Tips for using microscopes with children. With the correct approach, even very young children can begin to learn about biology through a microscope!
How to Use Microscopes with Children
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. 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. He and the kids have had a blast looking at all sorts of things through its magnifying lenses!
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?
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How to Pick a Good Microscope for Children
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. I also bought this set of glass slides for creating our own specimens. Glass slides do require very close parental supervision as they are made of glass. Glass slide 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. 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. They also enjoyed looking at slides of different fabric fibers that we made from materials around our house.
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
Seven-year-old Emma enjoyed writing up her notes of what she saw using the various magnifications. 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? What are your top tips for using microscopes with children?
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