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Affordable Microscopes for Everyday Use

December 11, 2013

Holiday Gifts – Which Microscope ?

As you can imagine, at this time of year, we receive a lot of calls from parents and grandparents asking which microscope they should buy for their young (grand) child. While we have an article on this question it is worth summarizing for Holiday convenience!

We have three recommendations, bearing in mind that our most important criteria is to engage the kids.

Explorer Pro Handheld Digital Microscope

Most parents arrive at our store with an image in their minds of a classic compound (high power) microscope. They believe their child to be very bright and they are hoping to stimulate an interest in science. Unfortunately, this often means pushing the child towards a high power microscope, but increasingly we lean towards starting with a handheld digital microscope such as the Explorer Series as a better and more engaging type of microscope. Most kids love all things digital and the Explorer Series provide a high COOL quotient. They are easy-to-use, offer instant live video and still images in addition to a good value/quality equation. They are plain fun to use, yet are used in industrial inspection throughout the world.

By the same token, the classic compound microscope may, at worst, be inappropriate and, at best, less than engaging. The reason is that a high power microscope involves specimens that are quite abstract in nature. Young children, however bright, typically do not have the level of cognitive development to be engaged by such abstract images as cells on microscope slides. After all, without stains, many specimens are rather dull and colorless!

That said, the fun of a compound microscope lies in the slide preparation. Choosing which specimen can be a thoroughly inclusive, cross-generational activity that is great fun for the child, parent and grandparent. Taking the cheek swab or preparing the onion skin requires significantly more time in preparation than actually viewing it. Typically, we recommend a compound microscope for kids with an established interest in microscopy and/or science, for kids over 12 years old or where budget is highly limited since there are a several good value such microscopes for kids.

The alternative for younger kids is a stereo or low power microscope. These microscopes are used to view macro specimens that are visible to the naked eye: insects, crystals, pond cum etc. The advantage is that the kids can immediately relate to the specimen since they can see it. A bee, for example, is instantly recognizable. In addition, it is instanttly ready fr viewing. Simply place it on the stage of the microscope. The only drawback is that young kids may not be big enough to use the binocular eyepieces since the distance between their eyes maybe less than the distance between the eyepieces(interpupillary distance), even at the lowest setting. However, they can use one ocular until big enough to graduate to both eyepieces.

Of course, ultimately, much depends on the level of child’s interest, your budget and specific application, but if in any doubt, give us a call for further advice, Toll Free: 877-409-3556.

Happy Holidays!