Better microscopes will include an instruction book and suggested experiments. These materials will ensure that your child knows how to use their microscope correctly and how to prepare slides. It is a good idea to choose a microscope that has some slides included, especially if this is the first microscope that your child will be using.



A sturdy, well-built microscope will be easier for your child to use. This will allow them to get the most out of it. Microscopes with a metal body tend to be stronger and therefore can hold higher quality glass lenses. This in turn produces a sharper image. Toy microscopes tend to have a weak build.


Microscopes at Brightminds


Thames and Kosmos Kids First Biology Lab – £26.99

Microscopes for children
This microscope is an excellent introductory microscope for younger children with an interest in biology. This compound microscope has a magnification of between 96x and 750x. As this microscope is made out of plastic, it may not produce as sharp images as more advanced microscopes. However, the images produced a clear and give children a good introduction to microscopy. The kit includes prepared slides as well as blank slides, tweezers, a section-slicing tool and vial. With the experiment manual, your child will be able to conduct short experiments and learn about onion cells, plant stems, meat cells, mouth cells, hair, fur and bugs.



Learning Resources 48 Piece MicroPro Set – £34.99

Learning resources This microscope is a good choice for children who already have some understanding of how to use a microscope. It is a compound microscope with a magnification between 50x to 600x. As the light source is built into the strong metal body, the images produced are sharp and clear. This microscope set also includes some prepared slides as well as some blank slides, tweezers and activity guide, allowing your child to conduct their own research.




Levenhuk 2L NG Rainbow Range – £69.99

Professional microscope Levenhuk rainbow range microscopeThese high quality metal-bodied microscopes for children are  an excellent choice for developing biological research skills. children. This microscope has two built-in light sources, allowing opaque objects to be seen as well as transparent objects. The image produced is of an excellent standard as all the lenses are glass and of a professional standard. Additionally, there is a magnification up to 640x. Included with this microscope is a user manual to ensure your child understands how to use this high quality microscope. There are six different colours to choose from.



Thames and Kosmos TK2 Scope – £79.99

Thames and Kosmos biology microscope This microscope is great for developing your child’s understanding of biological research. The microscope is dual lit and includes professional quality glass lenses allowing both translucent and opaque objects to be viewed. The maximum magnification of this microscope is 400x. This microscope set also has over 20 accessories including prepared slides, blank slides, tweezers and an experiment guide. This is an excellent microscope to encourage children to conduct their own research experiments and develop their biological knowledge.