There are many ways to get young children into science and give them a head start, and a microscope is a solid choice. Curious kids love to explore the world around them, and getting to see it up close can inspire wonderment at everything they can't see with the naked eye.

With a bit of creativity and some time outside, kids can find plenty of things to study under a microscope, from leaves and plant trimmings to pond water and insects.

We've rounded up our pick for the best microscopes for kids of different ages, whether they want one with chunky controls and a comfortable eyepiece suitable for little ones, or a more advanced device that can magnify up to 100 times.

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Best microscopes for kids in 2023

Westminster World's Smallest Microscope (ages 8+)

Westminster World's Smallest Microscope

Is your kid’s room already packed full of toys, books and games? You don’t need to worry about taking up too much space with this minuscule microscope from Westminster. This pocket-sized device measures only 4.5 x 4.5 x 2cm, with a handy wrist strap so you don’t drop it. It features an LED light and a focusing wheel to bring tiny details into sharp relief, and can magnify objects by up to 10 times.

This product comes with batteries included, and is not suitable for small children due to small parts.

Natural History Museum Pocket Microscope (age 3+)

Natural History Museum Pocket Microscope

Children as young as three can start investigating the natural world when they take this Pocket Microscope outdoors. Made by the Natural History Museum, this microscope is designed to be portable at only 11.5 x 8 x 3cm, with a wrist strap. But that doesn’t mean it’s no good for viewing: the powerful lens provides between 20 and 40 times magnification.

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Inside the box, you’ll find two specimen slides and a cloth for cleaning the lens, as well as full instructions to help your science-mad little ones make the most of their new equipment.

Science MAD! 100x Microscope (age 6+)

Science MAD! 100x Microscope

More dedicated young science enthusiasts might like this microscope from Science MAD! With magnification between 25 and 100 times, aspiring scientists can study their samples in incredible detail.

The microscope comes with a light and a mirror reflector to illuminate the samples, and an adjustable focus. As well as a full instruction manual, the kit contains all the tools you’ll need to collect samples, and eight sample slides. To get you started, there are also two pre-prepared samples – rose stem and onion skin – that you can study without having to set up the slides yourself.

GeoSafari Jr My First Microscope (ages 3-7)

GeoSafari Jr My First Microscope

Younger children might struggle with a traditional microscope, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start exploring the natural world. My First Microscope from GeoSafari Jr is designed with kids in mind. It has a binocular-style eyepiece so you don’t have to close one eye, and a chunky focusing wheel that’s easy to grab.

The magnification is only up to eight times, which is smaller than other microscopes on this list, but it should be enough to give kids a head start in investigating the world around them.

Popular Science Smartphone Microscope

Many kids will be able to use a smartphone a lot more easily than a traditional microscope, and if so, this gadget from Popular Science might be the one for them. It clips onto a smartphone over the camera and triples its magnification. It also has a built-in light to illuminate the object you’re looking at. And since you’re using a camera, you can take photos of your samples and share your finds with friends and family.

The Smartphone Microscope is compatible with any smartphone.

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Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.