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Microscope toy vs Real Microscope: Which is better for kids?

11 minute read

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The realm of microscopy is a fascinating subject matter for kids. Essentially, when they view objects up-close they discover a whole new world that is invisible to the naked eye! A unique opportunity made possible using a microscope toy or real microscope gadget.

On top of that, microscopes are stapled instruments used in the classroom. From primary to secondary school, microscopes supplement science lessons to help children understand concepts better.

But, getting a heads-up in the game is always the best way to go. As Jim Moran puts it:

"The future belongs to those who prepare for it."

Therefore, if you want your kids to grow up engaged in science and excel in STEM education, you should condition them early on. Buying children microscopes is one way to make this possible.

However, it begs the question: Which is better for kids, a microscope toy or a real microscope? 

Join us today, as we answer this query and aid you in deciding which to buy for your children!


Microscope Toy vs Real Microscope: Which one should you get for your kid?



Microscope for kids is capable of capturing many at an early age to encourage children in the pursuit of scientific careers. But you should be attentive and select gadgets that are appropriate for kids’ ages. Misguided purchase of microscopes unfit for the kids’ level of understanding and handling may only do more harm and frustration than good.

Below are the qualities you must look for when selecting a microscope for kids. These criteria determine if a microscope is appropriate for children:

  • It must serve its magnifying purpose

  • Kids must be able to use it safely and independently 

  • It should make science an enjoyable activity and experience

  • It must have good value for money

The applicability of the microscope for kids you have in mind will be determined by your answers to the abovementioned criteria. Although both a microscope toy and real microscopes are capable of magnifying objects, sometimes even to the same degree. There are aspects you need to consider before buying one for your child.

To help you make up your mind better, here are some key differences between a microscope toy and a real microscope:

1. Price

Toy microscopes are more affordable than real microscopes. And there are a few sacrifices to get the price of toys down that point, which is usually attributed to their optics and other external characteristics. The price of toys can begin at $50 while a standard microscope can go from $200 to an astounding $3000.


2. Build-quality

Most real microscopes are made from metal which is one reason that drives their prices upwards. While toy microscopes are usually made with durable plastic. This makes them handier, especially for the little kids.


3. Weight

Real microscopes are heavy, given their built and all the tools used in crafting them. Since a microscope toy is made of plastic, they are lighter to carry and more grippy, to say the least. Children can take them around without breaking a sweat.  


4. Fragility

The problem with real microscopes, despite the pricey offering and metallic body, is that they are more fragile. A single drop can put the microscope completely out of commission. While the plastic-built toy microscopes can survive multiple falls without incurring damages. The lightweight also aids in keeping them from being dropped.


5. Optical resolution

One aspect that adds to the expensive selling price of real microscopes is the optics used. Specialized objectives or glasses are great, but not suitable for children. While a microscope toy has a relatively inferior magnifier, they are more appropriate to the understanding and level of children.


6. Portability (optional)

A real microscope is immobile and is usually fixed in laboratories. While a microscope toy like The STEMscope Portable Microscope offers a feature that makes it a great option for outdoor-loving kids. They are portable which means they can be brought anywhere and used anytime, whenever there are interesting subjects to view.

Given the parameters listed above, both the microscope toy and real microscope have their respective strengths and weaknesses. But the choice of which would suit your kid boils down to three things: their age, temperament, and your budget.

If you have money to spare then by all means buy them a real microscope. However, this choice is applicable only if children can interpret the magnified images. This also sacrifices the opportunity of going outdoors and exploring nature using a handheld portable microscope toy.

For this reason, we recommend a microscope toy for kids of all ages. One that is durable, lightweight, and more importantly, portable for flexibility of usage. One choice would be TheSTEMKids microscope for kids. No need to worry about the appropriateness, because even adult nature enthusiasts use our portable microscope.


The Good and Bad of Real Microscopes 


We have outlined the key differences between real and toy microscopes previously. But if you ever decide to go for the more industry-grade microscope, then it would be fitting to discuss the pros and cons of real microscopes.


The Good


When you purchase a product, one aspect you should keep in mind is how well it fares in time. A real microscope like compound microscopes is the standard. They are used in classrooms and will continuously be pursued. That said, a real microscope can be utilized by children to their teens, and until their professional years. 

Better and stronger lenses

The use of a microscope relies heavily on how good its lenses are. And this is a strength of a real microscope over a microscope toy. They produce more crisp images with higher resolutions relative to their toy counterparts.

Sturdy build quality

Most compound microscopes are made from metal, which not only increases their value and aesthetics but also makes them sturdy. The materials used are also more premium and high quality than a microscope toy.

