This is a pretty crummy microscope, but its a pretty decent kids toy microscope. If you want to buy your kid a $300 microscope, more power to ya, I just don’t think that’s my target audience. This will do enough, feel real enough, and when your kid breaks it you won’t commit seppuku in shame.
Younger kids may have difficulty, and you may not have time to help kids collect their own samples. Don’t worry, these guys have got you covered with a bunch of prepared slides, ready for the lazy to explore.
But then if they’re old enough to start collecting samples, here’s a metric-crap-ton of slides. See what your very own snot and other body fluids look like.
And because after a long hard days work, you just want the little a-holes to leave you alone for a few minutes so you can watch the next episode of Arrow and pass-out in an ice cream induced coma, here is a good microscope book to train their pliable little minds.
If you don’t want to commit to a full pledged desktop microscope, this guy is MUCH cheaper and clips on your cellphone so you can take pictures. It also has different magnification levels. Down side, it’s 1/10th the magnification at 100x. But sometimes you just want to wander around looking at stuff, fantastic for looking at bugs (you have to make them stop moving first).
There are a few other options, if you want higher magnification you can go with this 200x clip-on smartphone microscope that only costs 3 times as much you’re still slightly cheaper than the desktop microscope at time of this writing.
I also can’t decide if I like this one better or not. I don’t know if the trade-off of not having to align the lenses vs having a lower quality camera but better magnification and a cord to break is worth it. I’ll let you make that decision for yourself, without playing with them for hours as I’m sure I’ll take them from my kids to do when I get them one, I really can’t say.
And another option. If you have a busted CD, DVD or Blue-Ray player, you can take the lens out and use a chip clip to clip it onto your phone, or if its too small (I left mine in the housing because the spacing was perfect), a piece of clear box tape works just fine and is a bit more stable. The depth of field as REALLY shallow, meaning you don’t hold it very steady you’ll loose what your looking at. I just moved and mine is still in a box, but maybe I’ll find it and post it someday. Here’s detailed instuctions on making a decent homemade microscope.
Another option is to shine a laser through a droplet of water, the water is both the sample and the lens. This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to see micro organisms. You can suspend the drop from anything, a lot of people use a syringe, but you can use a string, or a paperclip twisted with an eye-loop at the end and shine it on the ceiling. The more spherical the drop the more magnification you’ll get at a shorter distance, but you can also put a drop on a glass tabletop and still get decent results. You can also just rub pond water on a magnifying glass, or the lens from your dvd player and shine the laser through that. (Green laser pointers should give a brighter, sharper image, but red laser pointers are MUCH safer with kids. A red laser pointer shouldn’t be shined in the eyes, but probably won’t hurt you if its only a few seconds, ask me how I know, don’t do it anyways, a green, blue or purple laser will almost certainly do immediate eye damage and you should always wear eye protection designed for use with lasers. You have been warned!)
Here are some assorted lenses, you can use clay to hold your laser pointer and lenses, move them around and play with them.