Using Microscopes With Young Children

using microscopes with young children. From mamasmiles.com

I have always felt that it was a shame that young children typically don’t get much exposure to biology. People balk at using microscopes with young children, but I find that, given a good introduction on to how to use a microscope properly, the vast majority of kids aged four and older are perfectly capable of using a microscope appropriately – and so appreciative of what they see! Biology was the one thing Mike and I had in common when we first met, and so this past Christmas I gave him a microscope – and he and the kids have had a blast looking at all sorts of things through its magnifying lenses!

*Note this post includes affiliate links to the microscope and slides that we purchased from Amazon. If you buy anything (microscope, slides, or anything else) through these links, we may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this blog!

I think of microscopes as being tremendously expensive, because they are, unquestionably, an investment. But we paid the fraction of the price of an iPad for ours, and while we don’t own an i-anything, I see parents everywhere who let their kids play with them on a regular basis! Of course, you will need to supervise your child more carefully with a microscope than with an iPad in a solid case. Hmm, maybe someone needs to invent a child-safe microscope that actually magnifies things properly with glass lenses instead of cheap plastic ones?

introducing young children to microscopes is a great way to get kids thinking about science! From mamasmiles.com

I spent a fair bit of time researching microscopes before settling on the AmScope 40X-1000X. We also got these very child-friendly slides from Learning Resources, and this set of glass slides for creating our own specimens (that require very close parental supervision as they are made of glass, and the covers are made of very thin glass).

I expected seven-year-old Emma and six-year-old Johnny to enjoy using the microscope, and I was right. But four-year-old Lily is the biggest fan! She has always loved anything tiny, and she loves taking something very small and seeing what it looks like magnified! I hear all sorts of ideas about how to get girls involved in science and technology, and a large number of those ideas involve simplifying the activity from what we would offer a boy of about the same age and then painting everything pink and purple. I say please, please, please do not simplify. Girls are smart, just like boys! Let your four-year-old daughters experiment with real science equipment, without editing slides to things we *think* they will like. Lily and Emma enjoyed seeing slides of insect parts from the Learning Resources slides – as well as slides of different fabric fibers that we made from materials around our house.

Using microscopes with young children: cotton fibers from a cotton swab. From mamasmiles.com

The image above is of some cotton fibers from a Q-tip that we placed on one of the glass slides with a drop of water, then covered with the glass slide cover. I took the picture with my SLR camera, which was a little tricky since my SLR lens is much larger than the opening for the eyepiece. I’m still trying to figure out a good way to take photos of our slides

microscopes with kids: taking notes. From mamasmiles.com

Seven-year-old Emma enjoyed writing up her notes of what she saw using the various magnification (the microscope we got allows for five different magnifications).

Do you have a microscope that you use with your kids? What do they like to look at?

afterschool linky

2014 After School Party HOSTS

The Educators’ Spin On It
Afterschool for Smarty Pants
Boy Mama Teacher Mama
Coffee Cups and Crayons
Little Wonders’ Days
Mama Smiles
Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
The Measured Mom
This Reading Mama
What Do We Do All Day

What afterschool learning and fun has your family been enjoying? These crayon resist thank you cards from Happy Hooligans, this collection of resources for helping kids master multiplication from Pragmatic Mom, and these DIY constellation cards for kids from How Wee Learn were my favorite posts from last week!

Comments

  1. says

    Oh I would love to have a microscope especially once my kiddo is older. It’s never too early to instill a love for science and learning. I think investing in a “real” microscope also sends the message that we take their learning seriously and that it’s not just a “kiddie” thing to do.

    I also like your new layout MaryAnne!

  2. says

    I have always wanted to get a microscope for the kids, I think it would be great! I love this post as you make me want to go out right now and get one! But I have to wait until next week…we are trying to stick to a budget! :)

  3. says

    I’ve been wanting to get the boys a microscope but was nervous I would buy a bad one. The reviews are so mixed. I also noticed you switched to Genesis! Yay! I am Genesis’ biggest fan and you will have fun fiddling around with the theme. Good luck.

    • says

      Microscope reviews really are mixed! This one has worked well for us.

      Genesis is pretty awesome from what I can tell so far; I need to play around with it more and would love to hear if you have any favorite resources to share. I went back and forth on whether or not it was worth it for MONTHS, but I’m happy with it now that I have it!

  4. says

    LOVE those pictures of your kids at the microscope! We were the recipients of a microscope and slides from a generous Freecycler. When I tried to make a slide I sliced my finger open. It wasn’t too bad, but it frightened me enough to put the whole kit away for a while. Now I’m inspired to pull it back out!

  5. says

    I’d love to introduce J to microscopes though biology, well micro-biology, is not one of my strengths. John seemed very excited about your microscope post and commented that a USB microscope can project bigger pictures and then you can capture the images. It looks like Amazon sells the USB camera option with the same type of microscope. Maybe they just sell an extension?

    • says

      Yes, I actually thought this one came with the USB when I ordered it. Hazard of not reading the item description closely enough… You can buy it as an extension, and maybe we’ll do that eventually.

  6. says

    Thank you for writing this post! We got a microscope as a present, but it’s one of those super cheap ones, and we were all collectively frustrated with not really being able to use it. I have to look into the one you recommend!

  7. says

    I love how your kids are keeping a lab notebook to record their observations. They might love The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate as a read aloud book. My kids didn’t get to experience microscopes as young kids. I think they used them in 6th grade. I’m sure they would have loved it though!

  8. says

    I thought about getting the kids a microscope for Christmas but ended up not. That’s so great that you got Mike a gift that the kids love, too!

  9. says

    I agree that we let kids play with things that are more expensive and less instructive than a microscope. I plan to get for my little one because he loves all things science. There is a kid friendly one that I am hoping to find on sale on the homeschool boards :-)

  10. says

    I love this post – especially the part about not simplifying and making everything pink for little girls!! I think you did pretty well with your photography of the q-tip fibers too!

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