More room for recalibration

Given the intense mechanism governing over a real microscope, they offer more opportunities to recalibrate. This can be positive or negative, depending on the user. But generally, a more intricate mechanism means more autonomy in usage.


The Bad

Price, price, price, oh did we mention price?

A high-end microscope is great -- if everyone can afford it. Unfortunately, not everyone is privileged to buy one. Thankfully there are other more affordable alternatives that everyone can enjoy while saving up for the real thing.

Not drop-resistant

The materials used in a real microscope helps in its durability and longevity. But the more delicate components like the objectives and eyepiece would break after one fall. This is not ideal especially if your kid happens to be a bit on the clumsier side, to be expected with younguns. 

Pros and Cons of Microscope Toy


A microscope toy is not free of drawbacks. But it also boasts of quality that might make it a better option over a real microscope. Here are the pros and cons of a microscope toy.


The Pros

Affordability beyond imagine

The best feature perhaps of the microscope toy is how affordable it can be. While still fulfilling the same purpose as that of a real microscope. There are microscope toys sold at around $70 apiece, but some brands go as low as $50.

Durable and drop-resistant

Microscope toys are made for young children who still struggle with keeping things within their grip. A heavy microscope would be dented early on but a microscope toy can survive even multiple drops on concrete. Although some toy microscopes mimic the same conformation of a real one, making them less durable than others.

Other science toys for kids, like The STEMscope portable microscope, are built shaped like handheld monoculars. Hiding all fragile parts inside and preventing breakage.

Lightweight for the clumsy hands

A microscope toy is made with a light yet durable materials to accommodate children. Some come with a dedicated grip to assist kids in holding them. This feature may also prevent drops from occurring.

Straightforward, no fuss

Since these are made for kids, the pesky recalibration process is minimized and kids can use them with ease. Without frustration and long boring manuals.

Dedicated microscope kits (optional)

Some microscopes for kids have separate microscope kits that you can also purchase to aid children in their exploration process. These microscope slides kit assist in reeling kids better into the field of microscopy. Other use real specimens to make the process even more intriguing and make learning extra-exciting!


The Cons

Inferior lenses

The common problem with a microscope toy is the lack of quality resolution and the low clarity and sharpness to view subjects more clearly. That is why a microscope for kids should prioritize clarity over magnification. 

Might not appear as professional

This is highly subjective, while some toys bank on colorful designs, other microscopes for kids are more subtle. Capturing the looks of a real microscope.

Microscope toys have more value to offer for every penny you spend, albeit with limitations. That is why we recommend these toys especially for entry-level exploration of young kiddos! A real microscope makes sense once they reach their teenage years. Or when they grasp scientific concepts on microscopy better.

What to Look for in a Microscope Toy


If you happen to decide to stick with microscope toys, here are key traits you must look. Better grab your pen and list down the things below!

Encourages active participation

Still and fixed microscope toys are great. But a dynamic microscope for kids promotes exploration and capitalizes on their adventurous souls! Portable microscopes are the best options for this matter. One they can bring outside with ease and explore in real-time!


Ease of usage

Remember that these science toys for kids are aimed at kids below their adolescence. You do not want to discourage them with lengthy manuals and complicated controls. An easy-to-use gadget encourages continuous exploration.


Promotes an enjoyable experience

Children are free spirits and most, if not all, hates to be trapped in an enclosure with a gadget. A microscope toy must encourage children to have fun and see science as an enjoyable activity, rather than a tedious task.

That said, here are the best-selling microscope for kids you can get today!


Best-Selling Microscope for Kids


We have a dedicated article that ranks the best microscopes for kids you can get today. But in terms of affordability, these are the best two options you can get:


Best Tabletop Microscope


AmScope 52-pcs Kids Beginner Microscope

This device is possibly one of the best table-top kids microscopes. It has a handy big box that aids in bringing the piece together, and the magnification is great as well. The design and conformation follow that of a real microscope, however, not the most portable around.


Best Portable Microscope


The STEMscope Portable Microscope 

TheSTEMKids’ rendition removes the clunky design and replaces it with a compact, lightweight, and straightforward gadget. Perfect for kids that love exploring the outdoors and are curious about every little thing they see. It is portable so they can bring this anywhere they please with ease. The magnification is respectable but a bit on the lower end.

The Final Viewing


A microscope for kids is an awesome way to encourage children in exploring nature and be adventurous. It also provides an avenue to get kids to involved in STEM education even before they begin schooling! An opportunity to mold their career paths 10-15 years before they even know what they want to be.

One option for this matter is The STEMscope Portable Microscope. A handy tool for the outdoor-loving adventurous little scientists! Couple it with the Microscope Slides Kit and you aid their scientific discovery with real-life specimens.

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